Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Picture Book Treasures Discovered at SCBWI

Week of August 14, 2011--More Great Moments from SCBWI, LA
Thursday, August 18—More Picture Book Treasures Discovered at SCBWI

Does it sound too stalker-ish to say that I love Marla Frazee work? I mean seriously, her illustrations can be soft or they can be hilarious . . . and best of all is when they are both.
I was fortunate to hear Marla speak with Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books during SCBWI. The two have worked together for years, first at Harcourt and now at Beach Lane. As a matter of fact they sound more like old friends than illustrator/publisher. And since they showed photos of their sons growing up together, I guess we can assume they are friends.

Marla’s first picture book as writer/illustrator was Roller Coaster. It’s one of my favorite books to use to introduce onomatopoeias and text features to kindergartners and first graders. They love the book and I never tire of reading it. No doubt you also know about one of Marla’s latest books, Boss Baby. If you haven’t read it, you must.
Today I am featuring two of Marla’s author/illustrator works that have been around a few years, but I discovered them at SCBWI. These books are so unique I have to share them. And then I will share a soon-to-be-released book that Marla illustrated. This book is a perfect example of the collaboration between author and illustrator and how both have a role to play in telling the story.

Walk On! A Guide to Taking the First Step
By Marla Frazee
Harcourt, Inc.
© 2006

Have you heard agents and editors say they liked books that have different levels or appeal to different audiences? Walk On! is a perfect example of that. On the surface this seems to be a book about a baby learning to walk. But as you read the book, you begin to realize that this book is really addressing some bigger, universal truths. Thus the book now carries a sticker that reads: Great for Grads! The truths in the book could also make it a perfect presentation gift to someone starting a new job, pulling themselves up after a bad relationship, teachers going back to school, and on and on and on. (Of course, new parents will treasure it, too!) I love the way the narrator in the book is speaking directly to the baby, giving walking instructions. This POV could be used for many other subjects. And what can I say about the illustrations? Lovely. Intentional. Thoughtful. Effective.

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever
By Marla Frazee
Harcourt, Inc.
© 2008

This Caldecott Honor book is another special treat. Again, there are multiple levels. The text will say one thing, for instance—“He had never been away from home for an entire week, so he was very sad when his mother drove away.” But then the illustration shows the smiling boy waving goodbye. Kids will love reading the picture story that is accompanying the text. Another example of levels has to do with child and parent experiencing the text in different ways. Consider this excerpt: “In the morning, Bill took the boys to nature camp. The road was long and curvy and James and Eamon learned a lot of new vocabulary words while Bill drove.” The adult already knows the inside joke, but the illustration also helps with a speech balloon coming from the car: “@#%&!” The text leaves plenty of room for the illustrator. Of course, the illustrator was the author, but still this is what is meant about leaving room for the illustrator—writing a text that can stand on its own and allow the illustrator to tell the rest of the story.

By Mary Lynn Ray and Marla Frazee
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster
© 2011

I was fortunate to be able to purchase a copy of this soon-to-be-released book while at SCBWI. This was described at the conference as a concept book. I guess I’ve had a limited view of concept books. I assumed if the concept was stars that we’d be learning about stars, their make-up, their position in the galaxy, etc. But this book explores the concept of stars as a child views stars—yes, the stars in the sky, but also drawing stars, star magic wands, sharing stars, flowers that look like stars, and more. The text is minimal, but totally relatable to the child. Again this is an example of a book where every word was meticulously chosen, each sentence was placed exactly where it belongs, and the pacing was planned from start to finish. As you read, you encounter common experiences—seeing pumpkins growing, blowing the seeds from a dandelion, putting a star on a chart—but the common seems uncommon because of the lyrical nature of the text. Oh, and Marla illustrations? Perfection.

It’s Your Turn!
1. Why not go on a Marla Frazee book hunt? Look at the books she has authored and illustrated to see how she weaves text and illustrations together. Then look at the books she’s illustrated. I know from hearing her speak that Marla only choses books to illustrate that leave her room to tell her own story in pictures. We can learn a lot about leaving room for the illustrator by studying her books.

No comments: