Monday, June 23, 2008


I’m off to Anaheim later this week for the American Library Association Annual Conference. I’ll be signing at the Simon & Schuster booth on Sunday morning, June 29, from 9:00 to 10:00. Later that day, for the Simon & Schuster Original Art Lunch (or whatever it’s now called), I’ve printed up a book which lays bare the relationship between sketches, research, and final art for the funny and forthcoming The Hinky-Pink, by Megan McDonald. (It also lays bare an ability to make typos in both English and Italian. There is no in-house copy editor here at the studio, for any language.) Finally, on Monday morning, I’ll happily attend the presentations of the Sibert Committee on behalf of the crew (and cat) of Lightship. Librarians of America, I’ll hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Up in the Air

Good news if you live in New York and have been wanting an easy-to-take account of how the airplane was invented: I’ve just gotten word that beginning July 1 the New York Post will run, in serial form, Up in the Air: The Story of the Wright Brothers, an 18-chapter story by yours truly.

Up in the Air was originally written in 2003 for the one hundredth anniversary of the first Kitty Hawk flight. In truth, before starting the research for the story, I knew little about Wilbur and Orville Wright, only the familiar nutshell summary that says that two bicycle mechanics, of all things, invented the airplane. A nice story, but possibly too nice, I thought, and I began reading about the brothers braced for a measure of disillusionment. But when you go through the books and the papers and the letters and the photographs? The old story holds up, and more. If Up in the Air isn’t amazing, it’s not Wilbur and Orville’s fault.

Up in the Air is published by Breakfast Serials, which makes stories available to newspapers all over the country for serialization. The story has run elsewhere, including in my hometown paper, the Temple Daily Telegram (possibly the first time the Telegram has scooped the Post), but if I had to guess the Post has got to have the largest circulation of any paper in which the story has appeared, and if you’re in New York I hope you’ll check it out.

An interview about Up in the Air
Breakfast Serials
New York Post
Temple Daily Telegram

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Shake it, Ereth

Avi’s forthcoming Poppy and Ereth will be the fifth book that I’ve illustrated featuring Ereth the porcupine, so you might think that I know my way around the walking pincushions by now. The true professional, though, always aspires to a more perfect porcupine, and so this morning, thanks to the generosity of the staff at the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, I tagged along with camera in hand for their porcupine Brody’s morning stroll. Brody was a big change from last week’s stuffed animals; he is happily and emphatically far from the taxidermist. Anyway, I had a great visit and thank the Zoo for the chance to get up close and personal with a genuine moving and grooving Erethizon dorsatum. The day contributed much to my sense of how these fellows are put together and move and sit and stand—and one more thing, too. How to put this? Before meeting Brody, I knew from reading the Poppy stories that Ereth doesn’t smell great. I knew it, but I didn’t know it. I smelled through a glass, darkly. On this hot and muggy morning, I smelled face to face. Whooo!

Thanks again to the Prospect Park Zoo. And of course if you’re in the neighborhood, you can swing by and see Brody (and his mother) for yourself. They’re worth the trip! More on the zoo here.

A late edit to this post: If you enjoyed that look at Brody, another short video that gives a better look at Brody’s morning walk is posted by the zoo on YouTube here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rodent research redux

Here’s introducing one of a couple of big projects that I’m happy to be working on in the coming months, the drawings for the sixth (and final) book in Avi’s Poppy Stories series, Poppy and Ereth. Research got underway last week with a trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The visit provided useful material and also a full circle moment: years ago, before the idea of sequel or series was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, I visited the museum for help with the drawings for the book Poppy (no longer first in the series, but the first of the books published). On last week’s trip, I made a point of finding the great horned owl who gave aid to that book’s drawings of Mr. Ocax. It was a good visit, and a reminder that while Google image search will do for you some of the time, there’s no substitute for looking at the real thing, even when stuffed.

Back in the day, by the way, the sign over the door did not say Harvard Museum of Natural History. It bore the more cryptic and (therefore?) more satisfying name Museum of Comparative Zoology. Technically that name name still applies; the Harvard Museum of Natural History was invented in 1998 to serve as “the public face of three research museums,” one of them being the MCZ, but good luck to you if you try to find the words Museum of Comparative Zoology anywhere in the place. No big deal, I suppose, yet there’s something in the older, less expected name that I miss.