Monday, September 28, 2009

Review #45: Let's Do Nothing

Gracie (age 9):  This book is called "Let's Do Nothing!"  And I'm doing nothing right now.
Dad:  No you're not -- you're reviewing the book.  And it is written by Tony Fucile.
Gracie:  Fucile!  Chili, chili, chili!
Lily (age 6):  Hot Chili!
Dad:  Now, I happen to know about Tony Fucile.
Gracie:  Does he like hot sauce?
Dad:  Because of my love for animation, I know that he works on movies.  For example, he worked on "The Incredibles."
Kids:  (GASP!)
Dad:  He does lots of Pixar movies now.  And before that he animated Mufasa in The Lion King.  And I'm going to guess he worked on Iron Giant -- doesn't the Sal character in this book look like the kid from Iron Giant?
Gracie:  Probably the best words to describe this book are "Creative" and "Imaginative."
Lily:  It's about imaginations and mistakes.
Isaac (age 11):  People should read this book because it's cool.  It's funny.  It's crazy.
Dad:  So what was this book about?  What happened?
Lily:  "Nothing" happened.
Dad:  People might think that sounds boring...
Lily:  Wrong.  Wrong
Isaac:  Wrong.
Gracie:  Wrong.
Isaac:  The story is about these two boys, Sal and Frankie, and they've done everything.
Gracie:  They don't know what to do now, so they decide to do nothing.  But Frankie doesn't know how to do nothing.  So Sal says, "Okay, pretend we're statues."
Lily:  But Frankie couldn't be a statue because this imaginary stuff went into his mind.  In Frankie's imagination, he though he really was a statue, and he's getting covered in pigeons.  And he shooed them away.
Gracie:  I would scream.
Dad:  So he's not very good at doing nothing, is he.
Gracie: After that, they pretend that they are trees.  But then Frankie is like, "Aggh, your dog just went to the bathroom on me!"
Lily:  In his mind.  Because of his imagination.
Isaac:  Frankie kept having problems because all these pigeons and dogs were peeing and landing on him.
Dad:  For the review, let's think of a different word than "peeing."
Gracie:  Urinating.
Isaac:  Going to the bathroom.
Gracie:  Urinating.
Lily:  Potty.
Gracie:  The dog was urinating on him.
Dad:  Wonderful.
Gracie:  "Your dog just piddled on me."
Dad:  Lovely...  Moving on...
Gracie:  Then Sal is like, "Okay now you are the Empire State Building."  But then King Kong comes and takes Frankie's glasses.
Lily:  Frankie always has trouble.
Gracie: (making up dialog for King Kong carrying a lady)  King Kong was like, "I've never found glasses big enough for me before.  I've been needing these.  Thank-you Mr. State Building.  Now I can see.  OH, sorry lady, I thought you were a banana!"
Isaac:  So at the end, Sal made Frankie the king of nothing.  But then they realized you can't do nothing.
Gracie:  "There's no way to do nothing!  This is big!  This is big!  This is bigger than big!"
Lily:  We're gonna go play hockey!
Dad:  So if you say, "What'cha doing?" and someone answers, "Aw, nothing" it true?
Isaac:  That's just an expression.  Even if you are holding your breath and your eyes are glued open, your heart is still beating.
Gracie:  Even if Frankie hadn't made all those mistakes, they would have still been doing "something" -- imagining!
Dad:  Can you think of anything that would have helped Frankie hold still?
Isaac:  He should have pretended to be just a skyscraper - not the Empire State Building - because that's the only one King Kong climbs.
Gracie:  I've got one.  Sal says, "You are a stick.  You are a stick lying on the ground.  And you have not moved for seventy thousand days."  But then Frankie would imagine it, and a beaver would come along and snap him into pieces.
Isaac:  I know, I know!  Sal could pour cement on him.
Dad:  Wow - extreme measures.  What did you think about the pictures?
Isaac:  They are cartoony.
Lily:  They have big heads.
Isaac:  They have lots of expressions.  The illustrator is good with expressions.
Gracie:  It's awesome!  It's SO funny!  It's funny because of the character's personalities.
Dad:  They do have really individual personalities.
Gracie:  Yes, they do.  Very unique personalities.  If those kids were real people, I would beg them and beg them if I could be their friend until they said yes.
Dad:  Anything you would say to Tony Fucile?
Gracie:  What is your favorite kind of chili?  Do you like spicy or mild.
Dad:  Silly girl.
Gracie:  I expect you to put that in the review!
Lily:  Yeah, put it in the review!

Sal and Frankie, by Gracie

Frankie as the King of Nothing, by Isaac

Sal and Frankie imagine they are rocks, by Lily

Author/Illustrator: Tony Fucile
Published, 2009: Candlewick Press
Like it?  Find it

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review #44: Oliver Finds His Way

Dad:  Guess what is coming up this week?
Lily (age 6):  Fall, Fall, Fall, Fall.  I see a tree out the window that has already changed colors.
Dad:  Are you glad or sad that Fall is here?
Gracie (age 9):  I don't want Fall to be here.  I have to do Math and it's hard.  You have to do Math in the Fall.
Isaac (age 11):  I'm happy.
Gracie:  I do want it to be cold so I can wear long sleeves again.  It's pleasant wearing long sleeves.
Lily:  I'm filled with joy because I can jump in big piles of leaves.
Dad:  Do you like raking leaves too?
Lily:  NO!  It's hard work.
Dad:  So Dad does the hard work, and you guys get to do the fun part?
Lily:  Yep.
Isaac:  Leaves are my favorite part of Fall.  I like to make a big, big pile of leaves, and I can crawl under them without anyone knowing I'm there.  But once Lily jumped on me.
Dad:  Oh, that does sound like fun.  I want to jump on you too.
Gracie:  I like eating cranberries, ham, and potatoes.
Isaac:  Oo!  Carmel Apples!
Dad:  So in honor of the first week of fall, we're looking at one of my favorite books, "Oliver Finds His Way."  It's written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Christopher Denise.
Gracie:  It's got really, really cool pictures.
Lily:  The little bear is so cute.
Dad:  Do you remember when we reviewed "Flip, Flap, Fly"?  I told you Phyllis Root gets the best illustrators.  This is another great example.
Gracie:  The bear has such small legs.  He doesn't even have legs!  Just feet!  (Gracie begins waddling around the room)  It's hard walking like a midget...
Dad:  Alright, tell me about the book...
Isaac:  It's about a bear named Oliver.  Oliver sees this yellow leaf, and he chases it around a clumpy bush and a twisty tree.
Gracie:  It's a big, big yellow leaf that is practically the size of his head.  Oliver gets lost in the woods while he's chasing the leaf.  So then he starts to cry.  But crying doesn't help nuttin'.
Lily:  And I learned something from this book.  I learned that I shall not cry.  When you are in trouble, you have to use your head and think, think, think.
Dad:  Crying doesn't fix problems?
Lily:  No way, no, no, no.
Gracie:  Unless you are having a Who-can-cry-the-longest Contest.
Dad:  I've never heard of any such thing.
Gracie:  Well, I would certainly win.
Dad:  So how did Oliver solve his problem?
Isaac:  Oliver thinks, and he figures out what to do.
Gracie:  His idea was to communicate.
Lily:  He found his way back home by roaring.  He roared, and then his mom and dad roared back, and he found his way home.
Gracie:  He used his mouth.  And his ears.  And his pink, squishy, little brain.
Dad:  Do any of you ever remember getting lost?
Gracie:  I remember one time.  Grammy, Mommy, and I were at the store.  I was hiding in the clothes hangers.  Then I got out and they were still there.  But then I turned around -- because I took one of the shirts off the hanger, and I put it against me, and I looked in one of those mirrors, and I was like "Oooooo," and kept looking at myself.  And when I turned around they weren't there anymore.
Dad:  Vanity.  Will get you in trouble every time...
Gracie:  Momma taught me not to run around.  She taught me to stay where I am, then call for her and look for the colors she is wearing.  But that was a little difficult because we were in the clothes section.
Dad:  Christopher Denise is one of my favorite illustrators.  Do you think he goes out into the woods and looks at nature?  Or do you think he can draw trees like that out of his head?
Gracie:  To draw like that, he definitely would have to do observation.
Lily:  Oliver is little and cute.  But the mom and dad are fat so they can be snug in their fur.
Dad:  That's good for bears.  Especially if winter is coming up.
Lily:  But they have clothes and blankets.
Dad:  Yeah, so these guys aren't quite like real bears, are they?  I don't think they will necessarily hibernate.
Isaac:  The pictures are all made out of very rich colors like browns, yellow, reds.  Mostly orangey-reds and greens.
Gracie:  I think he uses pastel.
Dad:  Let's see if the book tells us...  Um...  Yep, it says that the illustrations were done in pastels and charcoal.
Gracie:  Yea!  Let's use pastels to do our pictures today!  WOO!  Yes!  Let's do it!
Isaac:  I love using pastels.
Gracie:  Let's go do it!  WOO!  We're using pastels, baby!

Oliver, by Gracie

Oliver and friend playing baseball, by Lily

Oliver in the woods, by Isaac

Author: Phyllis Root
Illustrator: Christopher Denise
Published, 2002: Candlewick Press
Like it?  Find it

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review #43: The Hiccupotamus

"The Hiccupotamus" was my first book and was released by a teeny, tiny publisher in 2005.  The book itself sold great, but the publisher went out of business the following year.  Fast-forward to September 2009, and "The Hiccupotamus" is now being re-released by Marshall Cavendish!  Hooray!  To celebrate, Bookie Woogie is kicking off the Hiccupotamus '09 Blog Tour with a review...

Lily (age 6):  The Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz my Daddy.
Gracie (age 9):  We have a special guest here again!  Woohoo!
Dad:  I'm wondering if we are even capable of reviewing The Hiccupotamus because we know it so well.
Isaac (age 10):  Gracie has memorized the whole book.
Gracie:  I can quote it.
Dad:  When you were little Gracie, I had to tell you not to beat me to my sound effects when we went to library readings.
Gracie:  Now I tell everybody everywhere about it.
Dad:  Gracie is my publicist.
Gracie:  At the post office I talk their heads off.
Dad:  So much of our life revolves around this book.  Can we even review it?  I mean, it would be like trying to review... trying to review Lily.  The Hiccupotamus is practically like a member of our family, isn't it.
Gracie:  Yes.
Dad:  Are we too close to it?
Gracie:  Marry me, book!
Dad:  You can't marry a family member.  Or purple hippos.
Gracie:  Why not?
Dad:  Alright, we'll give this review a shot.  Who wants to describe the book?
Lily:  The Hiccupotamus has the hiccups.  And Daddy, you do drawing stuff and then you have a puppet that looks like the Hiccupotamus and he always makes you spill drinks on yourself!
Dad:  You're talking about when I do school and library visits...
Lily:  Yes.  Yes.
Dad:  But tell people about the story itself first.  The book.
Gracie:  The book is about a hippo that has the hiccups, obviously.  And it's got very bright colors.  And the hippopotamus is easy to draw -- he's practically made out of ovals.  Just ovals!
Dad:  Now you've slipped into giving my Author Visits talk, haven't you...
Gracie:  Yep.
Isaac:  Throughout the story the hippo keeps getting into trouble after trouble after trouble.  Because he's a hippo.  And he shakes the ground when he hiccups and falls.
Gracie:  He always makes something bad happen.
Isaac:  He gets in the way.
Lily:  He went by an elephant, and he tried to say hello, but he hiccupped.  And the elephant got splattered with the frosting from her cupcakes and cake.
Gracie:  He always makes a mess when he gets the hiccups.
Lily:  And then the hippo went by the centipede that was pouring cement.  And they got splattered with the cement.
Isaac:  He hiccups, and he jumps, and he falls, and he makes everyone trip.
Lily:  And then they went by a rhinoceros, and they got all tied up with dental floss, except for the hippopotamus.  The dental floss twirled and spinned and tied them all up when he hiccupped.
Isaac:  So then all the animals try to cure the hiccups.  They get all these how-to-cure-the-hiccups books.  And there's all these different cures.
Gracie:  They did this crazy stuff like spinning him in licorice and tying him to a buffalo.
Lily:  He blowed into a paper bag.  And they scared him.  And they spun him lots and lots of times, but he kept hic'ing and hic'ing and hic'ing.
Dad:  So, did the story eventually have a happy ending?
Isaac:  Yes.  No.  Sort-of-ish.  Happy for the hippo!
Dad:  People will have to read and see.  And what's at the very end of the book?
Isaac:  At the end of the book are "Cast Bios."  Those are funny!  You've got to read them.  I haven't memorized that part yet.
Gracie:  It tells about the characters.
Dad:  All the characters are just actors.
Gracie:  Like the buffalo -- he is really just a ground squirrel in makeup.
Isaac:  That was a lot of makeup on the ground squirrel.  And he had to stay 14 hours in the makeup chair to get ready!
Dad:  It's kind of an accident that the "Cast Bios" were in this book at all.  The original publisher - not the new publisher - the original publisher wanted me to cut the book down from 32 pages to 24 pages.  Then after I chopped out a whole bunch of the story and created all the illustrations they said, "Um... actually we we changed our mind and want it 32 pages."  Now I had to figure out how to stretch it 8 pages longer, this time without changing the story -- because all the pictures were already finished.  So one of the things I did to help stretch it was to add the "Cast Bio" page at the end of the book.
Isaac:  It's so funny!
Dad:  I was just trying to find ways to fill up more pages.  And now that's everyone's favorite part!
Isaac:  It's my favorite part.  The new publisher almost took out the Bios.
Dad:  They did take them out.  But we convinced them to put them back in, didn't we.
Gracie:  Yea!  Bi-os!  Bi-os!  We love you!  Bi-os!
Dad:  Does anyone actually remember me working on this book?  Let me try to figure out how old you were...  I would have started illustrating this in 2004, five years ago, so you would have been 5, Isaac!
Isaac:  I remember posing for this page.
Dad:  Yeah, you posed for the elephant when he spun the hippo around with licorice.  So you remember that?
Isaac:  I remember it.  I used your belt.  I had to hook your belt to the doorknob and pretend like I was pulling it.
Dad:  I have a story you probably don't remember...  One day, I went up to my room to work on The Hiccupotamus.  I had this lovely preliminary pencil sketch of the hippo in my sketchbook.  I looked down, and he had bright - florescent - orange - nostrils.
Isaac:  Ha ha ha!
Dad:  Somebody had snuck into my room...
Gracie:  Ha ha! Ha ha!
Dad: ...and colored his nose-holes bright, florescent orange!
Dad:  Lily was a one-year-old, so it wasn't her.  And Isaac didn't do those kind of things.  So guess who it was?
Gracie:  It was me!
Dad:  I freaked out - but I didn't freak out in front of you.  I needed you to talk, so I was very calm.  I wanted to make sure you hadn't colored on anything else that I didn't know about.  So I called you up to my room and showed you the sketch and asked, "Did you color on anything else?"  And Gracie showed me another picture...
Isaac:  Oh no!
Dad:  That first one was just in the sketchbook.  But you had also colored bright orange all over the twisty purple tree trunk on an actual final illustration.
Isaac:  Oh no.
Dad:  I was able to cover it up pretty well, so I didn't have to start over.  And fortunately those were the only two things you colored on.  You can still see the one in my sketchbook.  If you look -- he's got orange nostrils.
Gracie:  Sweet!
Dad:  But I was very upset, and I said sternly, "Gracie. You do not come in here and color on Daddy's pictures.  Why did you do that?"  And you said in a tiny little 4-year-old voice, "I just wanted to be like you, Daddy."  ...So do you think I was still upset after you said that?
Gracie:  Nope!
Dad:  It melted my little heart into a puddle.  And I gave you a big hug and kiss and said, "Okay.  But don't do it again."
Gracie:  Hee hee!  I love you Daddy.
Dad:  Aww - I love you too!  (Kiss!)  I bet you don't remember any of that, do you.
Gracie:  No.  I only remember that you hung dental floss in your room.
Dad:  You just remember that because it's still there.  To see what a dental floss container might look like hanging from a tree, I hung some from a nail in my ceiling.  And I've left it hanging there still 5 years later.
Gracie:  Would it still be okay to use it?
Dad:  Does anyone know where the idea for the book came from?
Gracie:  I think this is how you thought of it: You were walking around thinking of books and then all of a sudden you thought in your crazy artist mind, "What in the world would it be like for a hippo to have the hiccups?"  And then you made it into a book.
Dad:  What about the poem that tells the story...
Gracie:  It's got a lot of fun words like "yellowphant" and "cementipede" and "criss-crosserous."  Really, really fun words.
Dad:  How did I make the pictures?
Gracie:  Colored pencils.
Dad:  Do you like to use colored pencils?
Kids:  YEAH!
Gracie:  Colored pencils rock.
Lily:  Because they are colorful.  And they are pencils.
Dad:  That is a good description of colored pencils.
Lily:  They are better than markers.
Gracie:  The book has very bright colors.  Not very realistic though.  The elephant is yellow.  The hippo is purple and pink.  The centipede is red and pink.  And the rhinoceros is orange.  But I like it that way.
Isaac:  I remember that you hated drawing the centipede because it had so many legs.  It drove you nuts.
Dad:  I never knew where to put all the legs or which way they should be pointing.  It was the hardest part about making the book.
Isaac:  Did it haunt your dreams?
Dad:  When I was done I said I was never drawing another centipede ever again.
Isaac:  But you do!
Dad:  Yep, when I sign books, sometimes I draw a little centipede in there.
Isaac:  But you only put like three or four of his arms.
Dad:  I kind of let him fade off before it gets to the legs.  I don't mind drawing his face though...
Lily:  I have a question to ask you!  How many colors are in this book?
Dad:  Good question.  I don't know how many colors.  But I do know the number of pencils I used.  From a great big tall pencil that went down to a little bitty stub, I used up 119 entire pencils.
Isaac:  Oh for the love.
Lily:  I'm glad I asked that question!
Isaac:  How many purples did you use?
Dad:  For that I don't know the total number of pencils.  But for each color in the book, I usually used 3 different shades.  I start with a middle tone.  Then I'll do the shadows with a darker color and the highlights with white.  Like here: a middle red first, dark red for shadows, and white for highlights.  And the elephant: a middle yellow first, darker orange for shadows, and white for highlights.
Isaac:  You never use black?
Dad:  Nope.  I never shade with black.  The only black in this whole book is the pupils in the eyeballs.
Isaac:  I never knew that.
Lily:  Are there any secrets in this book?
Dad:  Wow, no one has ever asked me that.  Hmmm... let me think.  In the Cast Bios, I named some of the characters after your friends.  Like Katie McMurphy is named after Gracie's best friend Katie.  And Samu Ti is after Isaac's best friend Sammy.  I bet Sam didn't even know that, did he?
Isaac:  I didn't even know that.
Gracie:  This picture is really funny - the elephant has an octopus on her head.
Dad:  That's my favorite picture.
Isaac:  YES!  Me too.  The whole page.  I like this little centipede dude holding the mask.
Dad:  This page was tricky.  I had to figure out how to illustrate a character behind glass... and a character behind glass underwater... and also water splashing.  All three things I had never done before.  And all with colored pencil.
Isaac:  The animals stuck the hippo in a fish tub.
Dad:  Fish tub?
Isaac:  Uhhh...
Dad:  Aquarium?
Isaac:  Aquarium!
Dad:  I like "fish tub" better...
Isaac:  And that's when one of the stunt doubles had to step in.  Because the guy who was playing the Hiccupotamus is scared of fish.
Dad: ...information from the Cast Bios.
Isaac:  I think he saw "Jaws" and now he's terrified of fish.
Dad:  What's your favorite picture Gracie?
Gracie:  It's got lots and lots of bright colors.  It's the picture of when the hippo hics, and all the floss goes everywhere.  It's got the angry centipede and the angry rhinoceros all tied up, and then the hippo is down there like he's scared.  They are all looking at him with evil glares.
Dad:  Poor little guy.  So, is the hippo bad?
Gracie:  Noooo...
Dad:  Does he try to cause trouble?
Gracie:  Nooooooo....
Dad:  He can't help it, can he?
Isaac:  He just wanted to say hello.
Gracie: (tears coming to her eyes)  Now you're going to make me cry!  (tears falling)  I'm very sensitive!
Dad:  Don't cry.  He's just acting, remember?  He's an actor.  Actually... he's not even an actor.
Isaac:  He's flat!
Dad:  He's flat on paper.  Uh-oh, hopefully that doesn't make you cry too.  Does he seem like a real guy?
Gracie:  He's a cutie...
Dad:  He is a cutie.  He's a cute little member of our family, isn't he.  And I like that picture too, Gracie.  It's one of the few places you see all four characters all in one image.  Alright, is there anything else anyone wants to say before we quit?
Isaac:  Oh yeah, the book is coming out again on September something...
Gracie:  Special edition!
Dad:  This month -- pretty soon!  Bookstores all over the land...
Lily:  Yea!
Gracie:  People should get this book.  You made it!
Dad:  Then you guys can eat.
Gracie:  Yea!
Isaac:  What do you mean?
Dad:  If we get money, then we can buy food.
Gracie:  Our lives depend on it!
Dad:  Such drama.  Let's close with this: Who's your favorite character.
Gracie:  The rhino.  Because he's orange.
Dad:  That's why?  So if I would have made the elephant orange, would the elephant have been your favorite?
Gracie:  Yes.
Dad:  Actually I did almost make the elephant orange.  The whole time I was working on the dummy, I was envisioning an orange elephant.
Lily:  I like the elephant best.  Because it's a girl.  And I have another reason.  It's yellow and yellow is the color of a duck.
Isaac:  Mine is the centipede.  I just really like him.
Dad:  My favorite is probably the hippo.  He's the star.  Hey, between the lot of us, we have the four main characters covered!

colorful hippos, by Lilycast of characters, by Gracieground squirrel in his makeup chair getting ready to play the part of the buffalo, by Isaac

Author/Illustrator:  Aaron Zenz
Re-released, 2009:  Marshall Cavendish
Like it?  Please find it!

A host of wonderful blogs are kindly highlighting "The Hiccupotamus" over the next nine days for the Hiccupotamus '09 Blog Tour!  I'm so very thankful for the time these folks have put into crafting their posts!  I encourage you to visit them and leave nice thoughtful comments.  Here's a list of stops on the tour:

Monday Sept 7:  right here at Bookie Woogie
Tuesday Sept 8:  Fuse #8
Wednesday Sept 9:  Five Minutes for Books
Thursday Sept 10:  Mother Reader
Friday Sept 11:  Reading to Know
Saturday Sept 12:  Book Scoops: (here and here)
Sunday Sept 13:  7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Monday Sept 14:  Jumping the Candlestick
Tuesday Sept 15:  Thing 1 and Thing 2: (here and here)

And for anyone who is interested, here are some older reviews and interviews from the first release of "The Hiccupotamus":  The Just One More Book PodcastWriting For Kids: Part 1 and Part 2The Kacey Kowars ShowJo's JournalKids Lit

Also, The Hiccupotamus has a fan page on Facebook now too, for any Facebookers out there!

And how about a Giveaway?  To celebrate the return of "The Hiccupotamus," and to thank our Bookie Woogie readers, we're giving away a prize pack consisting of all 10 books I've had the pleasure of working on thus far.  Yep, all 10!  The prize pack includes:

The Hiccupotamus
Nugget on the Flight Deck
Nascar ABCs
Nascar 123s
Howie Wants to Play
Howie Goes Shopping
Howie's Tea Party
Howie Finds a Hug
Autumn's First Leaf
Beware the Tickle Monster
That's a value of $93!  And I'd be happy to sign them too, which raises the value to, oh lands, at least $94...
To enter, simply leave a comment below!  We'll keep going until September 20, the book's official release date.  Good luck!  Spread the word!