by: Sarah Momo Romero
When Mira asked me to write for the Blogateers after taking some of her courses, my first thought was one of disbelief, immediately followed by the obvious answer of, “Yes!! Of course, I would love to!” I am so honored and excited to share my thoughts on picture books and art with all of you. And having just signed my debut picture book writing and illustrating contract, I’m even more excited. So what better way to start a fresh new blog post from an artist’s perspective than a fantastic book featuring a rambunctious girl and her hunt for colors!
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos is a surprising take on the story of a girl on a quest. Swatch, the main character of the book, is a wild, and adventurous girl with a passionate love of color. She is a color tamer, and loves color so much, she literally captures colors in jam jars for her collection. How much fun would it be go about your day, capturing the wondrous colors of the world around us? The greens of the first spring blades of grass, the blues of the summer afternoon sky, the reds of a flickering campfire flame. Swatch does just that, until she encounters the strongest and most stubborn of all the colors, the magnificent yellow!
Art and the fun stuff!
What makes a picture book so wonderful is not only the way the story works with the illustrations, but the intricacies of the art that draw the eyes in, many times things readers don’t really think about. When reading a picture book, we don’t always think about why an illustration is so good, and how it’s creating the world to so effectively draw us into the author’s story. Julia Denos, the author and illustrator, created Swatch’s world with watercolor, pencil, pen and Photoshop, a magical combination for this story. Denos uses these various techniques to create movement, energy, and brightness in Swatch’s world. The brush strokes, the splatterings and layers of colors enhance the playfulness of Swatch’s hunt for colors. I’m sure you can tell how fantastically fun this book is in these photos, but you really have to see this book in person to appreciate all the fun up close.
Kids will love it because…
of the fun with art and colors! Denos splashes colors on the page with a playfulness and energy evoking a child’s finger painting in the best of ways. Swatch twirls, and jumps and prowls through the pages, chasing and capturing bright colors, showing kids a new way to think about art and imagination. And the Yellowest of Yellows, the King of all colors, comes to life as big as a lion, putting up a fight against the hunt. What an amazing characterization of color! Denos’ unlikely characters and pages brimming with color are a delight to read, one to return to again and again. It might even inspire little artists to pick up a paintbrush and create a King of Color all their own.
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Look out for her first picture book coming out in
You can find more of Sarah's musings and drawings here:
Facebook: thepeanutprojectla + Instagram: @sarahmomoromero + Twitter: @sarahmomoromero
What's new and what's brown?
Several picture books with beautiful brown characters have caught my eye recently; they are cute and appealing and the books are populated with POC. Sadly, they are not written or illustrated by POC. While I am pleased to see brown faces in the books, it is disappointing to see that white people continue to be the voice for all people.
Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel (Candlewick Press, 2017) is the story of a young boy with a penchant for green pants. When he is asked to be in a wedding and wear a tuxedo, he needs to do some serious soul-searching. I found the illustrations to be sweet and charming, and I especially enjoyed the natural hair on the bride.
I Got a New Friend by Karl Newsom Edwards uses minimal text to tell the story of a girl and her dog. Similarly to Green Pants, race is not mentioned in the text. A brown girl and her dog enjoy their lives together, making messes and cleaning up, doing the things that kids and dogs do. No crisis, no racism, no history.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is a beautifully designed picture book about overcoming fear and getting out of one's comfort zone. Jabari jumps off the diving board at the swimming pool with support and encouragement from his father. Jabari is African American and the crowd at the pool is racially diverse. Cornwall uses collage and texture skillfully in this gorgeous book.
I love that brown faces are shown in books that are not about suffering and being victims and struggling. I love that these books are set in our contemporary world, not in a historical setting. I am curious about how these Caucasian author/illustrators chose to depict POC in these books; were the manuscripts written with this detail in mind, or is this something that occurred at the urging of an art director or editor? Are brown authors and illustrators so difficult to find that publishers must rely on white people to make these books or is this simply a workaround that is more palatable to the heavily Caucasian publishing world?
For next month's post and moving forward, please send me questions and topics that you would like to discuss that involve libraries, books, diversity, and the children's literature community. email@example.com
Fifi Abu spends her days surrounded by books that have already been created and the rest of her time writing and illustrating books yet to be born. She looks forward to a day when all children can see themselves reflected in the books they read. Ms. Abu holds a master's degree in children's literature and a master's degree in library science, is an active member of SCBWI and a Children's Book Academy graduate and is represented by Linda Epstein at the Emerald City Literary Agency. She is pleased to announce that she has been elected to the 2019 Caldecott Committee.
by Orel Protopopescu
Do you know any kids who think history is dull? They are bound to change their minds reading Selene Castrovilla’s Revolutionary Rogues, gloriously illustrated by John O’Brien and forthcoming (September, 2017) from Calkins Creek Press/Highlights. This story is rich in fascinating characters, suspense, and surprises— all the ingredients of a good movie. It’s the tragic tale of the traitor, Benedict Arnold, and the British spy, Major John André. Both long for glory but make mistakes that, in John André’s case, prove fatal. In cinematic jump cuts, we flip from one to the other: Here’s André, relishing the intrigue of signing an agreement with the traitor, Arnold, to deliver Washington’s army to the British. Here’s Arnold, “drinking ale and brewing resentment,” as he plots his treasonous revenge on the Congress that failed to give him the rewards he deserved.
By the time André utters the words, “I meet my fate like a brave man,” we grieve for this young British soldier. Not so Benedict Arnold, brooding in his exile in London, whose name became a synonym for traitor.
Selene’s three other award-winning books on the American Revolution were published by the same press. The third one, Revolutionary Friends, explores the personal and professional friendship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. By the Sword, her second, follows a young teacher, Benjamin Tallmadge, and his beloved horse, Highlander, through the Battle of Long Island.
Her first book, Upon Secrecy, happened almost by accident. Selene went to visit a sick friend who’d grown up in Setauket. He told her he missed the place. Selene wanted to know why. His answer, “It’s historic,” led to her researching the Setauket spy ring. That led her to Tallmadge.
The editor of Calkin Creeks, Carolyn Yoder, has also brought us Write On, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren by Gretchen Woelfle (illustrated by Alexandra Wallner and published in 2012). Mercy used her writing to go beyond the restrictions her era imposed on women. In spite of personal and political tragedies, Mercy wrote on, befriending great Patriots and winning the admiration of George Washington and John Adams. Hers is a tale of perseverance paired with longevity. At age seventy-seven, she finally published her History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, all three volumes and more than a thousand pages!
Another gifted writer was sold into slavery as a young girl. A Voice of Her Own, The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet, by Kathryn Lasky, warmly illustrated by Paul Lee (Candlewick, 2003), details how Phillis (named for the ship that brought her to Boston) became the first published African American poet. The naked, frightened child on the slave ship became the poised, elegant young woman who journeyed to England where, feted by royalty, she signed a contract for her first book with a British publisher. The copies arrived in Boston on the eve of the Revolution, before the boycott of British goods. Would we know her name if they hadn’t? History can be fickle and Phillis died when she was only thirty-one.
“What is history, but life?” Selene asked, addressing a meeting of the Metro NY SCBWI. Before she starts writing, she thinks about the climactic moment of the story, what makes it one worth telling. That’s an approach we all should emulate.
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