Cover Reveal and Dual Interview: Wings by Cheryl Klein, ill. Tomie dePaola
Okay. So I kinda sorta intensely love this.
First off, remember Cheryl Klein? A.k.a. the continuity editor of Harry Potter? A.k.a. one of the best editors of our age who not too long ago left Scholastic to work for Lee & Low Books? I’ve known Cheryl for years. We used to do Kidlit Drink Nights (the first ones, though they were based off of the David Levithan YA version) back in New York before I started producing offspring. She had a podcast with her husband called The Narrative Breakdown that was lovely and a book of writing advice and all SORTS of stuff! Oh. And did I mention she’s a great editor?
So that’s on the one hand. Then you have Tomie dePaola. Who is . . . . um . . . well he’s the great Tomie dePaola. Not sure I really need to say anything beyond that.
Two great tastes that taste great together, right? Now Cheryl has written a picture book and Tomie has illustrated it. BUT WAIT! There is more. Because for the first time in my memory Tomie has, and I mean this truly, CHANGED HIS STYLE. You gotta understand, I have never seen Tomie do what he’s doing with this book here. Why? Well, let’s do a little old interview with the creators before we get to the cover reveal (and, what the heck, some interior spreads) of the book. And, as you’ll learn (as I did) this is not the first time the man has dabbled in the world of collage.
BB: Cheryl! You’re writing books for young ‘uns! We all well and truly recall your work for adult writers of children’s books The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults. What was the impetus to cross over into picture books? Are you following your own book advice (an unfair question, I know).
CK: Back in 2011, I thought of or encountered the phrase “things with wings,” and I remember really liking it — the long “ee” sound of the vowels vs. the buzz of the “z” at the end. I made a list of words that ended in “ings,” from “bings” to “zings,” and played around with them, but no obvious story presented itself. Still, I saved the list as a document, and every so often I’d come back and poke at the words a bit. Cut to 2016: I was on the street in Brooklyn, turning over the rhymes again as I walked, and the plot of the book fell into my head . . . how the little bird’s pride in her “wings” could establish her character, and “clings” and “flings” would offer a natural progression from that, and what the climax and ending might be. So yes, WINGS does follow THE MAGIC WORDS’s advice about story structure, but in very, very condensed form!
BB: Tomie, How did you come to the project? Did you know Cheryl?
TD: I did not know Cheryl Klein prior to this collaboration although I may have met her father many years ago when he ran a literature conference.
I came to the project through Emma Ledbetter, my editor at Atheneum. Emma and Justin Chanda, publisher at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers imprints, liked how I drew birds. So, Emma asked me to read the manuscript. As you know, Betsy, this is the normal process. The publisher chooses the illustrator for a manuscript. I loved Cheryl’s story.
BB: Cheryl, not only is this a picture book it is a RHYMING picture book. The most dreaded form. Why go the rhyming route?
CK: I really loved the sound of the words and the energy they created together. And I’ve always enjoyed picture-book texts that operate under some kind of restriction — a certain rhythm or form or layout on the page — when that restriction enhances the emotional or thematic effect of the book. I wanted to make that happen here.
BB: Tomie, This is the first time I’ve seen you do collage work. Why did you choose this medium? Have you had an interest in collage in the past, or is it a new interest?
TD: Collage was not a mystery to me because of my wonderful training at Pratt Institute in the early 1950s. Collage was one of the many mediums we were exposed to. But, I had trouble with the glue. I found out I wasn’t neat enough – you know, gluey fingers, gluey paper, gluey you name it.
I did use collage occasionally for my “fine art” pieces, but I never considered it for illustration work. I was more comfortable with paper, paint, pencils and markers. And besides, Leo Lionni, from my point of view, was the Master of Collage. I had yet to see any of Eric Carle’s wonderful work.
And then, Eric OWNED the collage so completely.
WINGS is not my first book using collage. I used collage in many of the illustrations in CHRISTMAS REMEMBERED.
When I began sketches for THE SONG OF FRANCIS, the lightbulb went on. By then, I had discovered full-page, self-adhesive Avery labels. No glue required!
I fooled around with cutting shapes, and coloring surfaces with markers… doing my Matisse paper-cutting imitation. I tried it with the illustrations for THE SONG OF FRANCIS, and it worked beautifully.
I had been waiting for the right project to come along to again work with collage. I felt WINGS was perfect. My art director, Laurent Linn, encouraged me to go for it, so I did.
BB: Tomie, Should Eric Carle be shaking in his collage-based picture book throne?
TD: I suppose secretly I’m saying, “Beware, Eric, beware.” I’m only kidding. What I’m really saying is, “I’m coming for you, Lois Ehlert.”
BB: Cheryl, how would you envision this book being used best in the future?
CK: I hope it will make for great dramatic read-alouds at schools and libraries! I’d also be thrilled if kid or adult writers used the rhyming-word-list method as a writing exercise — generating lists of rhymes for “blast” or “whales” or “pocket,” say, and building off those to create their own stories.
Thanks very much, Betsy!
BB: Tomie, Any plans to continue with collage, or are you done with it?
I imagine the day will come when it seems right to use my leftover Avery labels and markers. After all, I did just buy a new pair of scissors.
That’s the long and the short of it, folks! So what does it look like?
Thanks to Cheryl, Tomie, and the good folks at S&S for the reveal.
Filed under: Cover Reveal
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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