Tag Archive for All Welcome Here Preller

Recommended: Three Haiku Books for Young Readers

I’ve written about my own haiku journey of late, how the past few years have seen me writing increasingly in that short form. The deeper I get into it, the more I learn — but also, the more I realize I have yet to learn. It’s a deep, deep well and I love diving into it.

In children’s books, which is my home as an author, there’s a great many haiku collections available. I’ve read a great number of them recently and wanted to highlight a few that I felt were particularly worthy of your attention. My apologies if I’ve overlooked some worthy additions; I didn’t try to be comprehensive. Feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to mention one of your favorites.

 

ONE LEAF RIDES THE WIND

by Celeste Davidson Mannis

illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

 

This book is essential for anyone who wishes to explore the origins, depth, and sensibility of the haiku. Written in a conventional 5-7-5 format, the haiku here are easy to read and accessible, while showing a far deeper sophistication and appreciation of nature than most children’s haiku collections. The poems are set in a Japanese garden and do much to honor the origins of this beautiful art form. “Just as each element of a Japanese garden contributes to a calming, satisfying whole, the elements of this work . . . all meld together into a lovely whole that both entertains and educates.” — Kirkus Reviews.

One leaf rides the wind.

Quick as I am, it’s quicker!

Just beyond my grasp. 

 

 

COOL MELONS — TURN TO FROGS!

The Life and Poems of Issa

by Matthew Gollus

illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone

 

This book is a marvel, and a magnificient next step for any young reader wishing to learn more about haiku. Matthew Gollub masterfully blends a picture book biography on the Japanese haiku poet, Issa, juxtaposed alongside side a number of Issa’s own poems, translated by Gollub. Here we gain an insight into the sense and sensibility of a haiku poet. The illustrations deserve special mention for they convey the culture and lyricism of traditional Japanese artwork. Gollub demonstrates a rock-solid knowledge of the haiku and its history. His translations, like most these days, do not adhere to the conventional 5-7-5 syllable scheme.

A withered tree

blooms once again —

butterflies holding fast.

 

GUYKU

A Year of Haiku for Boys

by Bob Raczka

illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

 

This third book is not at all like the others. For starters, this 2010 collection hinges on a dubious conceit, that the haiku here is “for boys.” Whatever that means. Moreover, the haiku here are senryo (SEN-ree-yoo), a poem that is structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous way. A more formal haiku is almost always written in the present tense, focuses strictly on nature, contains a kigo or seasonal word, and includes a pause or grammatical break (often between lines 2 and 3). As always, Peter Reynolds’ illustrations are warm and inviting; and Raczka writes with wit and whimsy and lightness, completely winning me over by the end of the book. It pairs nicely with the above titles.

Lying on the lawn,

we study the blackboard sky,

connecting the dots.

James Preller is the author of All Welcome Here,  a book of linked haiku that celebrates the diversity, kindness and community of the open classroom. It is written in traditional 5-7-5 format, mostly in senryu, and illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning Mary GrandPre. 

 

 

“Caldecott Honoree Grandpré captures the day’s variable moods in pictures of absorbed, interacting kids of various skin tones and abilities. … a cheery take on the joys of camaraderie.”Publishers Weekly

Lively haiku pairs with vibrant art to showcase various facets of the first day of school. Cartoonlike, expressive mixed-media illustrations are an eye-catching blend of bright colors, patterns, and perspectives; the multicultural kids and adults further the sense of inclusiveness. With its reassuring and upbeat elements, this may also help alleviate first-day fears as it highlights the many positive opportunities that await.”― Booklist

“This is a back to school book, during a year when back-to-school is anything but normal. However, this year is the exception. Next year, or the year after that, back to school will be the same with dozens of eager young five-year-olds nervously getting on the bus, going to school and wondering the same things. This book is for them and it’ll still help them this year as they go into the dining room or living room.”―Daddymojo.net

Teachers, Parents: Here’s a Video Presentation of ALL WELCOME HERE!

 

I was asked by an Oregon bookstore to create a brief video talk (under ten minutes) about my new picture book, All Welcome Here. This is part presentation, part read-aloud, targeted for young readers. I had a little production help this one, and I think it turned out okay.

Teachers, feel free to share with your students. And parents — hey, why not? — share away. 

Note that I’ve put up other videos at a dedicated “James Preller Youtube Channel,” including read alouds of the first Jigsaw Jones book (out of print!), Scary Tales: Goodnight, Zombie, along with general talks with writing tips for middle graders and very young readers.

But mostly, I know this is such a tough time for teachers, students, parents, so many of us. Hopefully this book celebrates the best of us, sending positive signals about acceptance, kindness, and community. Good luck, be smart, and stay healthy! 

 

Book Page Features ALL WELCOME HERE Among Four Picture Books That Capture the Excitement & Trepidation of the First Day of School

 

 

Book Page is an independent self-proclaimed “discovery tool” for readers, highlighting the best new books across all genres, featuring only books that are “highly recommended.”

So it was a proud moment — in a discouraging year — to see my new picture book, All Welcome Here, featured among three other titles for “books that capture the excitement, trepidation and curiosity of the first day of school.”

Linda M. Castellitto wrote the piece, and said this of All Welcome Here

With spot-on snippets of poetry and illustrations steeped in primary colors, All Welcome Here captures the swirling, frenetic energy of the first day of school. Author James Preller’s linked haiku lead readers through the maze of an exciting, chaotic and often humorous new adventure. A diverse group of children clamors for fresh school supplies (“All the bright new things / Smell like sunrise, like glitter”) and the release of recess (“Can we? Is it true? / Yes, recess. Run, RUN!”). They also consider the scariness of stepping onto a giant yellow school bus for the first time (“It’s dark and noisy / and what if they aren’t nice?”). The effect is sometimes impressionistic and always empathetic. 

Fans of illustrator Mary GrandPré, Caldecott Honoree for The Noisy Paintbox, will be pleased to see her work here. Her collages and paintings, which make clever use of color and pattern, capture both the big splash of a water fountain prank and the engrossed calm of bookworms enjoying library time. Preller dedicates the book to “public school teachers everywhere” and GrandPré to “all young artists,” fitting tributes to those who inspired this spirited whirlwind of first-day jitters and delight.


Linda included three other titles in her roundup: Pearl Goes to Preschool by my pal Julie Fortenberry (Yeah, Julie!); Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell; and Danbi Leads the School Parade by debut author-illustrator Anna Kim.
Congratulations, my fellow travelers, and welcome to the club, Anna! I look forward to checking out your books.

 

“May I Bring a Friend?”

This is a phone capture of a larger illustration by Mary GrandPre from our upcoming book, All Welcome Here, coming on June 16th. Forgive the poor quality of my iPhone snap; the colors from the actual book are much more vivid.

I hope readers find it. A good first day of school book — let’s hope!

Peace, respect, tolerance, understanding, compassion, love.

The Creative Process: A Conversation with Mary GrandPre, Illustrator of Harry Potter

“I love making art. It’s what I’ve always done

since I was a little girl.

Whether it was realistic in style, or abstract, it didn’t matter,

as long as I had my art supplies,

I was a happy camper.”

— Mary GrandPre

My apologies for the Potter-grabbing headline. But, true story: Sometime after Feiwel & Friends accepted my manuscript for All Welcome Here, I received a phone call from my editor, Liz Szabla. She was very excited. Guess who we just signed to illustrate your book? Tell me, I said. Mary GrandPre! A pause. Who’s that? Then she told me who that was, the Harry Potter connection, and I said: Oh, wow. Now here we are more than three years later. The book is finished, ready to venture out into an uncertain world, and Mary GrandPre has become my friend. We exchange occasional emails and share tribulations. She’s lovely and wise. Come, you’ll like her . . . 

 


Welcome, Mary, to my cozy little blog. You can sit on the floor or pull up one of those orange milk crates. I hoped we could talk a little bit about your creative process today. But first, yeah, could you please leave the hippogriff outside. No offense, but they make such a mess.

Hello Jimmy! It’s so nice to be here!… I would love to share my experience of creating the pictures for your lovely haiku in All Welcome Here. And, yes! The hippogriff is tied up outside… I’m sure he’ll be fine out there, as long as you don’t mind if he nibbles on your herb garden. … He loves fresh basil!

I trust you had a safe flight. Where do you live? 

My home is in Florida. I live there with my husband and daughter, and our 3 dogs. We moved to Florida, from Minnesota, 15 years ago, when my husband was offered a job at Ringling College of Art and Design. Boy! What a difference in climate! Talk about going from freezing to smoldering temperatures! It was quite an adjustment, but we have come to appreciate all the great things in Florida, like the beaches, the palm trees and tropical flowers, year round water activities, and of course all of the wonderful friends we have made since we moved there.

 

Mary and her artist husband Tom Casmer (that’s Tom in beard, left).

I absolutely love your paintings. It’s fascinating that you still do both, picture books and “fine art,” as they say.

Thank you, Jimmy. I love making art. It’s what I’ve always done since I was a little girl. Whether it was realistic in style, or abstract, it didn’t matter, as long as I had my art supplies, I was a happy camper. By the time I was in art college, I still wasn’t really sure about what kind of artist I wanted to be. Eventually I focused on illustration. Once I was out of college, I worked as a freelancer for a variety of companies, but illustrating picture books became one of my favorite kinds of illustration. Telling stories through pictures was so much fun. I could create characters and environments, and bring a whole range of emotions to my pictures through color, light and composition. After several years of working on picture books, I realized that painting abstractly, was also a lot of fun. It gave me a new kind of challenge in my exploration of color, light and composition, and in an interesting way, it still at times, told a story!

 

Illustration from Caldecott Honor Winning Book, THE NOISY PAINT BOX, written by Barb Rosenstock.

I imagine that a manuscript comes to you and then you decide if it’s something you’d like to illustrate. How do you reach that decision: this is the one.

You are correct, Jimmy, it starts with the manuscript. I like to take some very focused, quiet time to read the manuscript so that I can clearly envision the pictures in my head as I read through it. I like to see how the story flows, and how it makes me feel, what emotions am I feeling as I read this, and how I can relate to the story on a personal level. When I read All Welcome Here, I felt such a variety of emotions… excitement, joyfulness, warmth, and playfulness, as well as some feelings of shyness and awkwardness, as I remembered what it felt like to be in a new group of kids on that first day of school. I also loved the rhythm of the haiku, and the way it moved so smoothly from page to page, like a day unfolding from morning to afternoon. I enjoyed meeting all the various characters in the story, as I imagined a whole world of children, each uniquely interesting, becoming school mates and friends. Honestly, I just had to read All Welcome Here once, to know that I definitely wanted to illustrate it.

Illustration from ALL WELCOME HERE.

With our book, you faced an interesting design challenge, since it is written in connected haiku. I didn’t include any art direction in my manuscript (which authors often provide), other than this general note: “The poems offer the illustrator opportunities to show a rich variety of children –- wild and brave, silly and earnest, friendly and a little frightened. Through the artwork, illustrations should highlight recurring characters and allow readers to see happy interactions and first steps toward friendship. We are witnesses to the beginning of a new, diverse, and open-hearted community.

There definitely were some design challenges, but I like a good challenge! Finding a way to connect all the poems was key, and I used the fact that it progressed literally, on a timeline, from the morning at the bus stop, to meeting Principal K, to finding the classroom, and witnessing all the various classroom happenings, then lunch and recess, and back to classroom for a quiet afternoon rain, and finally back home to reflect on all that we experienced on our first day of school.

Yes, we had some weather consistencies to iron out, among other details. I was glad we were able to zing emails back and forth. That doesn’t often happen in the picture book world. We kind of opened a back channel. 

The structure of how the poems were ordered was largely based on how the day would unfold. In that way, it became a story, as well as a collection of wonderful haiku. Bringing characters back into view here and there also helped bring some cohesiveness… and allowed the reader to recognize a familiar face in the crowd… just like what would happen in real life. Also I tried to incorporate more than one poem into a scene whenever I could, because it allowed us to experience more than one fun thing within a setting, offering more visual connectedness from poem to poem.

Sketch from ALL WELCOME HERE.

 

The artwork is spectacular. I particularly admire your thought process –- the decisions that went into each spread. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into a children’s book before you ever set brush to canvas.

Thank you so much, Jimmy. I was so taken with your poems, the sensitivity, the humor, as well as relevance of what we need today in this diverse world we live in. You gave me so much to work with… and I felt a strong connection to your writing. It was important for me to take the time to make the illustrations reflect what you were so beautifully writing about.

That’s kind of you to say, Mary.

But you are right. There is a lot of time spent laying it all out with pencil on tracing paper, where several changes are made throughout the sketching process. Diverse characters are developed, environments are planned out, compositions that combine poems on each spread within a single setting, all the while, figuring out how and where the text should go, and making sure color and light is balanced from spread to spread.

I find that’s true in my writing, by the way. There’s a long, necessary gestation period that looks suspiciously like doing nothing at all.

Yes. I get that. A lot of work behind the scenes.

Let’s talk about your process. This might be easier if we examine one specific illustration. Let’s take the library, for instance. How do you do that??!! I mean, ha, you use all these patterns. The sweaters, the rug, the wallpaper. This is an illustration that rewards a deeper look. Would this be called mixed-medium or collage or . . . um . . . ?

Ah yes, The Library! I loved making that piece! After I get all the pencil sketches done, and approved by the art director, I move onto the actual color art. I choose a very thick illustration board to work on, because it’s going to hold many layers of collage paper and paint. So you are correct, it is collage,.. also referred to as mixed medium. I carefully transfer the drawing on to the board using a transfer paper, and tracing the sketch onto the board. I then begin with color by using large brushes and acrylic paint to lay in the main colors I will be working on. It’s very loose and messy at this point.. no color details yet.

At what point do your introduce the textures and patterns?

I just keep in working in paint for a while until I feel like it’s time to add some intersect patterns and texture. I have an assortment of printed papers that look like fabric, or tree bark, leaves, and all kinds of flat geometric patterns. I trace out what the shape of the pattern should be, and cut it out, and carefully glue it into place with acrylic gel medium, and then blend it back in with paint. It’s a back and forth process.

I could ask you questions forever, and I apologize if I’ve already gone on too long. Any last thoughts on this book, and what you tried to express in the illustrations?

I really just wanted to bring your amazing haiku to visual life. We really need to celebrate our diversities, and help our children feel like they belong. We need to open our hearts to accept others in our community and around the world, and our children need to know this is how we live together, successfully. It’s such a relevant book, now more than ever.

Thank you so much. And thank you, of course, for your brilliant work as the illustrator for the definitive American editions of the Harry Potter books. It’s incredible to think of how many of us have looked at your work and been moved by it. I’m truly honored that we now have our own book, something we made together, Mary and me. I’m so grateful for that.

Oh, Jimmy. I am honored to have created artwork for your thoughtful and beautiful poetry. I count this book as one of my favorites. I am so pleased that we were able to connect through this project. It has touched me personally, and creatively. I have to say also, that it was great getting to know you Jimmy, and I look forward to seeing what you do next.

Readers can learn more about Mary — and see many more of her abstract and figurative paintings — by stomping on this link.  In addition to the Harry Potter books, Mary has illustrated many picture books, including The Noisy Paint Box; Through the Window; How the Leopard Got His Claws; Cleonardo, the Little Inventor; and more. Speaking for myself, I’m not often awed by the writers and illustrators I met. But Mary strikes me as a special person. Not just her talent, but the warmth and sensitivity and kindness she beams into the world. I’m fortunate that the universe brought us together, however fleetingly, to collaborate on All Welcome Here