An Annoying ABC – news and reviews

“A is for one awesome, amusing, antic alphabet book.”(!) – Starred review – Kirkus Review

“The hilarity lies in the illustrations, typical Emberley style, done in pencil and watercolors.”  “Emberley’s spirited pencil and watercolor cartoons nearly sing from the pages”. –  starred review, Kirkus Reviews.

“Emberley gives it a true story, one that will have kids gasping and giggling(!) – GoodReads/Marika McCoola

Anyone who thinks life is a breeze for abecedarians should check out this knowing and very funny primer from Bottner and Emberley. Bottner’s deadpan, minimalist text inspires Emberley to some terrific portraits in extremis–this isn’t just an alphabet book, it’s an encyclopedia of kindergarten deportment, from aggression to zealotry – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, July 25, 2011:

My New Book, An Annoying ABC, Written by Barbara Bottner, and Published by Knopf, is just out and beginning to getting reviews. She reviewed the book recently in one of the big review houses, Kirkus, which uses many reviewers, including Julie Danielson, who is also an accomplished blogger. Below is an excerpt from a recent entry of hers featuring the new book on the amazing children’s book blog – “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast”, run by Jules Danielson.

“If you missed last week’s Kirkus column, I discussed the newest picture book titles from Peter BrownMichael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon. But you know I can’t talk about picture books without also showing lots of art and sketches,…..”      Below is a page from my sketchbook working out the climax of a kindergarten meltdown in alphabetical order…

Mouse tour of Greystones

So, this morning, this nice wooden box of little mice show up at my door. I opened the package, and all these little brown and white faces were looking up at me, like I had something to tell them. I didn’t know what to say. I could see they were chocolate mice, meant for eating. And no matter how cute they were, the handwriting, as they say, was on the wall for this lot.I figured, since it was such a grand day and all, the least I could do was show them a bit of the village and such, before they, you know. So next I took them down for a look at the Irish sea. Milk , dark, white; they all seemed to enjoy the salt air. And they asked a lot of questions. I did my best to answer all of them. They sounded like they didn’t get out much.Then I took them over to the sea walk, and showed them the view of Bray head to the north. They really liked that. They spent time just taking it all in, as if they knew it was the last time.

One particular dark chocolate one couldn’t tear himself away from the view. Kept going on about how he couldn’t explain it, but’t touched him somewhere, deep inside. Then I took them over to the Happy Pear, our favorite local coffee shop, and they sat in the window watching daily life in Greystones village go by.

They asked me to show them something particularly Irish. I told them I’d lived here long enough to forget what was different from where I grew up. But I did show them the local doctor’s office where everyone goes, I do remember it being a lot friendlier than the doctor officers in the States. Before we knew it it was time to head home. Well, for some of them. I just couldn’t help it. They were just so cute.

Michael - June 3, 2011 - 12:32 am

Thanks to all at Little Brown for the lovely surprise. I did my best to make them feel at home…

Deb Marciano - June 3, 2011 - 1:26 am

Awesome… Did you use some tarragon??? Do you have a little drool on your face??? (asked Mrs. Mastif). xox d

Nancy - June 3, 2011 - 2:26 am

Oh aren’t you a clever Lad!!!! the tail though!! xoxo

Rebecca - June 3, 2011 - 1:45 pm

ha…… a tale of one city, nice ! glad you took time off and the sun shone…

michael - June 6, 2011 - 5:53 pm

I did use tarragon, the tails were indeed hard to swallow,(although my teeth were nicely flossed) and it’s sunnier here in our little village than you’d imagine….

New Book

This is my new book that’s coming out titled: An Annoying ABC, written by the legendary Barbara Bottner, and published by Knopf. The editor was Nancy Siscoe and the art director was Isabel Warren-Lynch. This is an image of a jacket “proof”, which means this is a pre publication test print used to try and get the colors of the final book as good as they can be. Usually 2 or 3 test prints or proofs, are ordered to make small adjustments to the printing press to try and match the original art as closely as possible.

Down in the bottom right hand corner you can see a 1, 2, 3 and the first two blocked out. This means this is a second proof, or the second attempt at getting the colors right. In this case I would have liked to have another proof as I didn’t think the colors were very good, even on the second go round (this web image is greatly enhanced, the actual colors are a bit off to my taste). But the artist is seldom thrilled with the printed results as the 4 color printing process, the cheapest way of printing full color books, can never really capture the original art, unless there is a very skilled person every step of the way from the scanner/separator, to the printer, to the production supervisor at the publisher. It can be done well, but there is just not the money in these days of ever tightening budgets to pay for the time it takes to properly tweak the process, and to pay the high cost of a true printing artist…

I know printing is just as much of an art as any of my illustrations, and I have watched some great ones. I had the pleasure of going on a print run in Italy years ago with a master production person at Little Brown, and watch the process of her expertise, matched with the old school craftsmen working the press just outside Milan. It was the book Welcome Back Sun, and it contained many soft graded backgrounds of changing light – very tricky to capture, and very difficult to match the spreads as they go from left page to right.

A children’s picture book is printed on one sheet of paper generally, and the pages, if you saw them, look like they are all over the sheet, not right next to each other, as you would expect. This is because the machine that folds the paper up into a small folded bundle that will become the finished bound book pages only works one way… try it sometime with a piece of paper folded in half several times, you’ll see what I mean. One or two left and right hand pages will match up but the rest won’t. Color is much easier to match on the big printing press if the areas are close to each other. If the two pages are on opposite ends of the single sheet being printed, it’s a nightmare to get them exactly alike, and compromises have to be made…usually in the color. But… I have seen it done… so it is possible. I think these artistic printing professionals are a dying breed.

(to be continued…)

Deb Marciano - June 1, 2011 - 6:31 pm

Happy Day before your birthday, dear Michael…. I love the book… the colors do look good here (on my PowerBook). I am excited that this is coming out… I can’t wait to see it in final version.

Welcome Back Sun is my favorite of your illustrations, and now you’ve helped me understand the process that makes it so beautiful. Thank you.

I miss you terribly, so here is a HUGE Birthday hug… xox #1 Fan

Ray Noll - June 2, 2011 - 3:06 pm

Quality in mass printing is a dying breed.
We were in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC this weekend and I was appalled at the poor quality of the art prints for sale. You are fortunate you can still exert some control over the printing process. It appears these poor dead artists have the mediocre digital renditions of their exquisite work sold to the lowest bid printer.
Meanwhile, the ABC book looks like wild good fun!

Michael - June 2, 2011 - 7:11 pm

Thanks guys! more on this book soon…

Ann Boyajian - June 8, 2011 - 10:02 pm

Hi Michael
This looks wonderful – looking forward to the finished product!

Irish children’s books award 2011

user photo

The 2011 Bisto Award, the biggest prize in Irish children’s books, has been won, interestingly, for the second year in a row, by a picture book: Chris Haughton‘s A Bit Lost.  The top prize is open to children’s books by an Irish author of any age or format. (Last year the ward was won by my wife , Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (for the 2nd time!) for her picture book There.)

It’s Chris‘s first attempt at a children’s book. And not surprisingly, he also won the Bisto award this year for best first book. The book wa

s originally published in Korea, with, as Chris said at the award ceremony, complete artistic freedom. It’s not possible for that to happen in the west, even at Walker Books/Candlewick Press. I’m sorry but that’s the truth. There is far more fear of failure, far more of a sense that an editor or art director, no matter how much experience they have, must know more that the artist/writer about their own book. This is not to say everyone has something to say and sometimes they are right. But I worryin the economic climate, and even before, about creative expression being squashed in the name of commerce and children receiving ever increasingly homogenized books. As so often happens if a book slips past the radar of editorial “correction” it is often praised for it’s “originality”, or “fresh voice”. Must this always happen by accident?

Congratulations Chris. A really lovely book. And something I almost never say – Great digital art. Really shows what a computer can do in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. Walker is doing his next book. I hope, and I say this with the best possible intentions, and their hands off it.

All Artwork and text in art © 2010 Chris Haughten.

Grandma’s Lap

What could be better? A nice warm lap to sit in and a hug from Grandma. One of my favorites from recent books.

Illustration © Michael Emberley. From the book  Mail Harry to the Moon!, written by Robie Harris, published by Little, Brown/Hachette.

marie- louise - May 17, 2011 - 6:29 pm

I love this pic almost as much as the sleeping hippos one…