Illustrator Mary Uhles has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with her book KOOKY CRUMBS written by J. Patrick Lewis.
All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.
From National Hat Day (January 15th) to National Vinegar Day (November 1st), former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis rejoices in this calendar of dizzy days, celebrating them together with Mary Uhles’ exuberant art in poetic style.
Gr 1–5—In a follow-up to World Rat Day, former Children’s Poet Laureate Lewis has written 29 more poems about unusual holidays, including National Sunshine Day, World UFO Day, and World Toilet Day. Each holiday receives its own special font and accompanying illustration. The holidays are presented without dates and out of chronological order, providing an opportunity for readers to do their own research. Likewise, the poetic forms are not identified, but this won’t keep readers from enjoying the poems. The illustrations are vibrant and humorous, featuring children, animals, and aliens in laugh-out-loud situations. Fans of Jack Prelutsky and Bruce Lansky will probably already be familiar with Lewis’s work, but new readers will be delighted to discover he’s written over 70 other books for children. VERDICT This cheerful, accessible collection of poems would be useful as a mentor text in guided instruction for elementary students or as pleasure reading.—Maggi Rohde, Ann Arbor Public Schools, MI.
The editors of Kane Miller contacted me to illustrate KOOKY CRUMBS mid-summer 2014. It sounded fun – a collection of poems about different zany holidays written by Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis. But at the time I was knee-deep in sketches for THE LITTLE KIDS’ TABLE, my first trade picture book. Of course I was thrilled to be offered another book but I wasn’t sure about taking on a new project with a deadlines very close! Then I ran it by my critique group who encouraged me to say yes. Specifically, because it was a book of poems instead of a narrative manuscript, they said “c’mon it’s such a fun idea and you can really push your style!” So I set out to do just that. I signed the contract mid September and my first step was to research other illustrated poetry collections. What I learned was that while a narrative picture book creates a world across 32 pages, most poetry collections are creating a whole new world with every page. The upside to that is I didn’t necessarily have to worry about maintaining a character over 15 spreads! But even so I decided I wanted some continuity. My solution was ‘recurring’ characters’ that pop in and out throughout the book: the alligator, the cat, and the skunk. These same characters show up on the cover too.
I also decided I wanted to push my character design toward rounder, more stylized characters and simplified backgrounds. After making these initial decisions along with my research I started sketching over the Thanksgiving holidays in 2014. Because the poems were already paginated by date (each poem follows a different, wacky holiday from January through December) my next step was to determine which would be spreads and which would be single page illustrations. There were plenty of places where the poems and the holiday only loosely correlated and I felt like I needed to create an illustration that would bridge the gap. My favorite example of this is the spread that includes National Look Alike Day and Happiness Happens Day. The verso poem is about twins and the recto poem is about a food fight. But I felt like the whole spread was about how families and siblings can fit together in odd and hilarious ways (hence the simultaneous splat by the twins.) The most difficult poem to illustrate was Our Invisible Friends. In the final book the holiday is listed as National DNA Day, but originally it was Philadelphia Chromosome Day. During my research I discovered that holiday was created by the researchers who discovered cancer causing genes in an effort to raise awareness about their research. The poem is a fairly light-hearted take on this but I didn’t feel like I could follow up with a funny or over the top illustration. We went back and forth on sketches a little bit but in the end I came up with the idea of an older child listening to his unborn sibling. The mom’s dress pattern is a map of chromosomes in a nod to the original holiday.
Sketches were approved in January 2015 but at that point I was painting the finals for THE LITTLE KIDS’ TABLE. I started on finals in late February and worked through June. The last few illustrations I painted were the first you see in the book: the image of Nefertiti for National Hat Day and my tremendous bicycle for A Bicycle Built For Ten. Have a mentioned that drawing bicycles gives me the hives? I think I waited till the last to do this one because I was so worried I would mess it up. I never did find a good reference for a ten person bike so I collaged together a bunch of pictures printed from a Google image search. In the end I was happy with it. This illustration is the first time the reader sees the recurring characters plus there’s lots of other characters from later poems on the bike as well. I sort of thought of this as the characters riding into the story.
The very last illustration I worked on was the cover. By this point I knew it would have my alligator, cat and skunk, and I knew I wanted to imply a “cookie” because of the play on words with the title. So while there’s not actually a poem about cookies anywhere in the book that big ol’ chocolate chip cookie gets its day on the cover! All the illustrations in mid June 2015 and the next time I saw them wasin a PDF proof several months later. I dearly love the end papers in this book which are a rainbow of watercolors. Everyone who sees them asks me “when did you do these?” I didn’t do them but they look exactly like something I would do! The big box of books showed up in the spring of this year and I had a huge smile on my face the rest of the day. I hope KOOKY CRUMBS give the reader the same kind of joy I had while creating it!
MARY UHLES BIO:
Mary Reaves Uhles has created illustrations for numerous books and magazines. Her books include THE LITTLE KID’S TABLE by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle (Sleeping Bear 2015); KOOKY CRUMBS by J. Patrick Lewis (Kane Miller 2016); and BEYOND THE GRAVE by Dottie Enderle (ABDO Magic Wagon Press 2013). Mary has twice been awarded the Grand Prize for Illustration from the SCBWI Midsouth Conference and her piece, EAT was a finalist in the 2014 SCBWI Bologna Book Fair Gallery. Prior to beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. As Midsouth Illustrator Coordinator of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mary lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Since creating characters and stories is her favorite thing in the world (even more than mocha fudge ice cream) she feels mighty lucky to do it every day in her hilltop studio. www.maryuhles.com
AUTHOR: J. PATRICK LEWIS BIO:
Lewis is the author of more than fifty books of poetry for children, which find their shape in both free and formal verse and engage a wide range of subjects from history to mathematics, Russian folklore to the animal kingdom.
Former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis grew up in Gary, Indiana and earned a BA at Saint Joseph’s College, an MA at Indiana University, and a PhD in economics at the Ohio State University. Lewis taught in the department of Business, Accounting and Economics at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, until 1998 when he became a full-time writer.
Thank you Mary for sharing your journey with us and offering KOOKY CRUMBS to one lucky winner.