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Peter Kuper’s Ruins is a magnificent graphic novel, the best I’ve read this year. I’d call it his masterpiece, but Kuper has already proved himself a master. Ruins succeeds on so many levels: great graphic art; remarkable storytelling, and stunning production values.

Peter Kuper adding a watercolor sketch to his signature for a fan at MOCCA.

Peter Kuper adding a watercolor sketch to his signature for a fan at MOCCA.

I’ve met Peter Kuper a few times. In 2007, I was honored when he contacted me to identify Mexican graffiti for his graphic memoir, Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two years in Mexico. I invited him to talk to Kutztown University illustration students. We were thrilled he took the Bieber bus to Kutztown for the modest fee we offer guests artists. Students knew his work from Spy vs. Spy for Mad Magazine.

From Ruins, © Peter Kuper, 2015

From Ruins, © Peter Kuper, 2015

He shared his unique illustration technique for adding tone to black and white images. He called it “poor man’s airbrush” – using cans of black spray paint with paper and tape friskets. He warned students that even wearing a protective painter’s mask one loses brain cells to the technique. He joked he was living proof, and that his memory lapses were not the result of recreational drug use, but paint fumes.

VW cab, detail, from Ruins © Peter Kuper

VW cab, detail, from Ruins © Peter Kuper

Most recently I saw him at the MoCCA Fest last April in NYC. He showed me  pages of original art from Ruins, a new work about Oaxaca. I asked how Ruins differed from Diario de Oaxaca?  “It’s fiction, based on my experience, being in Oaxaca in 2006, but it’s fiction, ” he said. “See the VW beetle cab?  You and I know they don’t have VW cabs in Oaxaca, but they are so much fun to draw!”

Seeing a few pages out of context, I didn’t realize what a massive project Ruins was meant to be. I was impressed by what I saw, but presumed Ruins was going to a ‘floppy’ comic, 32 pages stapled together. I was completely blown away by the finished book. It weighs in at 328 pages. It was an embossed cover, impeccable printing, panoramic fold-out pages and a black satin ribbon bookmark, the sort one finds bound in missals. The story is multifaceted. Woven tight as Oaxacan tapete,  Ruins weaves together romance, grief, politics, migration, ecology, and lessons in Mexican history.

Detail from Ruins based on a the Codex Mendoza. © Peter Kuper.

Detail from Ruins based on the Codex Mendoza. © Peter Kuper.

I am sucker for movies set in exotic locals. Our hero races through the foreground. The eye-candy background is ‘the other.” Foreigners are interchangable secondary elements – villains and bombshells with accents thick as mud. We chase across the rooftops of Istanbul or Havana, or both. It doesn’t matter, as long as the locale exudes ‘otherness.’ Movies tend to offer meager social context and no entry into the deep cultural histories of place. Great books, such as Ruins, can do more.

From Ruins © Peter Kuper

From Ruins © Peter Kuper

Kuper does something quite amazing in Ruins. He successfully integrates his understanding of the culture of Mexico, -Oaxaca in particular, into his story. He has spent years in Mexico and it shows. He riffs on Malinche, Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Center mural, machismo, and mescal. At times you can see the gears moving, but, by and large, Kuper somehow manages to advance the central story with grace and ground it all in the cultural geography of 21st century North America.

Melanie Cervantes, Dignidad Rebelde.

Melanie Cervantes, Dignidad Rebelde.

Taken alone Kuper’s suite of drawings of the Monarch butterfly’s annual migration could be a stunning book in itself. He is not the first to use the Monarch as a graphic metaphor for open migration and the unnatural concept of borders. Oakland’s Dignidad Rebelde and Pittsburgh’s JustSeeds have published posters in a similar vein. But Kuper composes a lyrical visual essay on the Monarch. It is a spectacular display of graphic art.

Another exquisite Monarch page from Ruins © Peter Kuper

Another exquisite Monarch page from Ruins © Peter Kuper

Ruins is one extraordinary book. I am putting my copy on the same shelf with other great literary works about Mexico, Jessica Abel’s La Perdida and Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.

Monarch butterfly, one of the wondrous wordless pages from Ruins © Peter Kuper

Monarch butterfly, one of the wondrous wordless pages from Ruins © Peter Kuper

Ruins will be published this month (9/2015) by SelfMadeHero, London.

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Note by Kevin McCloskey. Speaking of Oaxaca: I am teaching a course for Kutztown students there in January. Also teaching a printmaking course, open to the public: Jan 10-15, 2016 through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. Course includes an exhibition opportunity. More info here. Or drop me a line at mccloske(at)kutztown.edu.

Nathan Hale, no relation. USPS.

Nathan Hale, no relation. USPS.

Nathan Hale is a fitting name for a graphic novelist specializing in historical biographies. I ran into him at the American Library Association convention in San Francisco. I asked if he was named for the hero of the American Revolution. He wrote One Dead Spy, about that hero. “No, I am named for my grandfather,” he said. Grandpa Nathan, born in Star Valley, Wyo, might have been named for the hero, though.

Nathan Hale with Matt Phelan, two masters of the historical graphic novel.

Nathan Hale with Matt Phelan, two masters of the historical graphic novel.

Harriet Tubman bio © Nathan Hale

Harriet Tubman bio © Nathan Hale

Nathan’s latest work, The Underground Abductor, is a bio of Harriet Tubman. He is hoping  rumors that Tubman’s portrait might grace the ten-dollar bill come true, as it will boost sales.

Nathan studied illustration at Cornish College of Art in Seattle. For a time he specialized in natural history illustration. Now his historical graphic novels, published by Abrams, keep him at the drawing board. He has completed 5 in the ongoing series, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. Abrams has lesson plans linking his books to middle grade history curriculum.

All art © Nathan Hale

All art © Nathan Hale

Besides his full-time job as an illustrator, Nathan tours the country teaching cartooning to youngsters in his Cartoon Boot Camp. Just prior to the ALA convention he taught a Boot Camp in Santa Rosa California at the Charles Schulz Museum. I just checked their website, looks dreamy. They have an ice rink and a Warm Puppy Cafe. You can watch Charlie Brown specials all day long and meet professional cartoonists. Oddly enough, the Boot Camp experience went south for Nathan, his wife, and eight-year old daughter, Lucy. Nathan was stunned when a thief smashed the windows of their rental car with a sledgehammer and stole their luggage. They got some Peanuts’ T- shirts at the gift shop. Nathan’s wife presented him with a nifty T-shirt she had custom printed, see below.

Nathan Hale's meanest Amazon review  commemorative T-shirt.

Nathan Hale’s meanest 1-star Amazon review commemorative T-shirt.

It should be noted that the Hazardous Tales series has gotten many splendid reviews. Booklist, for example, on Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood, “Students bored to death by textbook descriptions of WWI battle maneuvers should be engaged by this entertaining, educational glimpse at world history.”

School Library Journal praises his recent work as “lively, rigorously researched, visually engaging stories.”

Big Bad Ironclad! © Nathan Hale

Big Bad Ironclad! © Nathan Hale

I asked if he had ever learned something from reader feedback. After some thought, Nathan opened Big Bad Ironclad! to show me the illustrated endpapers. The first edition, 2012, had a mistake on the map; he had incorrectly colored Kansas gray, putting it in the Confederacy. He got a letter from an upset Kansas librarian, then more from school children. He did an apology tour of Kansas schools. “I let the kids yell at me, throw popcorn,” he joked. He took responsibility for the mistake, said he had referenced a map drawn prior to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In January, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state. His publisher, Abrams, has first-rate editors who check every sentence for historical accuracy. Nathan, however, never sent the editors the illustrated endpapers to proofread, just the interior pages. The map was fixed for the current edition, pictured below. Let that be a (history) lesson for us all.

1861 Map from big Bad Ironclad! © Nathan Hale

1861 Map from big Bad Ironclad! © Nathan Hale

Nathan writes a blog, Space Station Nathan. He admits to being too busy to keep it updated. He works hard and deserves his success. The blog archives have some nifty stuff. Look for the illustrated guide to inviting Nathan Hale to visit your school.

Kevin McCloskey recently asked me whether the handful of illustrators he had met who also play roller derby might be indicative of a larger trend – a connection between this growing sport and the world of illustration and comics – or if he was imagining that trend. I don’t think it’s imaginary at all: illustrators and comics artists have always ‘drawn from’ (haha) their own lives, so as roller derby becomes a huge part of so many lives worldwide, it’s going to burst out into our art and our stories. Perhaps the most exciting ‘roller derby illustrator’ at the moment is Victoria Jamieson.

Page from Roller Girl ©2015 Victoria Jamieson

Page from Roller Girl ©2015 Victoria Jamieson

After keeping a comics blog of her derby experiences, Jamieson – who skates under the derby name Winnie the Pow – recently created a graphic novel about a junior derby skater: ROLLER GIRL! ​There is an excellent free downloadable ebook about the making of Roller Girl on her site. ​Her work is lovely – it’s very human and warm, and escapes the simplistic ‘sexy amazon’ vibe that sometimes dominates art about derby girls by outsiders and fans. Not that there is anything wrong with being a sexy amazon (or feeling like one) but I think that real stories and personalities are far more interesting!

From the free ebook © Victoria Jamieson 2015

From the free ebook © Victoria Jamieson 2015

Jamieson is by no means the only derby player bringing the sport into her creative work, though. Stephanie Yue has released a hilarious autobiographical mini-comic featuring roller derby stories: The Chronicles of Arnica.

Selection of Stephanie Yue's zines.

Selection of Stephanie Yue’s zines.

And Monica Gallagher’s ‘Bonnie n Collide: Nine to Five’, is ongoing strip webcomic, also collected in print form, about a derby girl working a desk job. It’s a funny, goofy and larger-than-life play on the idea of a double life (also featuring werewolves and in-office booty blocking) – but there are some lovely and very true to life interactions with Bonnie’s team and league, threaded through amongst the wacky hijinks.

 Bonnie N Collide ©2015 Monica Gallagher online or at Comixology.

Bonnie N Collide ©2015 Monica Gallagher online or at Comixology.

Some other semi-autobiographical derby artists I’ve been following are E*Phi, and Marissa Luna and Melissa Mariko Kieselburg, who collaborate on a roller derby yuri (“girls love”) manga comic, Collision Course.

From Ephi

From Tumblr comic by E*phi, link in text above.

Here is a great illustrated article about roller derby culture. And acclaimed autobiographical cartoonist Lucy Knisley, while not a derby skater herself, perfectly captures the feeling of giddy fandom that characterizes many women’s first taste of the sport with her comic, Starstruck.

Starstruck (detail) ©2105 Lucy Knisley

Starstruck (detail) ©2105 Lucy Kinsley

With all this inspiration, my buddy in roller derby AND comics, George Rex, and I have been plotting and planning to one day put together a roller derby comics anthology ‘by and for the skaters’. There have already been compilations on the theme, but they weren’t drawn by derby players themselves – and to our minds, weren’t as interesting or as true to life as the stories and art being created by real skaters​ (and officials, and supporters) inside the roller derby community. I’ve made a lot of roller derby drawings and little comics ‘moments’ that I’m working up into proper narratives – like this set of sketches (some of which appeared in the previous illustrationclass blog post) – drawn back when I was first getting into the sport.

We have tentatively named our derby comics project and tumblr: Wrist Stink Ink!  If you’re asking why, you probably don’t play roller derby – or date anybody who does.

From Wrist Ink Stink tumblr

From Wrist Ink Stink tumblr

Derby skaters wear a lot of protective gear, and we sweat a lot, and that leads to a certain stinkiness! You can lessen it by airing out and washing your gear, and as the game grows, so too does the cottage industry of products professing to remove smells, but it’s always going to be a feature of the sport, to some extent. For some reason, wrist guards are the worst culprits! It’s something we all share, and having a bunch of women with whom you’re comfortable being sweaty and stinky is actually pretty relaxing and funny – so there’s a certain feminist affection in the name, and a commitment to making art and comics about the true experience of roller derby rather than the hyped fantasy. Talking about wrist stink may not be for everybody, but then neither is roller derby, and that’s okay!

Phto by

Robin Tatlow-Lord / Bobby Dazzler.  Image courtesy by Bryan Farley Photography, link below.

So, yes – I am very passionate about this ‘trend’ – thanks for giving me the opportunity to share it with you! There’s a whole lot of awesomeness going on at the intersection of art and roller derby, so get out there and support your local cartoonists …. AND derby girls! – Robin Tatlow-Lord  Bobby Dazzler of the Bay Area Derby Girls, 2015. (ROBINTATLOWLORD.COM)

Editor’s Note: Thanks a million to Robin for a splendid intro to the intersection of roller derby and comics. Get in touch with her if you are a roller derby artist and want to contribute to the anthology. Thanks also to Bryan Farley Photography for the portrait of Robin above.

“Go, Mum, Go!” © 2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

Women’s roller derby was a national sensation in the 1950’s. Today roller derby is again a sporting and pop culture phenomenon. I met the Australian illustrator and roller derby athlete Robin Tatlow-Lord in San Francisco last week. Robin learned to skate in South Australia, with Adelaide Roller Derby and currently skates with the Bay Area Derby Girls. She taught me a bit about modern roller derby. Must admit, I had some misconceptions. For example, I called the athletes racers. Robin notes, “The sport is also not really a race, and is more akin to football, even though it’s on a looped track. Roller derby skaters call themselves and each other players, not racers.”

Skirmish, from the Fresh Meat series, © 2015Robin Tatlow-Lord

Skirmish, from the Fresh Meat series, © 2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

Robin writes, “The kind of roller derby that has become really popular now is NOT a paid professional sport. It is a community-driven, unpaid ‘amateur’ sport (though played to an extremely high level of athleticism and competitiveness) and this has been a huge part of its popularity, because women can start up their own leagues and have full control over everything they do – from what they wear to which nights they train, etc. It’s also a real sport now – unlike 1950s and 60s roller derby, it’s not ‘staged’ or manipulated as an entertainment event. There are both flat-track and banked track incarnations of modern women’s roller derby – I play flat-track.”

T-Stop and Plow Stop, from Fresh Meat ©2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

T-Stop and Plow Stop, from Fresh Meat ©2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

I wondered is there some strange new intersection between roller derby and illustration?  I wrote about Kutztown grad and illustrator Kate Santee who plays for the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls. Jessica Abel’s epic Trish Trash Roller Girl from Mars has just been released in France. Her fans, myself included, are clamoring for the English edition.

Bobby Dazzler © 2015 Robin Tatlow-Lord. Her Roller Derby persona.

Bobby Dazzler © 2015 Robin Tatlow-Lord. Her Roller Derby persona.

I asked Robin, A.K.A. ‘Bobby Dazzler’  a few questions. First, is roller derby big in Australia?

Robin: “Yes, there is definitely roller derby in Australia. That’s where I started, and played for 2 years. In fact, an Australian team,Victorian Roller Derby League, recently beat many of the top USA teams, and are now ranked fourth in the world.”

Bonnie

Bonnie “Bone Shaker” Dowling Australian Roller Derby star. ©2012 Robin Tatlow Lord

‘Bonnie Adventuress’ (above) is a portrait of her pal, skater Bonnie ‘Bone Shaker’ Dowling,  painted on recycled paper. Robin’s colorful Fresh Meat series is drawn entirely with brush pens. According to Robin’s website, the line art illustration below is from a few years back when lacy bras and fishnet stockings were more common.

“Fresh Meat” sketch © 2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

Question: There seems to be a new wave of comics and illustration celebrating roller derby. I am imagining this trend?

Robin: “I don’t think it’s an imagined trend – in fact, a friend and I have been throwing around the idea of putting together a roller derby comics anthology for some time now. There have already been comics compilations on the theme, but to our minds these weren’t as interesting as the comics and illustrations actually being created by real skaters​ and other people involved in the roller derby community.”

Bruise from Fresm Mest Series, © 2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

Bruise from Fresh Meat Series, © 2012 Robin Tatlow-Lord

Robin wrote a guest post about the current crop of roller derby players who are also comic artists. Seems like the stars are aligned for that skater/creator comics anthology she mentioned. If your artwork fits that double bill, get in touch via her website. Meanwhile, do check out Robin’s website to see the full range of her talent

Michelle Davies with sister Christina at Kutztown Univeristy

Michelle Davies with sister Christina, president of the Sketchbook Club at Kutztown University.

Michelle Davies graduated from Edinboro University. Edinboro, like Kutztown is part of PASSHE, PA’s State System. State university facilities can’t compare to privates specializing in game design, but Michelle proves a dedicated student can launch a career from anywhere. She said her foundation art classes, life drawing and 2-D design, prove valuable everyday in her job as a concept artist on Camelot Unchained.

figurestudies

Sketchbook life drawings © Michelle Davies

Students may think a game concept artist does impeccably finished work. In truth, Michelle draws fast and furious against tight deadlines at City State Entertainment. She got a call from City State when she was teaching English and researching K-pop culture in Korea. They flew her back to their Fairfax, VA, headquarters. Her first task was to design a logo for the game.

6 variations for Camelot Unchained logo © 2105 City State entertainment

6 variations for Camelot Unchained logo © 2105 City State Entertainment

Michelle visited Kutztown thanks to KU’s AIGA chapter. Her sister Christine, also a stellar illustrator, is heading into her senior year here. Michelle spoke to the AIGA crowd in the Academic Forum. The next day she visited the Sketchbook Club to share her sketchbook with students.

Sketchbook Detail © 2105 Michelle Davies

Sketchbook Detail: Character and Perspective Studies © 2105 Michelle Davies

Illustration is a big field, and many of our students say they want to be video game concept artists. I admit I know little about it. Michelle used unfamiliar phrases. Who knew a MMORPG is a Massively Multiplayer Role Player Online Game? When I asked what the phrase “Low Poly” meant, Michelle asked me if I was familiar with “Assassin’s Creed.”  Students laughed when I said I wasn’t.

Michelle shared her sketchbook at Sketchbook Club © Michelle Davies

Michelle shared her sketchbook at Sketchbook Club © Michelle Davies

Low poly means a simplified shape, – a low number of polygons. “Like an inflatable doll compared to a real person.” is the metaphor she used. Actually, her metaphor was saltier.

Concept art from camelotunchained.com © City State Entertainment

Concept art from camelotunchained.com © 2015 City State Entertainment

Michelle showed a slide of her coworkers at City State sitting around a conference table. They were mostly male. I asked if there is a glass ceiling in the gaming field. She said not in her experience, half of the staff artists are female. She said female programmers are “golden unicorns.” Her boss, Mark Jacobs, has tried hard to recruit female programmers, only to have them snatched away by Google.

From camelotunchained.com promo art ©City State Entertainment

From camelotunchained.com  Promo art © 2015 City State Entertainment

There is much more impressive art to see at camelotunchained.com  There is a free Fan Kit available to download. I grabbed some of the above art from there. I must admit some of the game lingo on the site is greek to me, but I did notice that City State Entertainment is hiring. Golden Unicorns please apply.

JAMIE BASILE: The Don Breter Memorial Award

Main St, Kutztown, PA,  watercolor ©2015 Jamie Basile

Main St, Kutztown, PA, watercolor ©2015 Jamie Basile

Jamie Basile won the 2015 Don Breter Award for best illustrator in her class. She is a master of both traditional and digital media. The watercolor, above, clearly shows the influence of Prof. Matthew Daub.

Prof. Denise Bosler presenting award to Jamie Basile.

Prof. Denise Bosler presenting award to Jamie Basile. Photo: Chrissy Corrado

One of the all-time outstanding illustrators to graduate from Kutztown U is the great Tom Whalen, BFA 96. When Tom came to talk to current students Jamie Basile mimicked his signature style to create the event announcement poster below.

Tom Whalen at Kutztown, poster © Jamie Basile.

Tom Whalen Ice Cream Social at Kutztown, poster © Jamie Basile.

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Jamie’s simulated Wired Mag illustration hung in the Senior Show. Jamie explains the concept on her website, “In this digitally painted cover illustration, a larger than life soybean-chicken pod is showcased to emphasize the breakthrough in the artificial meat industry.”

Snove Chocolate packaging, © 2015 Jamie Basile.

Snove Chocolate packaging, © 2015 Jamie Basile.

Jamie demonstrates her graphic design and packaging skills on the Snove Choclate series. She writes, “When the cold bites your nose, Snove chocolates provide winter warmth on the coldest of days. This line of products was created to embody chocolate’s “melt-in-your-mouth” quality, warming your entire body as it touches your tongue. Each flavor has a unique linocut illustration of an arctic dweller, paired with an icy watercolor wash. The polar bear, snow fox, and Inuit distinguish the three spicy warming flavors of Snove’s hot chocolate, chocolate bark and coffee beans.”

You can see much more of her versatility at www.jamiebasile.com

ARREN DAWINAN: The Terry Boyle Award

Eden Poster © 2015 Arren Dawinan

Eden  © 2015 Arren Dawinan

Arren Dawinan won the 2015 Terry Boyle Award for most improved illustrator. He exhibited a set of vector-drawn travel posters in the Senior Exhibition that are simultaneously futuristic and retro. He explains the concept, “The human race just discovered a new, habitable planet near Earth, named Eden. These are a set of retro travel posters to advertise the beauty of the new planet.”

Prof Elaine Cunfer presented an award to Arren Dawinan. photo: Chrissy Corrado

Prof Elaine Cunfer presented an award to Arren Dawinan. Photo: Chrissy Corrado.

Arren also created ¿Como se Llama? a small foldable zine that also functions as a poster. The story is about a llama traveling around the world and meeting other animals along the way in search of his one true love. Arren bills himself as an illustrative designer on his website: www.arrendawinan.com

¿Como se Llama? © 2015 Arren Dawinan

¿Como se Llama? © 2015 Arren Dawinan

Prof. Cunfer noted that there was a lot of talent in the class of 2015. She said Jamie and Arren “have not only made great strides in their work they have shown strong professional growth in demeanor and attitude.”

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Lil Monsters Identity © 2015 Arren Dawinan

We expect great things from Jamie and Arren and the other talented illustrators of the class of 2015.

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Introducing my worms to Françoise Mouly at MoccaFest in NYC.

We Dig Worms! the book I wrote and illustrated at the request of my librarian wife Patt was officially released by Toon Books on April 14. Françoise Mouly, above, is editor and publisher of Toon Books. She is also the art editor of the New Yorker magazine. It was my good fortune that she personally art directed We Dig Worms! The book looks better than I imagined and has been generating a lot of excitement.

Kindergarten at Simon Elementary School, Wash, D.C

Kindergarten at Simon Elementary School, Wash, D.C.  photo courtesy: An Open Book Foundation

In less than 2 weeks I’ve done 3 school visits, 2 bookstore events and one comic book convention. I’ve signed over 200 books and got some fine reviews. Geek Dad found it “fascinating,” Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review: “McCloskey comes not to bury worms (they can handle that themselves) but to praise them in a guide to annelids that manages to be reverent in its irreverence. Painting on brown paper bags, McCloskey offers a crash course on worm physiology, habits, and environmental impact, focusing on garden-variety earthworms.”

Amazon #1 new release in Children's Zoology.

Amazon #1 new release in Children’s Zoology.

The big bounce came when the NY Times chose to feature We Dig Worms in the Sunday Book Review“One of Toon’s stylish comics-inflected early readers, this paean to the worm is a winning combination of facts and gross-out fun.” The book became Amazon’s number one bestselling new release in a number of small categories, including Children’s Zoology.

150 children for Earth Day at Politics and Prose Bookstore, Wash, D.C.

150 children for Earth Day at Politics and Prose Bookstore, Wash, D.C.

150 children showed up at Politics and Prose Bookstore for Earth Day in Washington, D.C. The crowd went wild when a large nightcrawler got out of the bucket and hit the carpet. After that bookstore event, An Open Book Foundation brought me to visit an inner city school, Simon Elementary. Thanks to the generosity of Simon’s “Book Buddies” outreach program of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, each of the nearly 90 children I met there got a copy of my book. We sang “Happy Earth Day” to the worms. It was sweet.

Each Kindergartners at Simon Elementary  got a copy of We Dig Worms!

Each kindergarten student at Simon Elementary got a copy of We Dig Worms!

The tour continues. This week I will be at Firefly Books just up the street from my home in Kutztown. I will be heading to San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences and to the Brooklyn Book Festival. The full Worm Tour schedule can be found at Toon Books or on my Amazon author’s page.

A page from We Dig Worms!

A page from We Dig Worms!

My wife Patt, has been a trooper on tour. She is fine with the new worm bins in our basement laundry room. She even made a short video of a worm race, you can see it at Vimeo.

Watch a Worm Race, link above.

Watch a Worm Race, link above.

TOON BOOKS may not be not the biggest children’s book publisher. They do make beautiful books, and in my experience give their authors great support. They even made temporary We Dig Worms tattoos for me to share at book events. They are having a “We Dig Worms” Earth Day art contest. Deadline is Monday, April, 27. Like Toon Books on Facebook and learn more about all the cool things they do.

"Hello" © 2015 Christina Davies

“hello” © 2015 Christina Davies

More talented Kutztown students are heading to the 2015 MoCCA Arts Fest in NYC with their zines or mini-comics, April 11-12.

Christina Davies is not only a design/illustration student, she is a student of the universe and avid space enthusiast. Her zine, titled “hello” celebrates manmade spacecraft and satellites, and how humanity’s will to learn and explore the universe will carry on through time. Printed in spacey blue, $3. More of Christina’s work can be found here and here. She will also be featured in the next Illozine, issue 12.

Disco Turtle ©2015 Brynne Camburn

Disco Turtle ©2015 Brynne Camburn

DT, aka The Disco Turtle by Brynne Camburn, $5.00. DT is a cowardly turtle who has a passion for deep house music and his own discos held within. After a turtle catastrophe, DT is forced to come out of his shell. This comic comes with an extra bonus: a custom music track on CD. The track is mixed by DJ newpyhundo, aka Tedd Wampole of NEPA, aka NorthEast PA.

Moon and the Wolf Girl © 2015 Kristen Tully

Moon and the Wolf Girl © 2015 Kristen Tully

The Moon and The Wolf Girl by Kristen Tully is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood where a girl and a wolf become friends. There is a tragedy, and the girl must do everything in her power to avenge her friend. Includes stickers! $3

Interior pages, Moon and the Wolf Girl, Kristin Tully.

Interior pages, Moon and the Wolf Girl, © 2015Kristin Tully.

Also debuting at MoCCA will be We Dig Worms! by me…

We Dig Worms! 2015, Toon Books.

We Dig Worms! by me, Kevin McCloskey © 2015, Toon Books.

I will be at MoCCA’s Kutztown U table or at the table of Toon Books. MoCCA has been good to me. Last year at MoCCA I met with Françoise Mouly, publisher of Toon Books to finalize this book deal. As the art editor of the New Yorker magazine Françoise Mouly has the world’s best illustrators on speed dial. I am very fortunate that she chose to publish my We Dig Worms!  She, along with her deputy art director Sasha Steinberg took my worms painted on paper bags, and made a beautiful book. The reviews have been good.

We Dig Worms! © 2015 Kevin McCloskey, Toon Books

We Dig Worms! © 2015 Kevin McCloskey, Toon Books

Toon Books is sending me on a multi-state worm tour with a bucket of racing nightcrawlers. After NYC, we visit Alexandria, Va, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. I am also doing talks closer to home in Kutztown and Reading. Hope to see you. We Dig Worms! tour info here. Available wherever books are sold including Barnes and Noble, the Kutztown University Bookstore and Firefly Bookstore.

From Imago © Liv Carberry

From Imago © 2015 Liv Carberry

From Imago © Liv Carberry

From Imago © Liv Carberry

Liv Carberry created Imago. Here is her description: A 1940’s pilot struggles to stay alive after his airplane crashes. Price: $3

More of Liv’s work can be seen here. Imago is just one of twenty zines, small comic books, from my Illustration 2 class that will debut at MoCCA Arts Festival in NYC, April 11 and 12. MoCCA, the annual comics festival hosted by NY’s Society of Illustrators will be held in Chelsea this year. More info here.

MoCCA Fest Poster by Eleanor Davis

MoCCA Fest Poster by Eleanor Davis

Students had this entire semester, 11 weeks, to work on the zine project. We meet 6 hours a week, so at the very least, they get a sense of what they can do in 66 hours.

Artwork© 2015 by Adam Leisenring

Artwork© 2015 by Adam Leisenring

Not of This World: Two True Stories of Alien Encounters by Adam Leisenring
Adam Leisenring has acquired 2 top-secret government files from the Office of Extraterrestrial Research, circa 1955. He is now making this information available by publishing it in mini-comic form. The book will be $4 and will come in its own top-secret file folder. More of his work here. Adam, by the way, will be featured in the next issue of Illozine, a competitive quarterly devoted to contemporary illustration.

From The Folly © 2105 Madison Stauffer.

From The Folly © 2105 Madison Stauffer.

The Folly by Madison Stauffer is priced at $2. The story in brief: Two thieves find more than they bargained for when they break into the house of a woman rumored to be a witch. Madison’s artwork is leaning toward the supernatural lately. She is also doing the cover art for the next issue of The Journal of Dracula Studies. More of her work can be seen here.

Heavy © 2015 Jordan Moser.

Heavy © 2015 Jordan Moser.

Jordan Moser has been in a number of bands. His book, HEAVY, features a small-time metal band trying to graduate from playing small potatoes venues to getting a shot at the big leagues, but the odds are stacked against them when just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Price $5.

Kutztown University’s Communication Design Dept pays for the table space at MoCCA. This event is a great opportunity for our students to compare their work with projects from other art programs and meet indy publishers and artists. We will share more student images soon. MoCCA’s general admission is just $5 a day, a bargain for an art fest. Look for Kutztown at Table 239 in the Red Zone.

Selected works from www.mararockliff.com

Selected works from http://www.mararockliff.com

One Keynote Speaker at the 17th annual Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference is author Mara Rockliff. Mara will walk less than one block from her home on Walnut St. to campus. If you want to hear her talk, don’t knock on her door, come to the conference on April 18.

Cookie-like art © Vincent X. Kirsh for Gingerbread for Liberty.

Cookie-like art © Vincent X. Kirsh for Gingerbread for Liberty.

Thanks to Firefly Bookstore, Kutztown’s hoppin’ indie bookshop, Mara’s Gingerbread for Liberty launched at KU’s PA German Heritage Center. That location made sense as her picture books are grounded in history and geography. We got a sneak peek at her newest picture book, Mesmerized. It recounts a duel of wits in Paris between Ben Franklin and Otto Mesmer.

Me and Momma and Big John. Cover detail © 2012  William Low

“Me and Momma and Big John” cover detail © 2012 William Low

Mara’s Me and Momma and Big John was illustrated by William Low.  The book is a loving tribute to the first woman stone-cutter working on NY’s Cathedral of St John the Divine. Low is also coming to the KU conference from his home near NYC. Low is one amazing painter, adept with both the traditional paint brush and now the digital tablet. The artwork for ‘Me and Momma’ is 100% digital, which surprised me.

William Low in his studio from www.wiliamlow.com

William Low in his studio from http://www.williamlow.com

You may already have a collection of William Low art in your home. He created the ‘Winter Flowers’ stamps for the U.S. Post Office.

Forever Stamps USPS by William Low.

Forever Stamps USPS by William Low.

Another New Yorker coming is illustrator Elijah Cooper. A Yale grad, Cooper parlayed his Ivy League education into a job as a go-fer at the New Yorker Magazine. He paints in a lyrical watercolor style that appears deceptively simple. His Beach won the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal. Dance! was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Other books include his memoir of fatherhood: Crawling: A Father’s First Year.

A small selection of his many picture books © Elijah Cooper

A small selection of his many picture books © Elijah Cooper

Cooper is the author/ illustrator of local favorites including Farm, A Good Night Walk, Magic Thinks Big, and Homer.

Farm, cover art © Elijah Cooper.

Farm, cover art © Elijah Cooper.

Booklist said this about Farm: “Most picture books about farms tend to be slapstick animal adventures rather than realistic views of daily life. Cooper’s latest fills that gap with a quiet, atmospheric portrait of a farm through the seasons.”

Young Adult Novels by Gary D. Schmidt.

Young Adult Novels by Gary D. Schmidt.

I’ve been on the lit conference committee all 17 years. One of my specialties is logistics, meaning I pick up authors at airports, or walk the illustrators from the Bieber Bus station. The committee thanks me profusely, but I really enjoy it. I will pick up Gary D. Schmidt at the airport when he arrives from Maine. I admitted to my colleagues that I was unfamiliar with his work. My Bad, his Wednesday Wars is a Newbery Honor winner and a fave of the committee. I went over to Rohrbach Library to find his books. Guess what? I found a literary bio he wrote about Robert McCloskey, of Make Way For Ducklings fame.

From Make Way For Ducklings © Robert McCloskey

From Make Way For Ducklings © Robert McCloskey

This may not be Schmidt’s most popular book, but I found it fascinating. I’d already read how Robert McCloskey drew real ducks on the floor of his Greenwich Village apartment. But according to Schmidt, he fed the ducks red wine to try to slow his models down!

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New books by Kutztown authors Lisa Kahn Schnell and Kevin McCloskey

Besides Mara Rockliff, two more local Kutztown authors will debut books at the conference. Lisa Kahn Schnell is author of High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs and Kevin McCloskey, (I just love him, -he’s me) will share his Toon Book, We Dig Worms!

The KU Children’s Lit Conference needs your support. The overall economy has improved since 2008, but Pennsylvania education funding has never rebounded. School districts no longer routinely reimburse teachers for professional development expenses, such as educational conferences. It’s easy to blame this on Gov. Corbett and Tea Party Republicans, but Gov. Rendell left PA with over a billion dollars in unfunded teacher pensions. Gov. Wolf says education is his top priority. Let’s hope so. We have enough prisons and casinos.

Illustration by Liz Kane, design and type by Prof. Elaine Cunfer.

Illustration by Liz Kane, design and type by Prof. Elaine Cunfer.

Kutztown University students can attend the April 18th conference for just $10. Teachers, librarians, authors, and other professionals need to pay $70 at this point. It promises to be an exciting event with top-notch speakers. Registration info can be found here.

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