LA LA LA: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo

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LA LA LA:
A STORY OF HOPE
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jaime Kim
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

cvr image from La La La by Kate DiCamillo

 

Starred Review – Publishers Weekly

“Everyone can sing,” we are generally told. Then, at some point children may get pegged down as tone deaf or some variation of  “you sound bad when you sing.” But what does that mean? Isn’t singing really about the joy escaping a child’s chest when they let out their own individual sound?Don’t we all know how to breathe? Don’t we all have the right to sing? La La La by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Jaime Kim made me ponder that.

Interior spread from La La La by Kate DiCamillo art by Jaime Kim ©2017

 

Kim’s gorgeous illustrations, imbued with so much meaning and emotion in this virtually wordless picture book, show the intense feelings a child has when their song is left undiscovered. Alone.

We all know what it’s like to feel alone, and arguably children even more so as they struggle daily to find a friend … that one friend who will answer their song back with their own unique spin.

I read this story on a day that I deeply needed it. And I will share it with any child who innately understands that we are meant to connect. And if we can connect …. we can truly sing.

 

Interior spread from La La La by Kate DiCamillo art by Jaime Kim ©2017

 

One of the most heartbreaking moments in the story is when the little girl is alone and clearly in grief. How often do we forget that children grieve a loss of connection in life? The loss of a special toy. The loss of being a baby. The loss of a parental figure when going to school.

Share this story with them. Give them reassurance that connection is always there … we just have to keep singing our way to it.

La La La is uplifting, a gift of hope for anyone who has let their voice ring out, even when there isn’t a response back. It’s about the courage it takes to continue singing, even in our darkest moments. And right now, we need all the songs of the heart. We need connection more than ever, and this book is a lovely reminder of that.

Check out this link to a helpful teacher’s guide.

LA LA LA. Text copyright © 2017 by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Jaime Kim. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

    • Reviewed by Ozma Bryant


An Interview with Raymie Nightingale Author Kate DiCamillo

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AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE DICAMILLO

ABOUT RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE

by Hilary Taber

Raymie Nightingale book cover by Kate DiCamillo

 

We’re back again today with more on Kate DiCamillo’s latest middle grade novel, Raymie Nightingale. Hilary Taber’s got some terrific questions lined up for a chance to get the author’s insights about writing this moving story.

INTERVIEW

Hilary Taber: Raymie is a character that is dear to my heart. She’s going through such a hard time, and at the same time she’s looking for what is true about life, what is real, what can be counted on. Is Raymie like you in this way or is that a particular facet of her character?

Kate DiCamillo: Raymie, oh Raymie. Raymie is very much like me. In particular, she is very much like me as a child.

HT: Raymie’s father’s secretary, Mrs. Sylvester, is such a sweetheart. It’s sort of like Raymie gets to have a very practical, straightforward mentor and encourager on the phone whenever she needs someone. Mrs. Borkowski is almost like the opposite of Mrs. Sylvester. She says such mysterious things that make you wonder if they are true somehow. Are these characters based on someone you know or are they both a symbol of the archetypal wise woman?

Novelist Kate DiCamillo, author of Raymie Nightingale

Children’s book author, Kate DiCamillo, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015 and winner of a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor.

KDC: I had the great good-fortune of growing up on a dead-end street in a small town. One side of the street was families with young children; and on the other side of the street there were three widows: Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Lindemann and Mrs. Broadfield. These ladies all kept their doors and hearts open to the kids on the street. I could also go and sit on Mrs. Lindemann’s porch and talk with her. Mrs. Sylvester and Mrs. Borkowski are fictional characters, but they are also a way of thanking those ladies.

HT: Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana each have a problem of their own. Their shared suffering seems to unite them until they are almost a little family. Are these three friends going to make it? I believe that Raymie will make it, but I worry about Beverly and Louisiana. You’ve got me so invested in them!

KDC: I believe—absolutely—that all three of them will make it. I have no doubt about this.

HT: I’m fascinated by Louisiana’s bunny barrettes. They seem like Louisiana herself – present but also little, a tiny bit removed from reality. Did you make those up or did you ever see anyone who wore those?

KDC: Oh boy. And: bless you. I had bunny barrettes. I lost them in Mrs. Lucas’ backyard.

HT: As a child, did you have a book about a larger than life hero like Raymie did? Was there a particular person that you considered your hero when you were a child?

KDC: Librarians were my heroes. Teachers were my heroes. Anybody who put a book in my hand was my hero.

HT: Marsha Jean. Marsha Jean haunts me. Marsha Jean is not real, but yet she is. She’s the, “…ghost of what’s to come.” She’s a person that Louisiana’s grandmother has made up to keep her granddaughter on her toes. What made you think of writing about Louisiana who is pursued by the unknown?

KDC: Hmmm. I don’t know. So much of what happens in a story is not planned out by me, but is rather a surprise to me. So I don’t know how this happened. I do know that I am familiar with that feeling of being pursued by the unknown.

HT: Beverly is initially such a gritty realist, but she can be very sweet. Louisiana is more vague and kind initially, but she can be strongly adamant about how there is room to hope. Where do you see Raymie to be? Is Raymie somewhere between these two?

KDC: Raymie is somewhere in the middle, yes. She is an introvert, a hoper, a watcher. Like me.

HT: The more I read Raymie Nightingale, the more I realized that wisdom and truth are ever present in everyday life. Raymie is someone who listens for it. She listens for people to say something true, something wise. Were you like Raymie when you were a child? Did you listen for a certain phrase or words of truth like Raymie does?

KDC: I did. I still do.

Many thanks to Kate DiCamillo for answering my questions, and to the entire team at Candlewick! As Kate is my writing hero I treasure this chance to interview her. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity I will not soon forget. Summer reading is coming up! Be sure to go to your local indie bookstore and get a copy of Raymie Nightingale today. I can’t imagine anyone else that I would rather spend the summer with than Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana a.k.a. The Three Rancheros!
Click here to read Hilary’s review of Raymie Nightingale from Monday, May 16th.
Click here for Kate DiCamillo’s Facebook page.
Click here for Kate DiCamillo’s website.

  • Interview courtesy of Kate DiCamillo and Hilary Taber

 

Kate DiCamillo Raymie Nightingale Tour


Raymie Nightingale written by Kate DiCamillo

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RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE
Written by Kate DiCamillo
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 10 and up)

 

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo book cover

 

Reviewer Hilary Taber calls Raymie Nightingale, “A rare and hopeful song.” But after reading her review, you’ll discover, as with all DiCamillo’s books, it’s that and so much more

Raymie Clarke is preparing herself to enter the Little Miss Florida Central Tire competition. Her father has recently run off with a dental hygienist, and Raymie is determined to win so that he will see Raymie’s picture in a newspaper and will, of course, come back to his family. This is the initial plan, but like most plans it doesn’t turn out the way that Raymie originally intended. First of all she needs to learn how to twirl a baton in order to win the competition. It is during those baton twirling classes that she meets her “rancheros”, her new friends who become like family. Gritty, but sweet Beverly, and storyteller extraordinaire Louisiana, help her through this hard time. Maybe, just maybe, Raymie is more than just a little girl with a big dream to get her father to come home. Maybe, just maybe, Raymie is destined for adventures with her new friends that show Raymie that she is the hero of her own difficult time. Raymie finds that somewhere in her is a person who is stronger than the storms of life. She also learns that, with help from her friends, she can manage to make her way to a new life full of goodness and grace. It is a life that she could have never imagined when she began making her plans to turn things around. Kate DiCamillo delivers yet another wonderful novel that makes you believe again in the strong, incredible power of friendship and hope.

It is that rare quality of combining sorrow with sweetness that makes every book she writes life affirming. Every book is like watching a sweet spring creep over a winter world. Often as a children’s bookseller, I see an absolute faith placed in her books by the children who read them. Even though the story might be hard to read, the children show a willingness to take the journey with Kate. Time and time again I wonder what it is that they are feeling when they look at her books in their little hands. I think it’s something akin to knowing that she is telling them the truth. There is a certain peace in that. Kate tells us that life is hard, but you should always hope. Hope is real, hope is something to hold on to, hope is the stuff of life.

On a personal note I feel that Kate DiCamillo is the E.B. White of our generation. Like White she is adept in the art of condensing profound thoughts into short, but amazing sentences. I was honored to meet her recently and to have my copy of Raymie Nightingale signed. I think it’s worth noting that beyond the wonderful writing is a very brave writer. Kate has personally been through the very hard experience of having an absent father, and she has courageously taken up the task of writing about this time in her life. That had to be difficult. Ultimately I think her bravery in writing about this time in her life will help to heal others who have gone though something similar. So, here is to one amazing writer who is also incredibly resilient, just like Raymie.

Come back tomorrow to read Hilary’s interview with Kate DiCamillo to get the inside scoop.
Download a teacher’s guide here.
Download a book discussion guide here.

  • Reviewed by Hilary Taber

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

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The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale,
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Superhero Princess to the Rescue!
Hilary Taber reviewsThe Princess in Black
(Candlewick Press, $14.99, Ages 5-8),
the first book in a new chapter book series.

Princess-in-Black-cvr.jpgWho says you can’t be a princess and a heroine? Allow me to introduce you to Princess Magnolia. This princess wears pink, has a sparkle ring, glass slippers and, at the beginning of the book, she is taking tea with the Duchess Wigtower. The Duchess has a feeling that Princess Magnolia is perhaps too perfect. Princess Magnolia appears to the Duchess to be too prim and proper. Princess Magnolia therefore must have a secret.

It seems that the Duchess will certainly have an opportunity to find out what that secret might be when Princess Magnolia’s glitter stone ring suddenly gives off an alarm. However, Duchess Wigtower (deftly and sweetly illustrated by LeUyen Pham with a wonderfully towering wig) never quite catches on that there has been a call to action! The glitter stone ring is actually a secret alarm. The Princess excuses herself to change into her black outfit to become the Princess in Black!

Princess Magnolia’s kingdom just happens to be located right next to Monster Land. A daring princess is clearly needed here. Together with her black pony (who is usually disguised as a unicorn), she sets off to find out why the alarm was sounded. When the princess arrives, she finds that the rather dim witted monsters who live underground in Monster Land have forgotten why they are not allowed to go above ground. It’s especially hard for them to remember the reason for this rule when they can smell the lovely scent of goat floating down into their cave. They love goats, but not in the strictly, “I’m just admiring these charming goats. Reminds me so much of Heidi!” Certainly not. The monsters want to eat the charming goats. This is a job for the Princess in Black! Well, these silly monsters have certainly met their match, but will Princess Magnolia be able to save the day and protect her superhero identity? If anyone can outwit duchesses and monsters it would be Princess Magnolia, a.k.a. the Princess in Black!

LeUyen Pham’s charming illustrations meet Shannon and Dean Hale’s lively writing punch for punch and sparkle for sparkle. The illustrations are so sweetly princess-like when they need to be, but so full of action-packed, adorable fun when they should be that they are impossible to resist. There are also many interesting clues to be found in the illustrations that the attentive reader can pick up on that prove, without a doubt, that Princess Magnolia is actually the Princess in Black. Additionally, The Princess in Black is the first in a series. Huzzah! This series will provide a much needed bridge to longer, more challenging reading when the time is right. Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series will find much to enjoy here. Princess fans of all ages will find a heroine to inspire them, for Princess Magnolia is a model of both fashion and bravery.

Click here to find out Seven Things You Didn’t Know About the Princess in Black.

Click here to read a Q&A with the Hales.

Shannon and Dean Hale are the husband-and-wife writing team behind the graphic novels Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, both illustrated by Nathan Hale.

 


Flora & Ulysses and Journey Giveaway

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Enter our 1000+ Twitter Followers Giveaway

Win Copies of Flora & Ulysses and Journey!

Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by 2014 Newbery Medal Winner, Kate DiCamillo, with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, Candlewick Press, 2013.

A huge thank you goes out to Candlewick Press for this fantastic opportunity. (Plus, read what DiCamillo’s publicist, Tracy Miracle, has to say about working with this two-time Newbery Medal winner.) Three contest entrants chosen at random will receive a set of two award-winning books, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (2014 Newbery Medalist) with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, together with Journey, a wordless picture book (2014 Caldecott Honor Book) by Aaron Becker.

Enter by clicking here. Include your name and address please. Remember to write 1000+ in the subject line. Contest ends at midnight PST on Tuesday, Feb. 18 and three winners will be selected and notified on Weds. Feb. 19, 2014. For eligibility, entrants must first follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Contest rules also available here. Good luck!

 

Journey by Aaron Becker

Journey, 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Press, 2013.

 

“In addition to interviews with Kate DiCamillo, K. G. Campbell and Aaron Becker, we’ve been delighted to have both Flora & Ulysses and Journey reviewed on our site. So, it simply made sense to offer our readers a chance to share the enjoyment we’ve gotten from reading both these brilliant books. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t use this occasion to thank all our followers for their continued support. We love bringing our favorite books, authors and illustrators to our readers’ attention.”

Ronna Mandel, founder Good Reads With Ronna

“Working at Candlewick is an embarrassment of riches for any book publicist, honestly. There are too many wonderful books and authors, it can be overwhelming!

But working with Kate DiCamillo is a singular privilege that I can honestly say is one of the defining aspects of my career in publishing. Over almost a decade now, we have worked and grown together, and her books have continued to surprise and impress me at each publication. Not to mention, she’s a good person, and who doesn’t want to see a really, genuinely good person do well?

While no longer an underdog by any means, she’s still easy to root for. And I count myself among her biggest cheerleaders  — ever.”

Tracy Miracle, Sr. Publicist, Candlewick Press


Hilary Taber’s Top Ten Kids’ Books Authors

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Here’s a different kind of list to kick off 2014. Please read what reviewer and bookseller Hilary Taber has entitled her Author Shout Out for Good Reads With Ronna.
We always look forward to Hilary’s take on what’s selling in her store and can just picture her standing up on a stage, behind a podium, announcing all these wonderful winners.

The Top Ten Authors That I Most Admire,

Why You Should Know About Them,

& Why I’m Giving Them a Coveted Bookseller Award

UnknownWell, folks, I’ve officially read over 400 hundred children’s books! This has given me a real perspective on the craft of writing, and what makes an author someone whose books I will recommend without hesitation. I’ve gathered together my top ten authors, and the reasons why I am their fan for life. Certainly, personal taste has a lot to do with it, but so does a winning streak of books. In each of these excellent books the writing (and sometimes the art as well) speaks for itself in terms of excellence. Each author, in their own way, has hit their stride with every book they write. So, from board books to young adult, here are my top ten author shout outs. I only wish I had a lovely statue with a bookseller on top in gold to give to each of you, but hope this star will suffice.

Best Board Books and Pop Up Books:

Winner: Petr Horáček

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardHis latest book, Animal Opposites, was a wonderful collection. Each illustration was so finely done.  There is pairing not just animals, but also opposite characteristics such as quiet and loud. Each pop up element was so beautifully done, and so pleasing to the eye. His board books are colorful, eye catching, and beautifully drawn. In this author and artist’s work, beautiful art meets a lively story. Strawberries Are Red remains my very favorite. Petr, you rock, and your books are this bookseller’s dream come true for the two and up set!

 

For more information, please visit this website – www.petrhoracek.co.uk

Best Picture Books:

Winner: Mo Willems

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardCan we ever have too much of Mo Willems’ books? I think not. Every book is so full of humor that appeals to both adults and children. Willems books are always story time hits. Do you know how rare that is? It’s very rare that I am able to sell a book that is more guaranteed to bring a smile and a laugh to the entire family. My favorite books are in the Pigeon series, but the beginning reader series of Elephant and Piggy has earned a special place in my heart for being such fantastically engaging beginning reading. Thank you so much, Mo, for your humor. Thank you for sharing it with us, and by sharing it you make reading so much fun!

 

For more information, please visit this website – www.mowillems.com

Best Junior Fiction:

Winner: Kate DiCamillo

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardKate, how can I tell you how much your books mean to me, and to all the children to whom I’ve sold them? Your books are so full of hope at an age when children are just beginning to learn that the world needs their hope. I’ve never met a child who wasn’t just in love with your work. The care you put into each book makes it shine like stars in the night sky. When I read a book written by you, I admire the effort you put into each book, and also the love. God bless you, Kate! My favorite titles include Because of Winn-Dixie, and Kate’s latest book, Flora and Ulysses about a girl named Flora who discovers a new best friend in the form of a squirrel, named Ulysses who has super powers, can write poetry, and can type!

 

For more information, please visit this website – www.katedicamillo.com

 

Winner: Jeanne Birdsall

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardWill I ever tire of reading about the charming Penderwick family? I really don’t think so. Every book is filled with adventure, and the reassuring presence of family. I’ve loved seeing each character grow and change to become the person that they can most fully be. Plus, there’s Hound, the Penderwick’s dog! I adore Hound. Little Women comes to mind as a possible “ancestor” of the Penderwick series. I so appreciate that every child can recognize some part of themselves in each of the sisters in the family, just as you can in Little Women. There’s something for everyone here in this lovely series of the changing lives of this most eccentrically beloved family.  This is a family who affirms that the person you are is fantastic. This type of personal affirmation is present throughout the books. In fact, you should be free to be yourself!

For more information, please visit this website – www.jeannebirdsall.com

Continue reading »


An Interview With K. G. Campbell, Illustrator of Flora & Ulysses

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Illustrator and author, K. G. Campbell discusses Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures
and more with Ronna Mandel!

K. G. Campbell is the illustrator of Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate DiCamillo.

Illustrator and author K. G. Campbell

I had the good fortune to sit down with K. G. (Keith) Campbell earlier this month when he joined Kate DiCamillo for a Flora & Ulysses book event at Vroman’s in Pasadena. He’s a charming L.A. local with an intoxicating accent who’s not only an extremely talented and versatile illustrator, but an author, too. This Q & A focuses mostly on his artwork.

WIN:

Click here now to enter our giveaway. Thanks to Candlewick, we’re giving away 3 copies of Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick Press, $17.99, ages 8-12). Please write FLORA in the subject line, include your address and enter by midnight on Sunday, November 10, 2013.

INTERVIEW: 

GRWR: A quote I read called you an “up and coming illustrator.” How do you know when you’re no longer up and coming, but have arrived? What’s changed?

K. G. CAMPBELL: Well I think that’s a description from Candlewick Press and at the time I’d had only published one book, Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters for which I won the (2013) SCBWI Golden Kite Award. But since then I won the Golden Kite and an Ezra Jack Keats (New Illustrator) Honor for Lester. Flora & Ulysses had just come out and also Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman had also just released. I think you know you’re no longer up and coming when you no longer have to search for work. Candlewick just came to me recently and offered me another project

GRWR: Did you take it?

K. G.: Yes, actually. And also I’ve turned down a few. I guess that’s when you know – when you don’t have to pound the pavement.

GRWR: Tea Party Rules is with which publishing house?

Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by K. G. Campbell

Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, Viking Children’s Books.

K. G.: Tea Party Rules is with Viking. My second picture book with Kids Can Press, which is my manuscript, is due to come out next spring. It’s called The Mermaid and the Shoe.

GRWR: Can you please tell us the process when you try to develop the characters after after receiving Kate’s (DiCamillo) manuscript and how long it takes?

K. G.: So obviously the first thing that you do is read the manuscript. You try and get a feel for the characters which isn’t difficult for Kate because her characters are so three dimensional, quirky and hilarious. You look for visual clues you have to be really careful to see if there’s any physical descriptions in there. And you go from there.

Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses from Candlewick Press with illustrations by K. G. Campbell.

Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses from Candlewick Press with illustrations by K. G. Campbell.

Being an LA local, what I tend to do is a little casting. I go in search of the perfect Flora or the perfect Phyllis or whoever it is. But unlike a casting director, I can select from anyone who’s ever lived. They can be friends or family, they can be famous actors They can be TV actors. They can be film actors. They can be theatre actors. They can be fictional. I try to find a type that will fit that character. Then that sort of gives me a feeling how they’re going to react physically in any given situation they’re faced with, expressions and all that stuff. And then I do the sketches based on that. And then, in this case, but it’s not always the case .., well, they always go through the art director and the art director has some input as to whether they think that physical manifestation of the character is appropriate. In this case, because Kate is Kate, they (the sketches) also went to her. Often, usually in fact, they wouldn’t go to the author. The author has very little input in the illustrations. But Kate had something to say. Some characters were modified from my original sketches. Now they are what they are so that’s perfect.

GRWR: Who was the most difficult character to draw or create?

K. G.: I think the most difficult was probably Ulysses himself, because, and it’s actually technical reasons. It’s a middle grade novel so the format is quite small. All of the images are printed as 5×7. I drew them very slightly larger just so it would crisp up as it was reduced, but I didn’t want to draw so much larger that I didn’t know what was going to happen to them. Ulysses is a squirrel and everybody else is a human being and human beings are much larger than squirrels. And in fact, I made Ulysses slightly larger than real life so that he would be visible. So getting the amount of character that we wanted to into Ulysses when his scale was so small, that was the most difficult part.

Flora, Ulysses and neighbor Mrs. Tickham with the Ulysses Super Suction vacuum as illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Candlewick Press.

Flora, Ulysses and neighbor Mrs. Tickham with the Ulysses Super Suction vacuum as illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Candlewick Press.

GRWR:  Who was the easiest to draw?

K. G: Phyllis.

GRWR:  I love the look of Phyllis. I feel like I’ve met her before.

K. G.: I wanted someone with a crazy, curly hairstyle, girlie, melodramatic.  And I actually had a person in mind for Phyllis. She was inspired by a Broadway actress. Phyllis is like my original sketch. Some changed a bit, some changed a lot. But not Phyllis.

GRWR: What medium do you work in?

K. G.: I usually work in water color and colored pencils combined but Flora & Ulysses was executed entirely with colored pencils, no water colors.

GRWR: You’ve lived in Kenya, Scotland and California. Is one locale particularly more inspiring for you as an artist?

K. G.: Yeah, I would say Scotland, probably. The weather and the atmosphere make it a less attractive place to live, but it’s definitely a very romantic and gothic setting. And it makes for a good location for the kind of gothic stories that I like. Not that Scotland was the setting for either Lester or Ulyssses. It wasn’t. But in my future writing I think some of it will be set there.

GRWR: Since you do not consult with the author, is it scary interpreting their vision or is that a challenge you enjoy?

K. G.: It’s definitely more difficult illustrating for other people’s manuscripts than my own. Obviously not all illustrators are in my position. Not all illustrators write as well so they may not make that comparison. For me I do have that comparison and it’s definitely more difficult and more time consuming because you have more parties involved who make changes, so it becomes a bit more difficult. I wouldn’t say it’s more intimidating or daunting, but it’s more of a challenge.

GRWR: Do you prefer to illustrate others’ books or do the entire book yourself.

K. G.:  It’s easier to illustrate my own, but illustrating other people’s work does take me to places that I wouldn’t have gone. So in that sense the product that emerges at the end is perhaps more surprising and unexpected. It becomes something of a team effort almost like a play, I suppose, or when you have several screenwriters working together it becomes a collaborative process and the creation is the product of that.

GRWR: You studied art history, did interior design yet always felt the call to illustrate even as a child. What stopped you from pursuing that from the start?

K. G.: Well that’s quite a complicated answer. And to be honest I’m not 100% sure that I have an answer to that. I was flattered and encouraged to take an academic route as I graduated from high school. My academics were pretty strong and I wound up going to a fairly prestigious school which is Edinburgh University. And really at that point I made the decision not to go to art school and I put down the pencil and I didn’t pick it up again for decades. I got onto a different path.

Cover artwork from Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K. G. Campbell.

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters written and illustrated by K. G. Campbell, Kids Can Press.

GRWR: But it was always tugging at you to return to it?

K. G: Yeah. And the more I delved into exploring children’s literature and illustration, the more I felt compelled to do it, the more I felt very strongly that I had the talent and the skill to participate in that world. So I began to take it more and more seriously and so here I am.

GRWR: At that point, did you go back to school?

K.G.: No. As an artist I’m more or less self-taught. I’ve done some life drawing classes. Obviously I’ve done a bit of research on the materials and stuff online, but on the whole you would call me a self-taught artist. I did however go to UCLA and Art Center Pasadena for some night classes in creative writing, in children’s writing and specifically in illustrating. I did a class with Marla Frazee who’s a well-known children’s writer and illustrator who lives here in L.A. She teaches at Art Center. While it wasn’t an art class per se, it wasn’t teaching you to draw, it was teaching you how to use whatever skills you had and whatever style you had to illustrate and how images participate in a book and how they enhance a text. I did a great writing class with Barney Saltzberg who’s another local author/illustrator who has had a string of books published. He teaches a night class at UCLA in writing for kids basically.

GRWR: Did you find when you weren’t working in the field of children’s books that you were still drawn to it, that you still loved wandering around the children’s books department of a bookstore?  

K. G.: Oh all the time! In fact I never really stopped reading children’s literature which a lot of my adult peers find a little odd. But definitely my favorite books probably are children’s books or perhaps adult books that have a fairy tale quality to them to some degree. I love sort of sophisticated middle grade novels. Philip Pullman, who wrote The Golden Compass, is one of my favorites.

GRWR: Which illustrators have most influenced you?

K. G.: Edward Gorey, Tim Burton and Lisbeth Zwerger, an Austrian artist.

GRWR: How many hours per day do you devote to your projects?

K. G.: Well, I try to do a full workday. I am my own boss. I’m probably not working a full eight or nine hours, but maybe about six or seven hours a day. And depending on where I am in a project will dictate how much of that time is allocated to illustrating and how much is allocated to writing. An ideal scenario is kind of half and half – three and half hours writing and three and half hours illustrating. Something like that. But  in the real world, as deadlines loom for my illustrating projects, I find that the writing has to take a back seat to some extent because the illustrations have to get done and that’s what happens.

GRWR: Any advice for new illustrators?

K.G.: I would certainly say if you haven’t, then take a class, some classes, in illustrating specifically because it is a distinct branch of artistic output and it’s about bringing to a text something that perhaps the text doesn’t already contain. But it has to be complementary. And in many cases, especially in picture books, you’re telling a story along with the text. Sometimes you are a carrying a subplot as well, and you can throw in characters, usually a pet or something, that aren’t mentioned in the main text and you can have things going on, a whole storyline, that’s purely visual. So I think understanding what illustration is is very important. It’s more important than any level of artistic skill or style.

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