Tag Archives: Oliver Jeffers

Eric Carle Signing & Meeting Oliver Jeffers!

I have been completely delinquent about posting – ugh. And I still haven’t posted about my trip to BEA! Planning my summer reading program combined with changing over to a new catalog and circulation system = zero extra time.

However – I did have an amazing day at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art with my friend and co-worker, Ali. As a graduation present for Ali, I planned to take her to the museum for the Eric Carle signing. We were both so excited to meet him! I can’t believe I took classes for my MFA program for 2 years and never met him – I did visit his studio once though. Very cool.

So we met Eric and got some books signed. I had two signed for the library – one will be a summer reading prize for a lucky kid!

   

    

But what Ali didn’t know, was that I had some secret inside info about another author/illustrator who was going to be there to meet Eric Carle….Oliver Jeffers! We are both huge fans of all of Jeffer’s amazing picture books (see my paper on on of his books.) So when I told Ali she should buy Oliver Jeffer’s new book and she said she probably should, since she was going to marry him and all, and I said she could propose to him right now since he was standing over there…..the look on her face was priceless! It was pretty funny. So we stalked him for awhile and when he came into the book store (managed by the amazing Eliza Brown) we asked him to sign a few books for us! He was so nice and he signed our books (with little drawings!) and chatted with us. I think we were both walking on air when we left the museum! All in all, a successful day in the life of two children’s room librarians 🙂

       

I just found this picture on Oliver’s tumblr page 🙂 How cute are they? Click HERE or on the image for more on Oliver Jeffer’s Diary.

Oliver Jeffers & Eric Carle – two incredibly talented guys (http://oliverjeffers.tumblr.com/)

This is my cat Charlie asleep near the books and looking very cute.

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Picturebook Friday

So I grabbed this book off my shelf in my office this morning to do this week’s Picturebook Friday post. And then I remembered that I had actually written a paper on this book in my History of Publishing class in grad school. Lo and behold….I still have it! Well, it wasn’t really that long ago. So I thought I might as well just put it on here – if you aren’t up for reading the whole thing, I totally understand. To be honest, I started to edit the first paragraph before pasting it and then sort of got bored. I don’t remember what I got for a grade, though I’m sure it was an A (wink). I had the fabulous Anita Silvey as a professor and it was one of the best classes I’ve even taken, besides my writing courses.

Also, I emailed Oliver Jeffers to ask him some questions about the design of this book, and when I got a reply, you might have thought I just got an email from a boy I had a crush on (author crushes are very similar.) Check out his website it you get a chance. He is an amazing artist.

And so, without further ado…….

Jeffers, Oliver. The Incredible Book Eating Boy. New York: Philomel, 2006.

The Incredible Design of

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Carol Goldenberg writes in her article The Design and Typography of Children’s Books, “Ironically, book design and typography are at their most successful when not immediately apparent to the reader. It can even be said that book design is a kind of ‘invisible art’”. The Incredible Book Eating Boy was written, illustrated and (as I found out directly from the author himself) designed by Oliver Jeffers. I’ve always loved this book, and I am a huge fan of all of Oliver Jeffers’ work. After taking a closer look, I was amazed at all of the unique design elements. The story follows a young boy named Henry who discovers a unique love of books – eating them – and what happens to him as a result. I read this to a 4th grade class for community reading day one year and they LOVED it. Though, while sitting on the floor, they probably couldn’t appreciate even half of the amazing design that makes this book so “incredible.” Yup. I went there.

The front and back of the book jacket have a unique color scheme; one that is very different from many recently published children’s book. The background is brown, and the display type uses a mixture of mostly whites, creams, reds, and oranges. These are also the same colors that make up the main character of Henry, who is pictured eating a stack of books in the bottom left corner of the front jacket. There are very faint cream swirls surrounding Henry, drawing subtle attention to him. While the brown would normally appear dull, the red and orange really pop when used in the display type, which is a mixture of different hand-drawn letters that look three dimensional. The jacket cover serves as a poster for the book and gives a description of what the book is about, with the unique display type doing most of the work. It has the feel of a carnival sideshow with a childlike simplicity created by Jeffers’ simple drawings and handwritten type.

The back jacket uses the same brown – which has a similar textured look as that of a paper grocery bag. The barcode appears fairly standard. The one spot illustration depicts a large book talking to Henry. The only text is located at the bottom right corner (mirroring the figure of Henry on the front) is a humorous disclaimer to “not eat this book at home,” and we assume from the positioning and mood of the spot illustration, that the large talking book is explaining the disclaimer to Henry. The back jacket actually serves as a connection between the front jacket and the story inside. It is a disclaimer to the title – i.e. this is a story about a book eating boy, but we warn you beforehand not to try this at home – and it also sums up the moral of the story, which is that books can give you enjoyment and make you smarter by reading them, not eating them. The talking book on the back of the jacket could also be explaining this moral to Henry and therefore serves as both the beginning and the ending of the story, making a full circle. The spine of the jacket also serves as a connecting piece and mirrors the display text, but with a gloss that makes the letters stand out. The same gloss is used on the front illustration of Henry, increasing the poster-quality of the jacket.

The actual cover of the book is very different than the book jacket. The binding appears to be a three-piece paper binding, and has held up well after being a heavily circulated library book. The vertical trim size is 9 x 11 ½ and it is also the standard thirty-two pages. The cover is a cream color, again with hand-written display text and a different illustration of Henry eating books. The effect is quieter than that of the book jacket and matches the mood of the overall story better. The text on the spine mirrors the text on the cover, interspersed with the cover illustration. The back cover has the same feel as the front cover. It also has the disclaimer from the back jacket, but in a slightly different hand-written text. What this back cover and back jacket flap do have in common though is perhaps one of the most unique design elements and also the most noticeable: the left bottom corner of the book jacket and cover are missing and it has been made to look as though someone has bitten it off. This element is also extended into the back endpaper of the book, and goes along with the end of the story, where the reader can see that Henry may not be completely cured of his book eating habits.

The front and back endpapers are both the same, minus the bitten-off corner of the back endpaper of course. They are a bright orange color, which is still in keeping with the color scheme, but gives the beginning and ending of the book a lighter feeling, as opposed to the darker, more mysterious book jacket. The jacket flaps are a cream color, a bit darker than that used for the book cover. The front jacket flap depicts a picture of Henry and few words about the book. The orange in Henry ties in with the orange endpapers. The back jacket flap shows a picture of Oliver Jeffers as a small boy, wearing a vest of brown, red, orange and cream which of course matches with the endpapers and the entire color scheme of the book.

As for the paper used in the book, it appears to be a good quality paper. It is not too thin and holds up well to page turns. The paper is matte, not glossy, which fits well with the color scheme and also adds to the retro/old book feeling. The quality of the paper also allows the texture of the paint and pastel, which Jeffers used to create the illustrations, to be clearly visible (though still in that wonderfully “invisible” way.) What is perhaps the most interesting design element of the book – yes, even more so than the cute bite mark – is the paper that Jeffers used to create the illustrations. As it is described on the copyright page, “The art for this book was created with paint, pastel and Letraset (ink) on pages from old books that libraries were getting rid of, the artist found, or people were throwing out.” Each illustration is done on an old piece of plain, lined or graph paper – many with type, handwriting, and scribbles still on them. The colors vary, but are generally of a duller, muted color scheme of browns, greens and creams. Some illustrations are done on two open pages of a discarded book, or in some cases, on the actual covers of old books. This gives the book a very unique collage-look.

Some of the pages are full bleed, while others show a white margin or a larger amount of white which allows for a shadow to appear under the thicker pieces of paper or books that Jeffers painted on. The gutter does not interfere with any of the illustration, and there is even a gutter crossover on one spread that makes the illustrations really stand out. The collage effect also gives the book at realistic quality, while Jeffers’ simple and childlike illustrations and diagrams ground the book, so to speak, in fiction/fantasy. Not only are these “found” papers used for the main illustrations, but they are also used for the title page, the copyright page, and even the book cover itself. While some illustrations seem to be randomly matched with the paper they are painted on, others appear to be deliberate.

Good examples of this deliberateness include Jeffers’ choice to use graph paper when using mathematical equations or the topic of math in general. Jeffers also uses a page from the dictionary containing the word “intelligence” while the text states, “The more he ate, the smarter he got.” On another page, the text sits on the lined paper used for the illustrations, yet on others, background lines are ignored. One of the most dynamic uses of Jeffers’ unique design technique is a double-spread where Henry imagines himself on an old-fashioned stage eating books in front of an audience. This illustration is painted over the back, spine and front cover of what appears to be an old discarded edition of an Encyclopedia Britannica. Though the color of the book cover does not show through, the raised lettering, the blind ornate stamping on the spine and the spine binding itself show through the cream colored paint and enhances the spare illustrations and muted, darker colors of the stage. This spread in particular is the most stunning use of the “found” paper/book technique as well as Jeffers’ color scheme and use of different fonts and handwritten text.

The text or type of the book is also one of those “invisible” design techniques that brings the entire book together. The display type, as mentioned earlier, is hand-written and designed and is used in a good amount of the book. Jeffers’ own handwriting is used for speech when characters in the story are interacting with each other and also for diagrams, charts and other asides that are not part of the main story text. Any type of sign, book title or other more formal text in the illustrations appear to be hand written more in the ornate style of the display text, though sometimes a typed font may appear to juxtapose the handwritten design. As for the actual text that tells the story, it is a kind of typewriter font that really works well in the book.

I was unable to find out what the actual name of the font is, but there are several reasons why this font works: 1. The font is bold and not too small – at least a 14 point or larger – making it legible; 2. It is not too ornate, again making it legible for younger viewers; 3. It works perfectly with the whole concept of the retro book. The older style typewriter font fits with the old discarded book pages. The size of the font is also used well to reflect important parts in the story, such as growing in size as Henry becomes smarter and smarter and smarter. The same font is used for the copyright page, sometimes a bit crooked in keeping with the old book theme. The typewriter text is also used as part of the illustrations, such as letters spilling out of Henry’s mouth, being churned up in a blender, or part of a jumbled mess in Henry’s mind. The handwriting that is placed throughout the book tends to be smaller and somewhat less legible, which could potentially be a problem. However, I would argue that this forced me to look at the book more closely and uncover more of the design elements that make this book so wonderful.

Overall, each element of design works to create a beautiful book that flows seamlessly and what appears to be effortlessly. The spare illustrations make the book a fun adventure for both children and adults. The unusual color scheme of browns, oranges and creams actually make the book stand out in a world of bright colors and glossy pages. And of course, the bite out of the back of the book puts that special little touch to the end of the story. The Incredible Book Eating Boy is an understated and beautifully designed picturebook.

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January Story Times

Week 1 ~ Elephants

I centered this story time around Elmer by David McKee. A sweet story about a patchwork elephant who thinks that it would be better to look like all of the other elephants, so he covers himself in grey mud. When he gets back to his herd, he realizes that without him, no one has any fun. When it rains and the other elephants realize the funny joke that Elmer has played, they declare this to be a special Elmer Day and every year, Elmer makes himself look like a regular elephant, while the rest paint themselves to honor Elmer. It’s a cute story about fitting in and being loved for who you are. Also, it’s mostly just about crazy elephants (to a 3 year old.)

The other book I read was I’ve Got an Elephant by Anne Ginkel. A cute rhyming story about a girl with an elephant who gets lonely and invites another elephant to play. This continues until there are quite a few elephants and it gets very silly.

      

I also created a felt board activity for Elmer that made it fun for the kids, especially since my copy of Elmer is small and the pictures are harder to see from the floor. (Sorry, too lazy to rotate the picture!) For the craft, I printed a black and white outline of Elmer and the kids cut squares of colored tissue paper and glued them on the patchwork Elmer squares.

Elmer Felt Board

Week 2 ~ Silly Stories

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really leave much time to prepare for this week. It crept up on me! I love the book Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, so I decided to read that and Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, because I don’t think any kid has ever NOT laughed hysterically at this book. I’ve read it so many times to different groups and it never fails me!

Stuck is very cute, though the group I had was on the younger side and I had to abridge it slightly because they weren’t quite getting some of the subtle humor. Most of them enjoyed it, but there were lots of little siblings running around. The craft I planned was based on the book, so I had to make the best of it! (In LOVE with Oliver Jeffers, btw.) In the story, a boy gets his kite stuck in a tree, so he throws up a shoe to knock it out, but it gets stuck. As does the other. One thing after another gets thrown and stuck in the tree – even the ladder, which you think he would use to climb up the tree – gets thrown and stuck, as do cars, houses, ships, whales, etc., until finally the kite falls and the boy is so happy, that he forgets about all the other things and beings that are stuck in the tree.

For the craft, I had pre-drawn trees that they kids colored and pictures of random objects from magazines for them to glue into the branches of the tree. They came out very cute!

"Stuck" crafts

Week 3~ Chinese New Year!

Books

This was a tough one, but I really wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year with the kids. It was difficult to find books that were short enough to read, but I ended up with The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine and Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin. The first one was long, and I had a younger crowd again, but I decided to give it a try, since it was a cute story. I didn’t read all of the text and stopped to ask them what they thought about a pan that could sing, which they thought was very funny. We made it through the story in both sessions. The Grace Lin book is a bit shorter and describes a New Year celebration in a way that is easier for younger children to understand.

In my session this morning, I had a mom and daughter who celebrate the lunar New Year, as the mom is half Vietnamese. I thought this was pretty cool. They told me a few of the things they did to celebrate. Though I was a little worried about trying to explain what Chinese New Year was to the younger kids, especially with people there who actually celebrate it!  They seemed OK with it 🙂

  

Since it is the Year of the Dragon, we made *dragon puppets, which the kids LOVED. When my Monday session finished theirs, they all gathered back on the story rug and just sort of walked around moving their puppets up and down. I never even told them to do it – it’s like the dragons just took over….lol. For a snack we had fortune cookies, which I happened to notice a few weeks ago at Walmart in the asian food section. (This may be the real reason I wanted to do the Chinese New Year theme……)

My un-colored sample

(*The instructions for the dragon puppets can be found HERE at the Enchanted Learning site, which is worth the $20.00 yearly subscription! However, I found a different head that looked more like a dragon and drew my own tail.)

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