Meet Author Illustrator Cornelius Van Wright

BUCKY AND STU VS. THE MIKANIKAL MAN
Written and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, Ages 5-8)

Bucky and Stu vs. The Mikanikal Man picture book cover

 

Today Good Reads With Ronna is happy to share an interview with Bucky and Stu vs. The Mikanikal Man author illustrator Cornelius Van Wright.

HERE’S A DESCRIPTION BY PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE OF BUCKY AND STU VS. THE MIKANIKAL MAN

It’s the adventure of a lifetime when best friends—and self-proclaimed superheroes—defeat bad guys of their own invention.

It’s wonk ’em time when Bucky and Stu have to stand up to Phat Tyre, TrashMan and Hose-Nose. No matter that the bad guys are all made out of household items that Bucky and Stu have assembled themselves—these bad guys don’t stand a chance against the boys’ power moves. Still, it’s quite a surprise when their latest villain, the giant Mikanikal Man, gets zapped during a lightning storm and comes to life! The battle—and thrill—of a lifetime ensue. Full of surprises and laughs, this upbeat, action-packed story celebrates imagination, creativity, and friendship in even the most unexpected forms. Cornelius Van Wright’s hilarious illustrations are full of surprises and are perfect for portraying the high-speed antics of two enthusiastic boys.

Q & A:

GRWR: This is a wonderfully imaginative and humorous tale that actually encourages and celebrates make believe and pretend play. How or when did the seed of this story get planted in your mind?

Cornelius Van Wright: Thank you for your kind compliment. The seed to this story came a couple of years ago when I painted a picture of a boy playing chess with a robot. I painted it for fun but people asked me what was the story behind it. So I thought about the picture and slowly this story came to me.

GRWR: As an author/illustrator, does the story come first or do you picture the characters and draw them then see where they take you?

CVW: For me the images always come first. I tried writing words first but it did not work for me. I see the world in images.

GRWR: Bucky and Stu remind me of so many kids at this age – inventive and full of big ideas. Were you primarily interested in exploring the friendship aspect of this book or the adventure the boys seek?

CVW: The relationships came before everything else. Bucky and Stu’s adventure is based on their relationship and that relationship extends to the Mikanikal Man.

GRWR: Is there one particular spread in the book that’s your favorite and why?

CVW: Visually I enjoyed the scene when the boys face certain DOOM after ticking off Mikanikal Man. But story wise, I care for the scene where The Mikanikal Man Spins Bucky and Stu around and around and the boys say, “We can fly!” This was the boys’ inner dream becoming reality.

 

9780399164279_MikanikalMan_TX_p01-32.indd

Interior artwork from Bucky and Stu vs. The Mikanikal Man written and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright, Nancy Paulsen Books ©2015.

 

GRWR: Do tummy rumbles take your mind off whatever you’re doing like they do for Stu and the Mikanikal Man?

CVW: Yes, this part is autobiographical.

GRWR: Are the boys modeled after anyone you know?

CVW: Bucky and Stu are modeled after two friends I met my first year in college. One was very thin and angular (Bucky) and his best buddy was rounder with shaggy blond hair (Stu). I always wondered what they were like as kids. So this was my first sketch of what I thought they would look like.

GRWR: What would you like the takeaway for readers of this story to be?

CVW: I would love for kids to play using their creativity and imagination.

GRWR: Who were some of your favorite authors and illustrators as a child and who do you admire now?

CVW: As a child my mother bought me lots of Little Golden Books and Big Little Books (many of which I still have). Today I admire Jerry Pinkney’s art and Mo Willems’s and Oliver Jeffers’s storytelling.

GRWR: What would you use in your office to build your own Mikanikal Man?

CVW: Lots of Amazon boxes and empty towel rolls!

GRWR: Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

CVW: I am continuing exploring kids going into imaginative lands and using their wits (and anything else on hand) to get them out of trouble! I make the sketches into books (with Scotch Tape bindings) and show them to publishers.

Cornelius Van Wright head shotCheck out the downloadable CCSS-aligned curriculum guide here.

Cornelius Van Wright wrote and illustrated When an Alien Meets a Swamp Monster, and has also illustrated several other picture books, including Princess Grace (by Mary Hoffman) and Jingle Dancer (by Cynthia Leitich Smith). His work has appeared on Reading Rainbow and Storytime and has been exhibited with the Society of Illustrators. He lives in New York City.

  • – Interview by Ronna Mandel

Jon Klassen Steals Our Hearts Not Our Hats!

This Little Fishy Should Have Stayed Home!

Ronna Mandel, today’s reviewer, is hooked on Jon Klassen.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

If you loved the subtle hilarity of author-illustrator (and L.A. local) Jon Klassen’s multi-award-winning 2011 picture book,  I Want My Hat Back, prepare yourself for yet more fun and understated humor with This Is Not My Hat ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4 and up).  In his new book, on sale this coming October 2012,  Klassen has swimmingly cornered the market on black humor and hat thieves while still keeping things suitable for children since (spoiler alert!) the culprit once again gets caught or as I like to put it, beaten and eaten!

In his first book Klassen introduced readers to a big bear in search of his stolen red hat. Now with his latest title, one that is certain to secure an even bigger fan base, Klassen lures us in ever so easily. Meet one small, overly confident fish wearing a blue bowler he has just nicked from a rather large sleeping fish who
“probably won’t notice that it’s gone.” It may suit him and he may convince himself he deserves it more than its owner, but it’s just not his.

What works so well in this story is that rather than sharing the story from the perspective of the victim (the bear in This Is Not My Hat), Klasssen switches narrators and this time chooses to give the thief’s point of view. Will this little crook manage to outsmart the big fish by keeping several strokes ahead and hiding in a place where the plants are big and tall and close together?  Or will he get his just deserts? 

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

I’ll admit I may have initially found myself rooting for the small underdog of a hat thief, but it did not take long to get Klassen’s message loud and clear; hat swiping will not get you ahead. Undeniably funny and fab fodder for a storybook, but for young readers what’s also important is that the big fish gets his bowler back and will achieve that end one delicious way or another. I raise my hat to Klassen’s fab follow-up work, an irresistible easy-to-read or be-read-to picture book that has left me with bated breath as to what thefts are in the works.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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