edit: Thanks for playing along everyone (and for the awesome book suggestions)! I've chosen winners via random number and notified them by email.
There are a few things out there that I like a whole lot. Saltwater taffy. Good Mexican food. Long sleeve t-shirts, natural history and Papermate felt-tip pens. And, of course, children's literature.
That being said, I do attempt to have discerning tastes when it comes to the kids' books that come into the house, and certainly when it comes to those that I share here with you. In other words, my daughter's unreasonable love of the Magic Treehouse series will never seep into this space. No way, no how. There are certain writers that over the last few years have become consistent favorites for a variety of reasons, and among them is author and illustrator Carin Berger. I've reviewed a couple of Carin's books for Library Monday in the past (you can read those posts here and here) and I have always found her illustrations to be both completely unique and totally enchanting. Her books are beautifully crafted and well-written, and they are among the handful of titles that Mariam and I often choose for birthday gifts for young friends. Because you know we give everyone books!
A couple of years ago, when we were preparing for our move to Vermont, I bought a copy of The Little Yellow Leaf for Mariam as one of a little stack of books aimed at helping to ease her anxiety about the move. Carin had emailed to thank me for my review of her book, and offered to send some signed bookplates to go inside Mariam's new books. It was an incredibly gracious thing to offer, and only furthered Carin's status as "favorite author" at our house.
All this is to say, that is is with great pleasure that I bring you the following mini-interview with Carin Berger! Read on to find out a bit about how Carin crafts her stories, creates her beautiful illustrations and for a giveaway of a couple of our favorite Carin Berger books.
Annie: Part of what makes your books so very appealing is your beautiful and unique illustration style. Can you say a little bit about how you create the art work for your books or books that you are contributing to? Where do you find the materials that you use?
Carin: I have always loved type and ephemera and worked as a graphic designer for many years. The materials that I work with are often old letters, papers, receipts, ticket stubs and they come with their own stories and histories, which I find evocative. I find them everywhere. Old bookstores. Flea markets. People's attics. My pockets.
As far as my process, I really love a book as a whole object, an object with many parts: jacket, end papers, title page and the interior and I try to really play with what these parts can do. Maybe that has to do with my design background. I also see each project as it's own puzzle to solve. Again, perhaps it's the designer in me. Because, for the most part, I am both writing and illustrating my books, I toggle back and forth between the text and art in the beginning, trying to figure out which to use to tell different parts of the story. I then do small tight, line drawings to plan exactly
how the page will work and use that as a guide to cut the collage pieces exactly, so I know how it will all fit together. I use simple tools, scissors, x-acto knife, glue to make my collages. I really longed to work by hand after years of doing design on the computer.
Annie: Since you do such a wonderful job of creating collages that really come alive and pop off the page, I’m curious if you make collages with your own children.
Carin: I often do collage projects with kids, sometimes at school visits, sometimes with my daughter. I find that collage can be very freeing for children.
Annie: You have written a couple of times about friendship and how it can help with weathering life’s transitions. Do you purposely create storylines that you think will really speak to childrens’ experiences? What inspires you to choose particular themes or story ideas for your books?
Carin: Stories are often, initially, born out of my own life experiences, but I also work to make those stories universal. Issues of separation, or of braving new experiences are
such common threads in all of our lives.
Annie: I’m curious about what your own taste in kids’ literature. What are your favorite children’s books? Who are some of your favorite artists or book illustrators?
Carin: I am drawn to books with wit and word play and also books with great heart and simplicity. I love Mo Willems book "Leonardo was a terrible Monster", I love "When You Were Small" by Sara O'Leary and "Yo! Yes?" by Chris Raschka. I also love books that push the boundries, like Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen".
Annie: What projects are you working on now?
Carin: I have two projects that I am currently working on. One is called "A Perfect Day", and is a story that I both wrote and illustrated [I am turning it in at the end of the month]. It is a simple tale of a perfect winter day and a community of kids coming together to play in the snow. It is due out fall 2012. I am also illustrating another book by Jack Prelutsky, which, like "Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant", is a collection of poems about fantastical animals. I am making dioramas to illustrate the magical world of these animals. It has been very exciting [and a tiny bit scary] to stretch myself and do something new. That will be coming out in the winter 2013.
Thanks so very much to Carin for letting me ask a few questions! I have a copy of both Forever Friends and The Little Yellow Leaf to share with you all, so if you would like a chance to win one of these lovely books, please leave a comment on this post telling me who your favorite children's author is. I'll pick a winner for each book on Friday, June 10th.
Gardening, mosquitoes, homework, thunderstorms, peppermint sun tea. Summer tires, tree climbing, piles of paperwork, an overdue library book or two. The days of late spring are always surprisingly busy, a funny blending of the procedural and the whimsical. Summer is well on its way, and we are more than ready.
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