Sophie Blackall Illustration

Drawings and Snippets and Breaking News, (but more snippets than breaking news).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

And the Winners are...

Congratulations to the following schools, which will each receive a set of ten picture books!
AB Combs Elementary, Raleigh NC
Arcadia Local Schools, Arcadia OH
Aurora School, Oakland CA
Chamberlin School South, Burlington VT
Community Academy of Philadelphia, Philadelphia PA
Eagle Cliffs Elementary, Billings MT
East street Elementary School, Ludlow MA
Emiliano Zapata Academy, Chicago IL
Fred A. Toomer Elementary, Atlanta GA
George C. Weimer Elementary, Saint Bans, WV
Mackintosh Academy, Boulder, CO
Mt. Kisco Elementary School, Mt. Kisco, NY
Prince Edward County Elementary School, Farmville VA
P.S. 63, New York City NY
Scroggins Elementary School, Houston TX
Stephens Elementary, School, Rowlett TX
Walker Upper Elementary School, Charlottesville VA
West Birdville Elementary School, Fort Worth TX
West Mound Elementary School, Columbus OH
West Middle School, Grand Blanc, MI 

Thank you to all who bid, all who entered, all who tweeted and reposted and lent their support to this endeavor. In particular, Susannah Richards, John Schu, Donalyn Miller, Schwartz & Wade, Greenlight Bookstore, Emily Jenkins, my studio mates, John Bemelmans Marciano, Brian Floca, Edward Hemingway and Sergio Ruzzier, and Galatea, who made an excellent hatstand.

Winning librarians, we will work to gather your books and ship them out in the next two weeks.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

This Drawing Could Be Yours to Keep!

Help me turn this drawing into picture books for schools!

A few weeks ago I visited the Eric Carle Museum at story time. I read A Fine Dessert and did a painting demonstration, (which was pretty much an ode to frisket, the masking film which allows you to leave areas white when you do a watercolor wash.) Afterwards, signing books, a librarian leaned in close and sighing, said, “I adore this book. I wish I could buy it for my school, but we have no budget for new books this year.”

Sadly this was a refrain I heard all Summer. (And yes, it occurred to me that they might be trying to find a polite excuse to avoid buying my books, but it was a general concern!) Librarians in public schools across the country are lamenting budget cuts. Which is a particular shame considering this is being called a golden year for picture books.

I looked at the painting I made at the Carle, and thought, Maybe there’s a way of turning this drawing into a pile of new picture books. Because while there’s nothing as comforting as curling up with an old favorite, there’s something about starting a new school year with a stack of fresh ones. So here’s the plan:

I have listed the painting on eBay. The auction is live and runs until September 22nd. I am hoping it will go for a significant amount, enough to buy at least six sets of ten 2015 picture books.
Which ten books, you ask? Well this was hard, because there are SO many good ones. I consulted librarians and educators I trust and admire, (special thank you to Susannah Richards!) and was inspired by Donalyn Miller and Mr.Schu’s #pb10for10 lists. Here are ten new picture books I wish every kid had access to:

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illus. by Sydney Smith
Wolfie by Ame Dyckman, illus. by Zachariah OHora
Yard Sale by Eve Bunting, illus. by Lauren Castillo
Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
Swan by Laurel Snyder, illus. by Julie Morstad
A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Sophie Blackall
Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins, ills. by Paul O Zelinsky
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson
Two Mice by Sergio Ruzzier
Float by Daniel Miyares

I have reached out to my local independent bookstore Greenlight, who have generously agreed to ship the books to the schools.
So now I just need
a) People to bid on the drawing. Click here!
b) Librarians and teachers to enter the draw. (Which you can do by leaving your name and the name and location of your school in the comments below. Only US schools, I’m afraid.)
c)  You to help spread the word!

It’s a small idea, but if it works, it’ll make me happy. (And if it does work, maybe I can do this regularly!)

Thank you so much for your help!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Finding Winnie - Part One

When I was a college student we were always being asked to show our process. We were encouraged to submit our doodles and sketch books and research which contributed towards our final grade. Problem was, I didn't doodle. I never kept a sketch book. I hated spending time gathering reference materials. I just wanted to get on with it. I was rather gung ho back then. So, the night before an assignment was due, I would scramble to retroactively produce convincing notes and scribbles and thumbnails. I'm a better person now. I floss more often than just before a dental visit. I pay estimated tax most quarters. I keep a sketchbook and I do lots and lots of research.
I have had a such a lovely response from teachers and librarians about the blog posts describing the making of the illustrations for A Fine Dessert, (THANK YOU!) that I've decided to do the same thing with my new book Finding Winnie, which comes out on October 20th. Seeing as the book is finished, printed, bound and sitting right now in boxes in a warehouse, these posts will show the process retroactively. But I swear it's all real!
Finding Winnie is the true story of the real bear that inspired Winnie the Pooh. It's written by Lindsay Mattick and published by Little, Brown and I can't wait to tell you about it. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Fine Dessert - Part 8

A Fine Dessert is out in the world and I've been so happy to hear about families making blackberry fool together and about teachers constructing exciting lessons – which end with dessert. I've had great fun helping kids whip cream with a whole variety of vintage whisks and Skyping with a class in Texas who had rented a museum-in-a-truck with period kitchen gadgets and clothing so they could immerse themselves in each of the centuries. There are some wonderfully inspired teachers and librarians out there. Case in point.
And if you've followed my posts about researching and illustrating this book, you know I went to some lengths to get it right. So you will imagine how I've been feeling a tad crestfallen ever since reading this really lovely, thoughtful blogpost, which gently points out the following:
"If I had to be absolutely nit-picky, the one qualm I have is at the end, when the modern family in San Diego is enjoying the dessert outside. One of the kids is chasing a firefly and, if I'm not mistaken, fireflies are very rare west of Kansas (and those that do make Southern California its habitat aren't luminescent as adults). But that's hardly enough distraction to take away from the book."
As I said to Yucaree, the author of the blog, in the last spread of the book where the dessert is shared by family, friends and neighbors, I wanted to emphasize and celebrate all the subtle social shifts which have occurred throughout the centuries. I wanted to bring the feast outside under the stars, and to have diverse friends surrounding the table. And I wanted to hark back to the slave boy in 1810 whose role it was to fan the diners, by showing a corresponding boy in 2010 – happy and free in the moment, being a child. And coming from Australia, where we don't have fireflies, I find them so magical and delightful and it seemed like just the thing.

It didn't occur to me that they don't exist in California.
Hanging my head in shame, I confessed this to my ever supportive studio mates. At 3:30pm every second Monday, we share anachronisms and anomalies, typos and tears. Not really, but we may as well. Enter my hero, Sergio Ruzzier!
A little internet sleuthing and Sergio has come up with evidence of at least one firefly spotted in California in May in 2010.And there's video footage on youtube of fireflies in CA. Rare but not impossible.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Censorship and The Baby Tree

It has come to my attention that some elementary school libraries have removed their copies of The Baby Tree from shelves out of concern that the information about where babies come from is inappropriate for children to read on their own.
I believe that if a child is old enough to read The Baby Tree on his or her own, and curious enough to continue to read beyond the end of the story to the back matter – which contains answers to further questions about where babies come from – then that child has a right to the information. There is nothing salacious or untrue in the book, and the answers to the most common questions children ask about reproduction are given in a simple and straightforward way.
As the author Ellis W. Whiting wrote in the introduction to his 1933 book, The Story of Life (designed to be read to children of four or five and for older children to read themselves), “It is important that the first picture of sex knowledge which passes through the ‘lens’ into the child mind is a correct one” and if the correct information is not available, that picture will be readily supplied from another source, “the half-informed, misled playmate.”
The story of The Baby Tree is essentially a child’s quest for information. I believe children who are eager to read about their world should be rewarded with honest, thoughtful books.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reading in Rwanda

I am proud to share some of the work we did in Rwanda in the beginning of the year. These illustrations form a guide for teachers who are introducing picture books to their students for the very first time. The guide explains things those of us who grew up with books take for granted, like how to engage children by asking them questions about the story, how to look at illustrations alongside text, and literally how to turn the pages and hold the books facing the class, so kids can see the pictures.
The Rwandan Children's Book Initiative, a project of Save the Children, provides locally made wooden cupboards stocked with books and colorful mats for children to sit on. The initiative supports local writers, illustrators and publishers to produce quality books in English and Kinyarwanda, the native language. It's a wonderful thing.
Here are some of the illustrations. The whole guide can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Father and James Lee Byars

 There is an exhibition on view right now at MoMA PS1, James Lee Byars: 1/2 an Autobiography.
My father, Simon Blackall knew Byars when they both lived in Kyoto in the mid 1960s. He photographed some of Byars's conceptual, ephemeral, performance pieces for posterity; photographs which are now part of MoMA's collection. My father and step-mother are briefly in New York so we made a field trip to PS1 which was quite wonderful.

 Simon wrote about this very piece on our blog, where I am slowly illustrating his adventures.
You can read the whole story here.