Piggy Bunny, my book with Rachel Vail, just got its first review. It will appear in the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books in their February issue. What a great start for this book!
Vail, Rachel Piggy Bunny; illus. by Jeremy Tankard. Feiwel, 2012 [32p] ISBN 978-0-312-64988-3 $14.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 5-7 yrs
“All the other piglets wanted to be pigs when they grew up. Liam wanted to be the Easter Bunny.” That’s a peculiar and lofty ambition for anybody, let alone a young pig, and Liam’s perplexed immediate family tries to point him toward pragmatism (“‘You are a piglet,’ said Liam’s big sister. ‘Deal with it’”). It’s Liam’s grandparents who heroically defend his dream (“They just have the imagination of a kumquat, the lot of them,” sniffs his grandmother), rustle him up a bunny suit (“We will order one on the Internet”), and see him through to the fulfillment of his fantasy. Vail’s high-spirited and highly comedic text just begs for a whole-souled readaloud with rich vocal characterization that’ll make the most of both the humor and the touches of poignancy (“This is the kind of problem,” sighs Liam, “that is called heartbreaking”). It’s a hilariously absurd story about a pig, but it’s also a cheerful championing of the kind of role play for which “pretend” seems a dismissive term and which sees little kids wearing their superhero capes to the supermarket; even beyond that, it’s a subtle reassurance about finding workable ways to explore a dream or an identity that may seem initially impossible. Tankard, author-illustrator of Grumpy Bird (BCCB 3/07), employs thickly solid yet fluid brushstrokes in figures that have a touch of Japanese graphic flavor in their streamlined cuteness; digital color makes the piglets a luscious pink that stands out against gently patterned tone-on-tone backgrounds in stripes and spots. This will be an enjoyably loopy and stealthily reassuring readaloud any time of the year, and it would make a terrifically offbeat Easter entry. Oink. DS
Well, it’s been a little while since I updated the bunny story. So, finally, here is a new instalment. And, for those of you following this little drawing exercise, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve got a couple more coming in the coming days. Enjoy!
PIGGY BUNNY by Rachel Vail; Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard:
A small piglet with a big dream — to be the Easter Bunny — will have readers laughing out loud in this spunky outing about self-esteem. Liam is not good at hopping, doesn’t like salad, fumbles egg deliveries, and doesn’t have much family support. But with help from his Web-savvy Grandma, Liam achieves his cotton-tailed vision. Vail excels at conveying childlike emotions and a realistic family dynamic (“You are a piglet… Deal with it,” says Liam’s sister). Liam’s perseverance and his parents’ steadfast support provide a welcome, positive undertone, while Tankard’s stocky, black-lined pigs pop off the pages. Ages 4-6.
This is the KIRKUS reviews of Piggy Bunny. I thought I’d post it here in-case you didn’t feel like going to the link in my previous entry. It’s a good one.
PIGGY BUNNY (reviewed on March 1, 2012)
Another entry in the well-populated genre of animals that experience an existential crisis features a pig who wants to be the Easter Bunny.
Liam the piglet practices hopping and delivering eggs. He tries to like salad. And he copes with his siblings, who tease him, and his parents, who offer lots of advice about what a perfect piglet son he is, without any need for change. His grandparents, however, are more supportive of his unusual ambition, and they provide him with an Easter Bunny suit. (They order it from the Internet, as they are modern grandparents who don’t do homemade costumes.) The costume isn’t perfect, but it gives Liam the confidence to believe in his transformation, and others then accept his new role as well. The understated conclusion could even be interpreted to mean that Liam becomes the Easter Bunny, but each reader can decide what Liam’s role really means. Simple cartoon-style illustrations with thick black outlines are set off against bright backgrounds with lots of pink accents playing up the porcine premise.
Though the believe-in-yourself theme has been told in many ways, Liam holds his own with his quiet determination. Who can resist a piglet who introduces himself with “Hello, my name is Liam and I’ll be your Easter Bunny”? (Picture book. 3-6)
I’ve been negligent about updates here. It’s a long story, but I’ve been busier than I’ve been in ages and there’s hopefully some exciting news on the horizon. So here are some recent reviews for your reading pleasure:
This was a lot of fun. Jules over at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast asked Rachel Vail and I to write-up our thoughts about Piggy Bunny and she would share them on their blog. This was a lot of fun. If you’ve ever wondered about the collaborative nature of book making here’s a unique glimpse into how a book can come together in unusual ways. Enjoy.
Tankard’s (Piggy Bunny) artwork adds splash and color to this mock-suspense tale from LaRochelle (The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories), outlining the characters with heavy ink strokes and tinting them with brilliant jewel tones that make them look as if they were painted on glass or film. “Are you ready for a story? Me too,” the narrator starts, as a boy in a blue jacket stands in for the narrator/reader “we.” The Boy negotiates a series of Indiana Jones–style threats (tiptoeing past snakes, swinging across a canyon) only to find a tiger lurking after each page turn—which he always escapes in the knick of time. “Good thing we landed someplace soft. A bed of flowers?… A giant orange-and-black pillow? No, we landed on top of… a tiger!” No matter how scary the circumstances, the deadpan narrative voice reassures children that it’s just a story, and the tiger’s zigzag teeth and soft features imply that he might not be all that dangerous. The repetitive structure, action, frights, and surprise ending should make this a popular storytime pick. Ages 2–6. Illustrator’s agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Aug.)
First review for It’s a Tiger! by David Larochelle and me. And it’s a good one. And it’s from Kirkus. And I’m very pleased about this. And I like writing short sentences that start with “and”. And you should really give this a read. Here it is:
“This metafictive romp follows a child who encounters, flees from and then befriends a tiger.
The protagonist’s direct address and gaze immediately engage readers with the question, “Are you ready for a story?” Ensuing pages deliver a hide-and-seek narrative as the child spies: a tiger’s tail amid swinging monkeys; its shadow hidden in a bat cave; its tail hidden among slithering snakes; and its body camouflaged by flowers. The tiger seems less than fearsome, but the child nevertheless flees when it appears disguised as a ship’s captain, and again when it emerges with a roar from a treasure chest. But, lo and behold, the tiger isn’t roaring after all; it’s only yawning. “If we scratch his ears and rub his belly, maybe he’ll go to sleep,” the child says. “Better yet, let’s tell him a story.” A page turn finds the child back at the opening scene with the monkeys to start the story again. This time, however, a crocodile tail (rather than the initial scene’s tiger tail) hangs from above, delivering a punch line that promises another race through the jungle, if a rather obvious quasi-resolution. Throughout, Tankard’s vibrant ink and digitally rendered illustrations express the excitement and fun of the story, elevating the exuberant text to ideal storytime fare.
It’s a tiger, and it’s sure to be a hit.” — Kirkus Reviews
Chronicle Books asked me to contribute to their design blog with my thoughts on It’s a Tiger! and its development. They even pulled out some early production sketches to make my text more exciting. Go take a look!
And finally a great review from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books:
The young protagonist invites us into a story in a jungle setting of picturesque tranquility, until … “Wait a minute. That’s not a monkey. That looks like … // A TIGER! RUN!” We follow our narrator into a shadowy cave for safety, but what’s that lurking there? You guessed it: “A TIGER!” The pattern continues, with each seeming escape leading the plucky kid right into a new tiger trap (on a departing boat: “Say, I’ve never seen a sea captain with a tail before, have you?”).
Finally, the tiger gets what he wanted — some ear-scratching and belly rubs — and everything calms down, until the protagonist starts telling a story which begins it all again with a crocodile. Any child who’s ever delightedly fled from a playfully roaring adult will recognize the game here, especially with a reader-aloud who can ham up the tiger’s part for maximum effect. The clear absurdity of the situation papers over any logical glitches, and the structure that suggests an endless chain of good-humored, persistent predators provides for a satisfying final joke.
Tankard’s art, familiar from the irresistible Grumpy Bird (BCCB 3/07), is dense with thick, playful lines, while digital colors, often mottled or striated, fill and sometimes overflow the elements. The critters are somewhere between toy and cartoon, so the tiger’s threat is mitigated by his adorably simplistic, babyishly round shape and the fanciful details, in both text and art, that frame the proceedings as make-believe.
Youngsters may press stuffed animals into service to enhance the narrative here, but there’ll be plenty of goofy fun just in the shriek-and-giggle sharing.
“A little boy addresses the reader: “Are you ready for a story?” So begins a jungle tale featuring one gleeful monkey swinging from a vine, another hanging upside down, and two more with just their tails visible. But wait. What’s with that thick, striped orange-and-black tail in the mix? The typeface explodes in the following spread: “A TIGER! RUN!” And thus readers embark on an exciting reversal of hide-and-seek, with every spread featuring a telltale stripe of tiger hidden somewhere on the page—which, of course, leads to more desperate screaming and hiding. Tankard’s thick-lined, off-kilter, ink and digital-media renderings of a bat cave, a snakes’ nest, a flowerbed, and more add drama to each scenario and extra wattage to every jolt. Obviously, this will make for a boisterous soft/loud/soft read-aloud, and it comes with a nifty twist at the end, too. What’s that scaly green tail hanging from the boughs” - Booklist
I’ve been too busy/preoccupied to do all the updates that I should be doing. So here are a couple of excellent reviews of It’s a Tiger! that I have been meaning to post.
“Young imaginations will run wild with this story within a story of a young boy who escapes from a tiger over and over again in various outrageous land- and seascapes. Tankard’s bold black lines, created with ink and digital media, frame the cartoonlike characters and allow the tiger’s stripes to stand out strikingly when viewed from a storytime circle. Children will enjoy trying to spot the tiger’s tail, which is often camouflaged within the background scenery, while the protagonist regularly shouts, “A TIGER!” displayed in large-type font. Teachers can use this book to lead their listening audiences in re-creating the boy’s actions as he sometimes creeps and crawls, yet at other times he boldly races to the surprising conclusion. This tale will be a boon to creative minds everywhere and a participatory storytime winner” –School Library Journal
My two 2012 books are both available for as Ebooks. And, if you buy them right now, or in the next couple of days, you can save big! PIGGY BUNNY can be found in the Apple store here (but also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble) for only 2.99. And IT’S A TIGER! can be found here (along with 13 other bestselling Ebooks) here.
PIGGY BUNNY is available at the sale price until the 3rd of December. IT’S A TIGER! is available until the 4th of December.