march 2011
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A Floyd Cooper Moment. Just ‘Cause.

By Jules

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“Look at these hands, Joseph. Did you know these hands used to make ivories sing like a sparrow in springtime? Well, I can still show a young fellow how to play ‘Heart and Soul’--yes, I can.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

12Will you join me this evening in quickly taking a look at some Floyd Cooper illustrations, just because I love his work so? His latest illustrated title, Margaret H. Mason’sThese Hands(Houghton Mifflin, March 2011), tells the story of a grandfather with his young grandson. Mason, in her closing Author’s Note, tells how during the 1950s and early ’60s, African American workers at the Wonder Bread, Awrey, and Tastee bakery factories were not allowed to handle the bread in any way, meaning they were forbidden to operate as bread dough mixers or bread dough handlers. Having learned that story from an old friend and how he and his friends joined together to fight this discrimination, Mason nestled it within this warm picture book tale of a grandfather talking with his grandchild: “Look at these hands, Joseph,” he says to him, pointing out all the many things his hands could do—tie a triple bowline knot in three seconds flat, pluck the ace of spades right out of thin air, and more. But, “did you know these hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory?” he asks him and proceeds to tell his tale.

“For all the many titles that appear on segregation and protest for younger readers,” wrote the Kirkus review, “this one stands tall not just for delving into a piece of labor history not previously covered, but for its ability to relate history with heart and resonance,” while Publishers Weekly called it “a moving study of multigenerational relationships and triumph over discrimination.” Cooper rendered these sepia-toned, soft-focus illustrations in oil wash, using kneaded erasers, and they nearly leap off the page.

Here are two more spreads. Enjoy.

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“Look at these hands, Joseph. Did you know these hands used to throw a curve ball faster than a dive-bombing honeybee? Well, I can still help a young fellow learn to hit a line drive — yes, I can.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

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“Look at these hands, Joseph. Did you know these hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory? Did you know these hands were not allowed to touch the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory? These hands were only allowed to sweep the floors and work the line and load the trucks. Because the bosses said white people would not want to eat bread touched by these hands.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

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THESE HANDS. Text copyright © 2011 by Margaret H. Mason. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Floyd Cooper. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, Boston. (published at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, April 19, 2011)

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Up-and-Coming Illustrator Nora Krug and Author Molly Rausch

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I’ve had some sick daughters of late—not anything really terrible, mind you (knock on some cyber-wood)—but burning foreheads and nasty colds? Yes, I know of what author Molly Rausch speaks here.

2Molly’s first picture book, My Cold Went on Vacation (Putnam, January 2011), illustrated by Nora Krug gives us the perspective of one such pesky cold bug. The young boy you see in bed above starts out with a runny nose on Wednesday, which turns into an achy throat on Thursday and a burning forehead by Friday. On Sunday, however, his cold is gone: “I wonder where it went…” he says. Molly and Nora map out that cold’s adventure: Last summer, it hit Iowa; before that, Las Vegas. “My mom says I caught it on the school bus. But I don’t remember catching anything. I’d like to know where it went. And when it’s going to come back again.” Did his cold go on vacation? he wonders. To Canada? Flying over the Sahara? In the end, he discovers that the cold didn’t travel too far after all: It simply crossed the hall to his sister’s room.

The idea for this book came to Molly about four years ago, “joking around with Nora when we were both getting over colds,” she told me. “I wrote her an email saying that my cold went on vacation and I was sure it would be back soon. She answered with “oh yes, I got a postcard from mine a few weeks ago.” Eventually, Nora suggested such an adventure tale for a children’s book. “It was great fun collaborating with her! We both love to travel, and each chose certain places we definitely wanted to send our cold.”

Molly is a native Marylander and received her MFA in Painting from SUNY in 2003. She now writes, paints, and builds treehouses in New Paltz, New York. (No. Really. I’ve even seen one of her business cards, which says “Hudson Valley Treehouses and Typewriter Repair.”) “This is my first book and the first actual story I’ve written since grade school,” she added, “although I do write a lot and my artwork tends to focus on intersections and communication. Some of my recent projects include an underground tunnel in Rosendale, NY, and a Lost & Found Drawing Booth in New Paltz. I love the alphabet and believe those twenty-six letters, all lined up, contain everything one could ever possibly say or think, making it one of the most beautiful and efficient mechanical objects I can imagine. Language is a funny thing, and children naturally wonder at word play we may take for granted as adults. As the main character says, ‘My Mom says I caught it on the school bus, but I don’t remember catching anything.’ That part was definitely my own mom talking, and I can remember thinking it was a ridiculous idea.”

3This is illustrator Nora Krug’s first picture book, too, though she’s hardly new to illustration. Her artwork has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, and the Guardian. Her work, including some animation, has been recognized by the New York Art Director’s Club and the Sundance Film Festival and has earned her two gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. Her graphic novel, Red Riding Hood Redux, a new interpretation of the fairy tale and told from the viewpoint of each character in the tale, was published by Bries. Krug, who grew up in Germany but now lives in New York, is an associate professor in the Illustration program at Parsons The New School for Design. Nora is currently working on an encyclopedia of ghosts and spirits for an Italian publisher and a series of biographical comics for publication here in the U.S.

I enjoyed this picture book, one that takes a playful child’s-eye view of illness, and if you can’t already tell from the spread above and the few spreads featured below, Nora’s palette will wake you right up — not to mention she has a style all her own, though Publishers Weekly described it as a “cross between the work of Maira Kalman and Roz Chast.” Her “quirky, electric-hued pictures combine folk art and cartoon sensibilities,” they added. Needless to say, this is a fun read for the next time your favorite wee person gets a nasty cold. (Plus, the endpages are some of the most fun I’ve seen thus far in 2011.)

Here are some more spreads. Enjoy.

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MY COLD WENT ON VACATION. Text copyright © 2011 by Molly Rausch. Illustrations © 2011 by Nora Krug. Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, New York. All images reproduced by permission of the author.

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A Nicoletta Ceccoli Sighting

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Fight
(Click to enlarge)

8“The dark side of a nursery rhyme.” I wish I’d written that. That is from a reader over at this Amazon link who has seen Italian illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli’s Beautiful Nightmares, released by Soleil Editions (France) last Fall. “Don’t let the rosy cheeks and dewy eyes fool you,” this person added. “{T}hese characters are in control of the subliminal messages that abound….”

I’ve got some illustrations from that book to share here this morning, this book which is a must-have for any Ceccoli fans. I’ve had Beautiful Nightmares for a while and have been wanting to share some of these images, but last week I stumbled upon this below video of Nicoletta speaking about her work — in celebration of an overseas exhibit of hers. (She’s speaking in English, incidentally; at first I thought I’d be seriously out of luck and just guessing on the Italian.) So, I thought today I’d share the images along with the video.

7-Imp readers will recognize her work. She first stopped by here in 2008 to share some art and say a few words. I then featured her illustrations here from Kate Bernheimer’s The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum; here from Debbie Ouellet’sHow Robin Saved Spring; and here from Jacqueline K. Ogburn’sA Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts. (Note: Ms. Bernheimer contributes a short written piece at the opening of Beautiful Nightmares.)

I believe Beautiful Nightmares is the first collection of Ceccoli’s work. If you’re a fan, you’re in for a treat. It’s stunning, all her luminous, surreal images in one thick volume. In last year’s post about A Dignity of Dragons, I noted Kirkus’s words on the matter of looking beyond what you see on the surface when it comes to Ceccoli’s work: “Every figure is pretty,” they wrote, “but the illustrator staves off preciosity by injecting plenty of drama into her compositions.” She’s also not afraid to disturb. Or surprise. Or send you into a fairy-tale wonderland reverie of one sort or another and then jolt you out of it. It is a mysterious, sometimes dark whimsy, this world of hers.

Here is the video—Nicoletta musing on beauty, cruelty, fragility, not wanting to grow up, and throw in some monsters and impending threats, too—followed by a couple more images. Anyone wanting to see more of her artwork would do well to simply google her name. There are many of her portfolios at various places online.


Nicoletta Ceccoli, ‘Etrange et merveilleux,’ February 8,2011

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Detail from The Elephant’s Journey

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BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARES. Copyright © 2010 by Nicoletta Ceccoli. Published by Soleil Editions, Paris. All images reproduced by permission of the publisher. (originally posted at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, April 27, 2011)

jules
This and many more of Jules’s adventures in books, kids’ lit and illustration can be found at the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog. Visit often. You will be rewarded for doing so.