Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Blue Floats Away

BLUE FLOATS AWAY is out this week! I had so much fun illustrating Travis Jonker’s heartfelt story about an intrepid iceberg. 

Thanks to editor Courtney Code, art director Pamela Notarantonio, and the rest of the team at Abrams Kids. You can find a copy at your favorite local bookstore, internationally from Book Depository, or online wherever you get your books. 

For more about the making of BLUE, head over to Travis Jonker's excellent blog, 100 Scope Notes

Here's the evolution of the character Blue, from notebook scribble to published page: 

1. Travis's first lines of the story and initial doodle of the iceberg.

2. Travis's cut paper sketch, inspired by Leo Lionni's LITTLE BLUE AND LITTLE YELLOW.

3. My first try at illustrating Blue and his parents - made with construction paper, tracing paper, and colored pencils.

4. Art for an early draft of the story, where Blue is gaining personality (and a face).

5. Final art for BLUE FLOATS AWAY - now Blue is a character with big emotions and a big journey ahead of him.


Friday, March 19, 2021

The Worst Reader

 For the NY Times Book Review. Thanks to editors Pamela Paul and Gal Beckerman!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Blue Floats Away Behind the Scenes


My new picture book with Travis Jonker comes out this month! It's the story of an intrepid iceberg on a journey of discovery.

You can get a limited edition mini-book about the making of BLUE FLOATS AWAY when you pre-order it from McLean & Eakin Booksellers. Here’s a peek inside:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

There Is a Rainbow Book Launch

Join me and author Theresa Trinder this Thursday for a virtual book launch for THERE IS A RAINBOW! I'll have my colored pencils sharpened for a drawing demonstration. 

You can register for the free event here:

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

There Is a Rainbow


My new book THERE IS A RAINBOW is out today. It's a story of hope during the pandemic. School Library Journal called it "the perfect pandemic book...the book we need, the message we deserve."

When my editor Ariel Richardson sent me Theresa Trinder’s powerful, poetic text, I was hooked. It was a welcome chance for me to explore some of my thoughts, feelings, and observations from last Spring’s lockdown. I also experimented with a new art style: colored pencil. Let’s just say I used a lot of them...

Here in Kansas, our stay-at-home order took effect in late March. I was forced to be off from my job as an orthodontist. I attempted to work on comics but found it difficult to accomplish much. It was an unprecedented amount of family time. We went on walks in neighborhoods in parks all across the city. I taught my kids to ride their bikes. I kept a couple sketchbooks and a written diary. 

Eventually my diary turned from daily observations into short poems. My sketchbook was filled with scenes from our daily life. Though confined to our small circle of people, I felt attuned to the outside world. 

When I sat down with Theresa’s text and started sketching, I tried to capture the energy of my kids roaming free during the pandemic. Separated from school and friends, but full of joy and curiosity. Splashing in puddles. Scribbling on the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Finding big sticks and tiny snails. Climbing trees. 

Here are some early sketches for the book:

I wanted to show rainbows in every way possible. In windows, on sidewalks, in the scattered droplets of a garden hose. By blending colored pencils, I used a spectrum of colors to create the world of a young boy and girl at home during lockdown. 

For visual reference, I looked at sidewalk chalk drawings in my neighborhood encouraging social distancing, hand-washing, and hope. I found some of my old sketches of brownstones on a street in Brooklyn near where my brother lives. 

I read news stories of the rainbow window displays that sprung up in cities everywhere. There was a feeling of fear and confusion in the world, but also of shared purpose and unity.

One day while working on the book, I went on a morning run. I was greeted by a perfect rainbow arcing across the clearing sky. Life seemed to be imitating art. Of course, I put it down in my sketchbook. 

Though the pandemic is far from over, this new year has brought a sense that things will get better. Despite continued uncertainty, we have a vaccine and better understanding of the virus. There is a new administration here in the US with a new sense of dignity and purpose. As Theresa wrote in our book: “On the other side of a storm, there is a rainbow.”

It's time to start creating a better future. Put pencil to paper. Paint to canvas. Chalk to sidewalk. Start imagining. What will your rainbow look like?