Sophie Blackall Illustration

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crows on NPR

Abrams gave me a heads up that there was a possibility Daniel Pinkwater might review Crows of Pearblossom on Weekend Edition this Saturday. We were heading up to our little farmhouse for the long weekend and on Saturday morning I turned on the transistor, extended the antenna, twiddled the dial and got static. And more static. It was 8am and there were dragonflies on the pond and the lilacs were heady and frogs were peeping and the swing was beckoning and I confess we abandoned the radio in favor of Spring frolicking. Returning to the house in search of coffee, my friend, the artist Edwina White, picked up the forsaken transistor and doggedly pursued a signal. Shortly before 10am she called us to the mudroom, where she stood on one leg, the other elegantly extended behind her, with an outstretched arm transmitting Mr. Pinkwater's elusive voice. She held the position valiantly for the duration. And apparently Crows of Pearblossom hit #62 on Amazon. The power of radio!
Here is the review. And here is a frog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are You Awake?

I wrote Are You Awake? nine years ago, when my son was about three. We had only been living in New York for a short time but had taken a trip to see family in Europe. Eggy’s toddler internal clock was turned upside down and we had several sleepless nights and surreal conversations. I wrote this email to my father at the time:

“Brooklyn, August 2002. We are back from France and still fighting the jet-lag, mostly because Eggy is at his liveliest between 1am and 5am. He can climb out of anything now, even his slippery travel cot, so it is pointless trying to put him to bed as he simply gets straight out again. So yesterday we bought bunk beds at a stoop sale and Nick carted them, in pieces, the four blocks (and five flights of stairs)!  We don't have mattresses yet, but the kids are sleeping on them anyway on their cot size mattresses, which leaves plenty of room around each for Olive to arrange her books and for Eggy to cram toys and cars and leftover toast. Eggy hasn't actually spent much time on his, preferring to roam the apartment in the wee hours before finally collapsing somewhere exhausted. I found him at 7am actually sitting in his highchair fast asleep...”

All of my previous books had been written by other people. I was overly excited to begin illustrating my own and then was completely unprepared for what happened. Or rather what didn’t happen. I couldn’t begin. I had so many different ideas, I just couldn’t pin one down. I thought perhaps it should be a very large book, and the conversations would be incorporated into the pictures, but the speech bubbles had me cornered. Then I wanted it to be a tiny, tiny, cloth bound book after Edward Gorey or Beatrix Potter, but it was feared such a size would get lost on library shelves.
One thing I was sure of, that the pictures would start off dark and inky and gradually lighten to an explosion of sunshine when the sun finally, finally comes up.
Here are some early variations:

 ...and this is how it ended up:

 Some books have a slow incubation and this was certainly one of them. But it’s probably just as well; when Eggy was about six he found the idea of a book (even vaguely) about him utterly mortifying and made me promise it wouldn’t be published. (I had my fingers crossed behind my back.) Luckily he changed his mind more recently, just in time for Are You Awake? to go into production. I have illustrated around 20 books for children in the meantime, so it’s quite a thrill to finally see this story, of a sleepless night long ago, out in the world.
Eggy, aged 3
Eggy was always a bit nocturnal
 Are You Awake? is in stores next week or you can order it from an independent bookstore here!