Book with a view

Is San Francisco beautiful? Yes. Is the view from the De Young Museum’s Observation Tower one of the most beautiful views in the city? YES YES YES!

So guess who was up in the sky last Friday doing her Backseat A-B-See book presentation for a bunch of kids?

This easily qualifies as the most beautiful book talk location in the history of book making. At least until pal Jim Averbeck launches his brilliant novel Hitch at the Fairmount Hotel (this serves as a not-so-subtle hint).

So Friday was spent with my head in the clouds, where Saturday was ruled by both Mickey Mouse and Maurice Sendak. I was invited to be on a panel with Jim Averbeck, Lisa Brown, Ashley Wolff and Christy Hale, moderated by Julie Downing at the Disney Family Museum.

We talked about how he influenced our work. It was a blast, and I learned so much about both the man and about my brilliant pals. And I laughed my face off when Lisa talked about the cartoon she created based on an old Jewish song called Mayshaleh and Chayaleh, which I cannot stop saying. Mayshaleh and Chayaleh…Mayshaleh and Chayaleh…Mayshaleh and Chayaleh…

Oh, and the Disney Museum is cool! Go check it out!

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I got me Grumpygurl for Mother’s Day

Grumpygurl was my BFF right after Max was born. She was cheaper than a therapist and probably just as helpful in helping me out my hormonal rages, insecurities and crappy feelings related to being responsible for a helpless human being 24/7.

The helpless human being has come a long way. He is now a tall 3.5 year old boy who walks, talks and does a mean Johnny Cash impression. He was a lot less helpless than I suspected. He learned how to smile right when I was getting ready to sell him off to the highest bidder and has recently decided to tell me he loves me right when we walk past the local bakery with the colorful mini cupcakes.

My hormonal rages have subsided, but contrary to what Hallmark would like us to believe, motherhood isn’t all rainbows and pink roses. So in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m bringing my gurl Grumpy back! Enjoy.

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Where to start?

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to update my blog more. Since I’m already wearing flip-flops and my last post was uh…almost a year ago, I better get on it. My excuses? I could say that I ran a marathon (not), that I finally read that stack New Yorker back issues (nope) or that I lugged all Max’s baby gear to other people’s homes (done), but those are just lame. As long as there is time to watch Housewives of Beverly Hills, there is time to update the blog every now and again. And I watched every episode of that show. It’s like watching Discovery Channel animals mating and preying on each other in their native habitat, but a lot more savage. And in nicer clothes.

You know when you meet an old friend after not seeing her for a while, and you end up staring at her because there is SO much to talk about, you just don’t know where to start? That’s how I feel about this post. Besides not running a marathon and not reading The New Yorker, I made two picture books. Here is the cover for one, Catching Kisses, written by Amy Gibson. Available January 2014.

Oh, and Backseat A-B-See won an award! Really! Philadelphia’s Please touch Museum flew me out, put up me in a fancy hotel, and gave me tiny finger foods to eat. It was the first time someone other than hubster sprung for my travel since I left my job at Coke. Man, it fit me like a well-worn boot.

(Will someone please tell the dufus in yellow to show the FRONT of her book?)

I got to meet Ame Dyckman, who has blue hair and made me laugh all weekend. Also met G. Brian Karas, who I prefer to call G and who can draw really fast and really good in front of a bunch of kids, and über-talented Dan Yaccarino, who I discovered collects robots and knows everything about Pez dispensers. This made me like him even more. Also ran into pal Zach Ohora, who was a judge on the awards committee, but I never got to buy him the beer I owe him. I even got to see Mo Willems play the trumpet. Somewhat…

We got rowdy in front of a roomful of first graders.

And we snuck out after the tiny finger foods to have us an honest Philly Cheese Steak showdown: Geno’s vs. Pat’s. Both with onions and Cheese Whiz.

Dan voted for Geno’s. My vote went to Pat’s. But that was only because Geno’s wouldn’t let me order in Dutch…

I had a fantastic time. Thank you, Please Touch Museum, for giving my book the Please Touch Award and for showing us such a great time! We will be back, because I cannot wait to show my little dude the awesomest kids museum in America!

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What do you think is the most ubiquitous design in the world? My money is on this design:

If Roger Cook and Don Shanosky received a royalty every time the design was used, they could afford a gold plated, temperature-controlled commode that played Beethoven’s Ninth every time they sat on it. But they don’t, and my guess is that they have fairly ordinary cans in their homes. But they did receive the Presidential Award for Design Excellence from President Reagan for their Symbol Signs series, which included this icon. I now realize this is pretty fertile ground for jokes, but I won’t go there. Not now anyway.

My friend Ottilie spends her summers in Asia. This summer, she packed up the kids and spent two months in Saigon, Sumatra and Bali. WC’s have been on her mind after traveling through Asia with two young boys. Here are some pics she took of WC signs in Tokyo and Singapore.

In this picture taken in Singapore, every stall is for a different audience: Stall #1 for Mom+kid, Stall #1 for the elderly and Stall #3 for people who like to sit on the potty. Now if Singapore wasn’t so far away, I’d ask Ot to take a pic of what’s behind door #2, since I can’t imagine…

Then there is Stall #4 for people who prefer to squat. Uh-huh.

A pit stop in Tokyo revealed more signs for more bathrooms. Here’s one that provides a refreshing squirt after use. Nice, yes?

And then there is the WC with a baby changing station.

How about this one? Apparently, this stall has a hole in the floor for squatting with a little ledge.

Ottilie suggested the title for my next book: A-B-WC. I think I may have to travel to Asia soon for the research!

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Flying the friendly skies of children’s publishing

Flight 123 has landed. On my editor’s desk at Chronicle Books. It will be a sequel to Backseat ABSee, but it’s a counting book about airport/flight signage.

I am working on three picture books this year, and all celebrate flight somehow. I’m about to start working on a sequel to Hopper and Wilson, who will soar in space in a paper airplane to fetch a star (Fall 2013), and then there is CATCHING KISSES (Winter 2013), written by Amy Gibson, about a blown kiss that dances, bounces, zigs and zags its way throughout the book towards its rightful owner. Three different books, each giving form to the flight experience.

Who wants to fly come fly with me?

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Come Fly With Me!

When I was in Holland, I stumbled across a vintage enamel KLM sign in a shop in Amsterdam.

I am a sucker for vintage airline stuff: posters, graphics, fashion, interiors, suitcases. It’s all so beautiful.

Flying used to be chic. A grand experience. My grandmother wore her best <GASP> fur coat when my grandparents flew from Amsterdam to Montreal together in the 1950′s. They sipped champagne, chatted with the other passengers in the on-board lounge with open bar and were disappointed when it was time to buckle up for descent. Airlines used to have tag lines like “Your Velvet Carpet to the World” (Lufthansa) and the stewardesses looked fabulous. Check this out!

I would so wear that. Check out the boots!

The graphics  were also übercool.

I’m quite partial to the Pan Am logo, which is a thing of beauty. Now close your eyes and imagine that thing on a bag…Poof! Done.

Oooooh. Nice, huh?

Now pour yourself a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight!

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Saul Bass

Today is the book birthday of Backseat ABSee, my new book with Chronicle.

This book was the first one I did in Adobe Illustrator, and it sparked a completely new style for me. It helps me create bold shapes, high contrast, stylized characters and vector graphics that can be scaled up and down without losing detail. I am also trying hard these days to forget everything I’ve learned in art school. Especially the bits about anatomy. This in an effort to make characters that are simplified and stylized.

So I guess along with the book, a new style was born.  As inspiration, I have been looking at the work of Saul Bass. He was an American graphic designer best known for his masterful film title sequences. He is an expert at paring shapes down to their essence.

Check this sequence out for It’s a Mad Mad Mad World:

His children’s book Henri’s walk to Paris has some beautiful imagery. Look! Look!

Here are other graphics he created that just make my head spin:

Makes me think illustrators spend the first half of their lives learning how to draw, and the second half unlearning it. Gotta go!

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Imagine this.

Pal Matthew Willcox, who heads FCB’s Institute of Decision Making, told me about compatriot Jonah Lehrer. Jonah is a neuroscientist who studied literature and philosophy at Oxford, and has a couple of interesting things to say about how creativity works.

Check out his interview with Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air

and his book trailer for IMAGINE, which is lovely. Enjoy.

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Backseat A-B-See is about to zoom into bookstores. I am so happy with it. Chronicle did a kick ass job on the production. The black is deep pothole black, the colors pop off the page, and the hazard tape spine is coo-hool!

Kirkus agrees and gave it a shiny star

And get this! Chronicle also made a sweet book trailer for the book.

Check it out here!

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Lost and found in translation

I recently finished translating Hopper and Wilson in Dutch. It is the first book *evah* of mine to be translated into Dutch. There is a German version of BLOOM floating around, and Korean kids get to read BLOOM and SPLASH, but this will be the first time Dutch children will be able to read my book. Well, it will be the first time they will actually understand what it says, since my mother has been gifting my books in English to anyone who would take them. Bless her.

Of course I knew translation was tough, but I didn’t REALLY know. Now I do. It’s not about translating the words. When I simply translated the words, even if it was grammatically correct, it just felt clunky, or just plain wrong in Dutch. I realized every language has a different rhythm and feeling. When you learn a language, it is as much about acquiring the words as it is about slowly being initiated into a new culture with its own humor, history, politics, hurts, codes, mores. So what I realized was that I had to feel or visualize what I had tried to say in English, and then decide how to best capture that feeling or image in Dutch. It is as much about transporting the story into another language, as it is about having it make sense in another culture.

I am very happy De Vier Windstreken (my Dutch publisher) acquired the book and trusted me with the translation. We still need to decide on the names for the two friends. Ollie en Ippe? Wammes en Willie? Bommel en Mik? We’ll see.

So what does this translation say about Korean culture?

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