Tag Archive for Our Enduring Spirit

Book News: “Our Enduring Spirit,” illustrated by Greg Ruth

My friend, Greg Ruth — illustrator of our upcoming picture book, A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade (Feiwel and Friends,  July, 2010) — just announced that his latest children’s book, Our Enduring Spirit, is now available in stores.

As Greg said in an email:

Using the original text from President Obama’s first inaugural address we endeavored to create a children’s book that could communicate the vitality and ideas of that day in pictures to children and also act as a historical record and a snapshot of that day to the rest of us. As many of you know the opportunity to do this book came out of my ongoing weekly drawing series, The 52 Weeks Project, which makes this event all the more fun and stupendous. It is a work of great fun and deep meaning for me and I am extremely excited and proud to have it finally come out.

Greg is also offering a limited edition of autographed books, complete with “a unique original 9×9″ sumi-ink drawing on paper of President Obama” — for more details on that bit of gift-quality goodness, go here. Please note that 50% of all proceeds raised through this special offer will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

To see more images from the book, there’s always this.

Congratulations, Greg. I’m proud of you. Somewhere, a not-half-bad former editor named Brenda Bowen is smiling.

Cover Art by Greg Ruth for “A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade”

One of the ruling ideas behind this blog is to document the working life of a writer. I try to skip the boring parts, of which there are many. But one thing that is never dull is when I first glimpse finished art for a book. About four years after I completed the manuscript for A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade (Feiwel & Friends, Fall, 2010), along comes the final cover art by the astonishingly talented, Greg Ruth. Obviously, art director Rich Deas hasn’t done his part of it yet, settling on a typeface and other design elements. So let me get this out of the way right now: Rich, my name should be bigger! I’m thinking GIANT TYPE, maybe orange neon, maybe with those sparkly bits they used on The Rainbow Fish. Definitely embossed. And, um, can there be fireworks included? Like instead of the letter “L,” there’d be actual bottle rockets? Which kids can light off. I’m just brainstorming here, typing out loud.

That said, take a gander at this:

I wrote the story right around the time Pirates were “hot,” and Jean Feiwel wasn’t sure if it could make it in the cluttered marketplace. She held onto it, and waited. I finally wrote to her and asked, “So . . . ?”

Jean decided to take it — after all, she liked it — and bide her time, determined to pair it with an illustrator who could do something fresh and original with it. She found Greg Ruth. And I was like, “Who?”

I looked up some of Greg’s work, here and here and, amazingly, here, and was blown away. Lucky me, lucky book. Impressively, Jean and Liz decided to let Greg stretch out his illustrations across 48 pages, rather than the traditional 32. Here’s another piece of finished art that will appear in our book, when — “Arrrr!” — the pirate-obsessed boy wakes up for the first day of school. Note: Be sure to click on the art to see it in full glorious detail.


Shiver me timbers, what a slobberin’ moist mornin’!

Me great scurvy dog slurped me kisser

when I was tryin’ t’ get me winks!

To read an interview with Greg, click here. And don’t miss Greg’s new book, Our Enduring Spirit (HarperCollins, Fall, 2009), where he illustrates President Obama’s inaugural address.

Greg Ruth Illustrates “Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Address to the Nation.”

Back on November 5th, the day after the election, I acted quickly and purchased this remarkable, evocative piece of art from my friend, illustrator Greg Ruth. For the story on that, and where to find other art by Greg, click here and follow the links.

As it turns out, I was not at all alone in my appreciation of Greg’s work. Another old friend, publisher Brenda Bowen of the Bowen Press imprint at HarperCollins, was so inspired by Greg’s work that she signed him up for a wonderful project. Here’s a clip from an article by John A. Sellers in PW’s Children’s Bookshelf:

This October, HarperCollins’s new Bowen Press imprint will release Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Address to the Nation, a 40-page picture book with illustrations by Greg Ruth.

The book will consist of the President’s speech (adapted for young readers—the entire speech will also be included, in the back matter), biographical notes about Obama, as well as an overview of his first 100 days in office. Graphic novelist/illustrator Ruth (Freaks of the Heartland; Sudden Gravity) had been sketching Obama throughout the Presidential campaign, and when Bowen Press publisher Brenda Bowen, who was on Ruth’s mailing list, saw additional Obama artwork that he had created on election night, she called Ruth and signed him up for this project, in anticipation of Obama’s inauguration.

This pleases me in so many ways I can’t begin to express it. I first met Greg when he signed up to illustrate my upcoming picture book, A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade (Feiwel & Friends, 2010). We’ve exchanged emails, bonded over Magic Realism and Kelly Link, our children and books, our love for Liz Szabla and our fear of Facebook, and many other things. He’s just so incredibly talented — a true artist — and a nice guy, too.

There’s a lesson in this for creative people. Greg was inspired by Obama, filled with hope and excitement, so being an artist he began to sketch. There was no master plan. He wasn’t thinking about books, or sales, or furthering his career. He was simply following his enthusiasms, expressing what was inside, what had to come out, his bursting joy. That it led to a book — and such an important book — came to Greg as a complete surprise. Good things happen when you follow your enthusiasms.

For me, personally, the story deepens because Brenda is an old friend, from back in our days at Scholastic together. We were friends inside the office and out, even belonging to a small, happy reading group together. We’ve laughed a lot. Time passed and these days we rarely have much contact, but those old affections never die; I’ll always be crazy about Brenda. So now all those loose threads come together with this book that celebrates Obama, and the renewed hope that so many of us have for our country.

Lastly, just to add one more thread, I wanted to post a photo that was taken on October 25, 1986, at Brenda’s parents’ beach house on the Jersey shore. A whole gang of us went there for a madcap weekend. It’s a shot of me and Craig Walker, one of the greatest friends I’ve ever known. That night we drank beer and watched Game Six of the World Series together — one of the most stirring, improbable, momentous comebacks in baseball history.

I was always proud and pleased that Craig kept this photo on his office wall. After he died, I visited his office. It was a terrible feeling, walking into that room. I looked around, lost, wanting something to keep. And I took this photo off the wall . . .