Throughout my life, I've been incredibly fortunate in two areas that have enabled me to not only survive but to also flourish. This post addresses both of them. Creativity and friendship. So, today I wanted to do something different with you and share about a phenomenal event that I attended in San Francisco at the new Disney Center, organized by my mate Julie Downing to coincide with a lovely small exhibition about Maurice Sendak and his work. The Stealing Sendak panel comprised of - from left to right (the way we mostly read picture book text and images) - Maria Van Lieshout, Lisa Brown, Ashley Wolff, Christy Hale, Jim Averbeck, and Julie. I am lucky enough to call all these folks friends and four of them good friends. Of course I am biased but I think that each of the 6 here is quite brilliant so I wanted to share a little about their presentations.
Because I managed to get sick from working a bit too hard, my husband (the saint) drove me down and unlike the usual 90 minute drive it took over 3 hours in hellacious traffic and SF construction detour craziness. Ack, ack, ack!!! So I tragically missed all off Jim's presentation, which was totally crushing because whenever Jim talks, I pay really close attention. I also missed Christy's presentation, which I'm sure was also amazing, and most of Ashley's. I did catch the end when she spoke about Sendak's Library in a Nutshell books and how Sendak worked with animal familiars as she did with her dog Pumpkin in the Miss Bindergarten books and many others. Ashley also pointed out Sendaks use of innovative forms of depth of field and had so much more to share before running out of time.
Next up was Lisa Brown, alleged wife of Lemony Snickett, who had me laughing much to hard for someone with a bad cough (I was very careful not to infect anyone). Lisa talked about connecting with Sendak's Jewishness and anxiety quoting Sendaks description of the creatures in Wild Things as being like Jewish relatives. Lisa also gleefully pointed out how Sendak stole from Disney in In the Night Kitchen, whose main character is named Mickey and where the Mickey Oven in the kitchen even has Disneylike type on it. In the same book he appropriated Oliver Hardy's face, from comedians Laurel and Hardy, for the chefs'. Lisa showed cartooning influences on Sendak's work as well as on her own (she's also a professional cartoonist) and spoke about how much she loved scary things and making scary books putting it in the Sendakian context of dealing with childhood fears through scary stories. Another memorable part of Lisa's presentation showed her graphic cartoon illustrated Maysele or Yiddish tall tale for Highlights magazine where like the story, Zlateh the Goat, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer and illlustrated by Maurice Sendak, Lisa drew from old world shtetl life but this time from a kind of creepy song her grandmother sang to her as a child. It was wonderful.
Maria Van Lieshout's presentation was 2nd to last and took a totally different approach. She spoke about Sendak's incredible innovation as a total rule breaker and how important it was to challenge conventions. She also spoke about stealing Sendak's use of cartooning techniques, using speech bubbles as he did in books like Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen. How he showed naked children (also very taboo today in the US even today) and showed a book that she contributed illustrations for in Holland that showed nudity. I loved it when she said something to the effect that little kids know that they have genitalia. Maria shared many other choice examples but another favorite bit was when she shared how Sendak wasn't afraid of dealing with emotions like anger or fear or defiance. She briefly showed two of her quartet of small books that deal with intense emotions (fear, sadness, love, and selfishness) before going on to other publishing no nos like not ending with a neatly tied up happy ending as Sendak did with Brundibar that leaves questions remaining. It was a beautiful presentation.
Last up was Julie Downing's presentation where she pointed out Sendak's powerful use of white space, text, and art to combine them into one extraordinary design. Julie also drew parallels with Sendak's cartoon speech bubbles and the textual devices that she used to make her book First Mothers (with Beverly Gherman) as delicious as it is. Julie spoke about Sendak's brilliant use of scale to create pacing in Where The Wild Things Are as he makes Max's room "become the wild place" and then a room again. There was so much more that time doesn't allow me to write about but suffice to say this presentation could have been the foundation for an extraordinary doctoral dissertation. It filled me with love, laughter, inspiration, excitement and great gratitude to be a part of such a beautiful children's book community. If anyone lives in an area where they could bring this presentation to an SCBWI conference or university or school, contact Julie through her website www.juliedowning.com It really was an invaluable presentation for anyone interested in children's picture books.
You can find out more about:
Ashley Wolff here www.ashleywolff.com
Lisa Brown at http://www.americanchickens.com/
Jim Averbeck at http://www.jimaverbeckbooks.com/
Maria Van Lieshout at www.mariavanlieshout.com and
Christy Hale at www.christyhale.com
Each of these author/illustrators shares wonderful information, books, and images.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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