may 2012
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Going To The Duck Sock Hop

By Jules

(Click to enlarge)

This month the 7-Imp spotlight gets turned on a student or debut illustrator, and today I've got the latter. Jane Porter is a UK-based illustrator, who has a master's in Illustration and Animation from Kingston University--and who spent a long time watching ducks-in-action for this book. (Also, she sometimes draws with a stick. WITH A STICK. Jane Porter Fun Fact! She discusses this more below.)

2Duck Sock Hop, to be released this week from Dial, was written by Jane Kohuth, who has a degree in English and Creative Writing from Brandeis University, but who also has a master's degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. (We're in good company today, aren't we, fellow imps?) There are no theological musings in Duck Sock Hop, but there are jaunty read-aloud rhymes about some messy, musical, dance-loving ducks, as well as bright and colorful illustrations from Porter.

I'm not going to run my mouth for long here, since both Janes are here this morning to say a bit about this book and their work in general. I'm happy both author and illustrator are visiting today. But let me quickly add that this is a great story-time choice, and I am taken with Porter's sunny, patterned illustrations. "Eye-catching" is how Publishers Weekly puts it, and they're right: "...[T]hey' engaging, eye-catching bunch," the review states, "rendered in bold black outlines and playful silkscreen-like patterning that's an inventive visual riff on feathers. Kohuth's...verse offers plenty of read-aloud pleasure, giving readers the immense satisfaction of saying ‘socks’ and ‘ducks’ over and over."

First up this morning is Jane Porter (illustrator)-along with some early sketches from the book, as well as a picture of her art-making tools-and I'll follow that with some words from Jane Kohuth (author). I thank them both for visiting 7-Imp today, and I look forward to what each of them brings readers next.

JANE PORTER (Ed. Note: Here is Porter's blog): I was very excited when Penguin sent me the manuscript of Duck Sock Hop. Not only was it my first ever picture book commission, but the text by Jane Kohuth was a delight to read and to work with--funny and rhythmic and crammed with visual potential.

My first step was to make a series of visits to the Wetland Centre in Barnes, South West London. It's a series of ex-reservoirs turned into a giant urban wildfowl reserve. I filled pages and pages with pencil sketches of every type of duck, from the angular-beaked eiders to some exotic and colorful South American species. But the ones which grabbed my attention as being the funniest and most likely to play with socks were the Indian Runner Ducks. I drew them in every conceivable pose, then felt ready to start on the pencil roughs for Penguin.

Jane's materials
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Once the roughs were agreed, I started on the actual artwork. I sometimes like to use a stick to draw with--just a stick from a tree, sharpened with a penknife, then dipped in Indian ink. I found this worked well for the ducks and gave them a nice free-flowing line. Some of the poses are rather human; for the duck that rocks, I looked at images of Elvis and based him on that.

Jane's early sketches
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Next, I carved a batch of erasers with lino-cutting tools to make the different feather patterns and printed them to make the textures on the ducks. Finally, I put it all together digitally on the computer and used that to add and tweak color. The musical instruments, box on wheels, and other non-sock objects I made by cutting black paper with a scalpel, scanning and adding texture digitally. I also used a few photographic textures. I wonder if anyone would guess that the sunset seen through the window is actually the gills of a mushroom?

It's been a wonderful process, and Penguin was great to work with. My next two books are coming out in October in the UK with Hodder. They have holes in [them] and are called Paws and Claws and Fins and Flippers.

JANE KOHUTH: I think I'm a picture book writer (so far!), because I think in small bursts. I get inspired by a funny image or particular words, and I tend to come up with self-contained stories that fit into the shorter format that picture books offer. I keep lists of "ideas" in my notebooks. These are often just a word or two--little beads of possible inspiration.


On one of my lists I had written "sock hopping/sock shopping." (Actually it appears to be in my husband's handwriting. It must have come from a conversation we were having-we are silly people-but why he was writing in my notebook, I don't know.) Months or, possibly, years later, I was consulting my list for ideas and came across these words. I had ducks on the brain. (My first book is an early reader called Ducks Go Vroom.) It occurred to me that the words "duck" and "sock" were fun to say together. And what could be more fun than ducks wearing wacky socks while dancing? Unlike some manuscripts I've written, the text of Duck Sock Hop came fairly quickly, though it did undergo several revisions both before and after it was accepted for publication. But, even though it was challenging to get it just right, writing it was a joyful experience from beginning to end.

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I'm a very visual thinker and enjoy drawing and painting myself. This has been a help to me in writing picture books, because I'm thinking all the time about the possible interplay of words and pictures. I had a fairly clear idea of what my ducks looked like, though I knew that there was a good chance that Jane Porter would have another idea entirely. So, I was so happy when I saw her initial artwork and realized that her ducks closely resembled the ones living in my head. Only better.

I love her dynamic ink line (I'm a huge fan of ink drawing) and the prints she created for the ducks' feathers. If you take time, you realize that every duck is an individual character who appears throughout the book. I hope kids enjoy finding their favorite ducks on the different pages!

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My next book is very different from Duck Sock Hop. It's an early reader about Anne Frank and the chestnut tree that she could see from an attic window of the Secret Annex. It is scheduled for publication in fall 2013 as part of the Random House Step Into Reading series. Before that, though, I'll be doing a series of sock hop events! If you'd like to know when and where, you can check my website,

DUCK SOCK HOP. Copyright (c) 2012 by Jane Kohuth. Illustrations (c) 2012 by Jane Porter. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, New York. Images reproduced here with permission of the illustrator.

julesThis and many more of Jules's adventures in books, kids' lit and illustration can be found at her acclaimed blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Visit often. You will be rewarded manifold for doing so.




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