Author Interview: Mike Curato

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Mike Curato_Author Photo credit Ruth ChanMike Curato is here today as part of the Little Elliot, Big City blog tour to talk about one of my favorite 2014 picture books. After the interview you can also comment on this post to enter a giveaway for some awesome Little Elliot goodies! (You can jump to the end to enter now but please come back to read!) For more details about Mike Curato be sure to stop by his website: MikeCurato.com. You can also find out more about Little Elliot at LittleElliotBigCity.com.

Miss Print (MP): You wrote and illustrated Little Elliot, Big City. Can you tell us about what your creative process for this picture book looked like? Do you start with the text or the artwork?

MC: The first two books both spawned from images. In fact, there was art before there was a story, and there were doodles of Elliot before there was art. I often jump back and forth between the two modes of writer and illustrator.

MP: In addition to a very special elephant, Little Elliot, Big City features some beautiful illustrations of New York City (including my mom’s favorite building the Flatiron Building!). Did you always know this story would take place in New York?

MC: Oh yes. I grew up outside of New York City, and I’ve always been enamored with its old grandeur. When I started working on finished art of Elliot years ago, it quickly became the backdrop. There was no question.

MP: Working off the last question: The cars and people in your illustrations make it pretty clear that your book is not set in present day New York. How did you decide what period to use as the backdrop for this story?

MC: I love the aesthetic and romance of the late ‘30s/early ‘40s: the cars, the buildings, the clothes. It’s also a time before TV and smartphones and internet. Things were slower, but I think more intentional.

MP: What was your favorite part of this story to illustrate? Which part was the hardest?

MC: I think my favorite piece is the one of Elliot staring in the bakery window, though I thoroughly enjoyed drawing (and researching) all the cupcakes throughout the book. The hardest was probably the scene of Elliot in the crowded subway. Also, Mouse’s trash can was quite time consuming with all of that garbage and twisted wire.

MP: What medium do you prefer to work with for your illustrations? How do you decide where to start with each illustration?

MC: Each piece is hand-drawn in pencil, scanned, and colored in Photoshop. I always start with very simple sketches with just enough information to communicate what is going on in the image. Once I narrow in on a composition that works, I gather my reference, and then it’s off to the races.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

MC: I actually just finished the second book in the series, Little Elliot, Big Family, which comes out next Fall! It expands on Elliot’s friendship with Mouse, and has even more New York City scenes.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

MC: Create what makes you happy. Create what you think is missing from the world that could make it better.

Thank you again to Mike for taking the time to chat with me!

Now here are the giveaway details:

Thanks to Mary Van Akin at Macmillan Kids, you can win a copy of Little Elliot, Big City, a coveted Little Elliot tote and some adorable Little Elliot stickers!

Giveaway is US only and open to any readers aged 13 or older. Giveaway will run from today to September 5. (Winner will be notified on September 6. If I don’t hear from the winner by September 7, I will pick another winner.)

Comment below telling me your favorite kind of cupcake to enter!

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You can also check out the other tour stops for even more Little Elliot fun:

Tuesday, August 26: Librarian in Cute Shoes | @utalaniz

Wednesday, August 27: Teach Mentor Texts | @mentortexts

Thursday, August 28 : Read. Write. Reflect. | @katsok

Friday, August 29: Kit Lit Frenzy | @alybee930

Saturday, August 30: Daddy Mojo | @daddymojo

Sunday, August 31: The Trifecta: Sharp Reads | @colbysharp / Connect. Read. | @mrschureads / Nerdy Book Club | @nerdybookclub

Monday, September 1: Miss Print | @miss_print

Monday Memories: Intro Post

Nicole the Book Bandit and I have decided to start our own weekly blog feature. This is an idea I’ve been tossing around for a while and I really hope some of you decide to join. mondaymemories

So our feature is called Monday Memories and it will run every Monday. You can come by my blog or Nicole’s blog to link up and join the fun!

Here’s the “official” description that I’ll run with my own MM every week:

Monday Memories is an original feature/weekly meme created and hosted by Miss Print and the Book Bandit. We created Monday Memories because we both love and collect books and wanted to talk about them. We hope you’ll want to share too.
Anyone can join. But please, if you join in the fun, link back to Miss Print and/or the Book Bandit on your own Monday Memories post AND add your name to the Link list included with our posts every week so that everyone can check out other posts! If you don’t have a blog, you can post your thoughts as a comment. And, of course, have fun!
Now that you know how it works, here’s what it is: Monday Memories is super simple. Just take a photo of a book from your personal library (or a library book that’s significant to you, etc.) and talk about why it matters. Is it your first ever signed book? The first book you reviewed on your blog? Whatever it is, write it up in a Monday Memories post and share it.

Week in Review: August 31

 

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This week on the blog you can check out:

You can also enter my epic blog birthday giveaway all month!

This week has been bananas! I’m part of a service at my place of employ called BookMatch which is a way people can submit electronic forms to get personalized book recommendations. It’s awesome and I love it but we had a HUGE epic response to the launch so there are a ton of questions and I am turning into a reader’s advisory machine.

If you want to join the fun you can find out about BookMatch here: http://www.bklynlibrary.org/bookmatch

If you submit a request looking for YA and or YA SFF titles there is a high probability you will get a list from me!

I am also still reeling from the news that Hello Kitty is not a cat. In this crazy, mixed up world I always thought I could rely on a few simple truths. One of those truths was that Hello Kitty was a cat. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Is everything a lie?

Last weekend I saw If I Stay at the movies with Nicole. I didn’t like it. So I’m not going to post a review but I am going to share some thoughts here if you are wondering. (I also strongly urge everyone to still go and see it because although I didn’t like it, the movie still has its appeal and you have to support the type of things you want to see in theaters–like YA book adaptations). Also I’m still wildly excited by the idea of the sequel.

I should have known, even before I saw it, that I wasn’t going to be thrilled with If I Stay because I was never sold on the casting. While both did well in the film, the actors playing Mia and Adam never felt like Mia and Adam to me. I am also sad to say I wasn’t impressed with Moretz’s performance.

I last read this book before living through 2013 and I had not counted on how strong my reactions would be still to the accident and hospital scenes. Call it post-traumatic stress or personal distaste but I could barely watch the movie when it was in the hospital–it was that painful. Part of this is my own fault and a reaction to the source material. Such is life.

A more minor annoyance was that the name of Adam’s band was changed. Which is fine except that it was distracting. Speaking of distracting, the director spent so much time on Adam’s band performing that we saw almost nothing of Mia’s friendship with Kim. That decision in particular is infuriating and became the main reason I did not enjoy the movie. Yes, If I Stay is a super dramatic romance. But it’s also a story about the enduring bonds of friendship and family. We got the family part. Would it have been so hard to cut out one song and give Mia and Kim a scene together where they are not talking about Adam?

So those are my thoughts on If I Stay and why I wasn’t happy with the film adaptation.

In other news my twitter friend Eden is hosting a read along of Winger in September. Details on her blog: http://edynjean.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/winger-read-a-thon/

Author Interview (#2): Ame Dyckman

Ame DyckmanAme Dyckman returns to the blog today to talk about her Ezra Jack Keats award winning sophomore picture book: Tea Party Rules.

Miss Print (MP): How did you come up with the idea for Tea Party Rules?

Ame Dyckman (AD): I’ve adored tea parties since I was very little, when I first heard of… ya know, that particularly mad one. I was (and am!) crazy about Michael Bond’s Paddington, which taught me a little bear could drop into my life at any moment. And I really, really love cookies. I think all these things rolled about in my brain for a bit, finally bumped into each other, and said, “Hey! Let’s write a story together!”

MP: Who came first in this story? The girl or the bear?

AD: Cub came first. If there were no one to desire the cookies, it wouldn’t matter if there were no cookies, right? (I think I read this in philosophy class. Or in a fortune cookie.)

MP: Which part of Tea Party Rules was your favorite to write? Which was the hardest?

AD: My favorite part to write was Cub’s interaction with the teddy bear he usurps at the girl’s backyard tea party. It was the hardest part to write, too. How much did Cub understand about his new acquaintance? What would his reaction be? And most importantly (always!), would kids get it/love it/laugh? My Super Agent (Scott Treimel) and genius Viking editor (Leila Sales) were a huge help with this.

MP: Was there a particular part that you were particularly excited to see illustrated?

AD: I couldn’t wait to see Cub dressed up and miserable in the girl’s tea party finery. (Sorry, Cub! Way to take one for the team!) Illustrator Extraordinaire K.G. Campbell captured this scene perfectly. I still laugh out loud every time I see it, and it’s a riot at book signings! The kids crack up when I crack up!

MP: Would you consider yourself more like Bear or more like the little girl?

AD: I used to be more like the little girl, especially when it came to the way I thought something should play out. I’d get an idea in my head, and be terribly disappointed when the reality wasn’t as fun as I imagined it to be. But lately, I think I’m more like Cub, willing to roll with things more—at least until I hit my breaking point. (Like when I see cookies I can’t have.)

MP: Ending with a hard-hitting question: What is your favorite kind of cookie? What would you want served at a tea party?

AD: I have an absolutely-can’t-resist-zero-willpower weakness for Oreos. (The scene where Cub gobbles the cookies? I think someone slipped K.G. footage of me with a package of Oreos!) But for a tea party, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade ones. They’re bliss-inducing and fantastic for sharing down to the last cookie—so long as each half has roughly the same number of chips!

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

AD: My next book, Wolfie the Bunny, hops into bookstores everywhere on February 17th. It’s the funny sibling story of a baby wolf adopted by a family of rabbits. Mama and Papa are thrilled with the new addition to the family, but daughter Dot is certain, “He’s going to eat us all up!” It’s adorably illustrated by the amazing Zachariah OHora. I’m over-the-moon to work with him and the fabulous folks at LB Kids, and can’t wait for everyone to meet Wolfie and the fam!

Thanks again to Ame Dyckman for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find more information about her books on her website.

If you want to read more about Tea Party Rules check out my review!

Tea Party Rules: A Picture Book Review

Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by K. G. CampbellCub follows his nose through the woods all the way to a backyard party–with cookies! But this isn’t any party. It’s a tea party. A fancy one. And the little girl hosting the party has some very specific rules about how tea parties should go. Cub is willing to go through a lot for cookies. But how much can one bear take? And will the little girl realize a friend is just as important as a properly executed tea party?

Tea Party Rules (2013) by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by K. G. Campbell is a delightfully fun read about how sometimes breaking the rules can be just as important as following them. Both Dyckman and Campbell received the 2014 Ezra Jack Keats New Author and Illustrator Award for this title.

In her sophomore picture book, Dyckman once again uses sparse, well-chosen text to tell a whimsical story of two unlikely friends. Campbell’s detail-packed illustrations bring Cub and the little girl to life with vibrant colors.

You can also check out my interview with Ame Dyckman about this great book.

Afterworlds: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldDarcy Patel has put everything on hold to be a writer. A real, published writer. She moves to New York City with a contract to publish her novel “Afterworlds” and its as yet unwritten and untitled sequel, part of her advance, and the dazzling title of soon-to-be debut author.

Darcy does not have plans for college. She does not have an apartment. She does not have any idea what happens next.

But somehow, in the world of writers–both seasoned and new–Darcy finds her people. Over the course of one tumultuous year in the city Darcy will learn about writing, publishing and even love. More than anything, she’ll learn if she has what it takes to really do this thing that she loves so much.

Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the story that brought her to New York in the first place: Afterworlds. After surviving an unthinkable attack, Lizzie realizes she has the ability to slip into the afterworld–somewhere that exists between life and death. With her new ability, Lizzie discovers that ghosts are everywhere as are other, darker things. Everyone seems to want something from Lizzie but even her new gifts might not be enough to keep those she loves safe.

Darcy and Lizzie’s worlds blend together in this story about facing your fears and finding yourself in Afterworlds (2014) by Scott Westerfeld.

The first thing to know about Afterworlds is that it reads like two books. Odd numbered chapters focus on Darcy’s “real world” story of moving to New York and revising Afterworlds. Even numbered chapters detail the “story within the story” of Lizzie and her journey into the afterworld. While this book clocks in at over 600 pages (hardcover) really it’s two stories–two books even–in one both told to excellent effect.

In addition this book features a truly diverse cast in a casual/accepted way. While it’s important to the story, the diversity never becomes the story.

The premise sounds too lofty. It sounds highly un-writerly. A novel about writing a novel? With the full text of that self-same novel? Surely it can’t work. Yet Westerfeld pulls it off beautifully. Although the story is highly self-aware (and often very meta), every detail works here. Darcy’s new experiences feed into her revisions of Afterworlds. Her growth as a young woman and author mirrors Lizzie’s growth. Both girls, in their respective arcs, accomplish great things.

While not for everyone, Afterworlds is astonishingly successful on every level. Sure to have high appeal for all aspiring authors or sci-fi/fantasy fans. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA14*

Can’t Look Away: A Review

Can't Look Away by Donna CoonerTorrey Grey has always wanted to be famous. But fame is a funny thing. You have to be famous for something. But that’s okay because Torrey found her calling at fifteen. As a beauty vlogger, Torrey is a taste-maker and a style guru with fashion tips and makeup tutorials to share. Thousands of people know about Torrey and her vlog, which also means thousands of people know when Torrey’s little sister Miranda is hit by a drunk driver.

Now Torrey and her parents have moved from Colorado to Texas. All three of them are lost in their own grief. Torrey also has to deal with backlash from her fans as details of the fight Torrey and Miranda had before the accident leak.

On top of bottling up her own guilt, Torrey also has to navigate a whole new high school. Smooth talking her way into the popular crowd and away from her chatty oddball cousin Raylene isn’t going to be easy. Add to that staying away from the oh-so-cute and oh-so-unacceptable Luis Rivera, while listening to everything he has to tell her about El Dia de Los Muertos, Torrey is going to have her hands full in Can’t Look Away (2014) by Donna Cooner.

Can’t Look Away is Cooner’s second novel. It follows Skinny which is set in the same town–readers of both will recognize familiar characters.

Conner offers a solid contemplation of fame in the modern age here as well as a moving story of grief and forgiveness. Luis and details about Dia de los Muertos customs add another dimension to this story and fit in well with the arc of Torrey dealing with her loss.

Although Torrey has stumbling blocks throughout the story, her growth from beginning to end is obvious and largely satisfying. Torrey’s early fixation on her relative celebrity is handled thoughtfully and emphasized with chapter titles and epigraphs quoted from Torrey’s vlog. Similarly Torrey’s worries over how viewers perceive her will ring true with anyone who’s ever posted a vlog (or blog) online.

Can’t Look Away is at times melancholy but it is ultimately a satisfying story about family and the strength that can come from finding yourself.

Possible Pairings: Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*