Archives for posts with tag: children’s literature
Selected works from

Selected works from

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

William Low in his studio from

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!


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.

Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel

Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel.

Once upon a time, in 2007, The Metropolitan Opera staged Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel.  Françoise Mouly, art editor for The New Yorker, helped organize an exhibition at the opera house based on the fairy tale. Contributors included stellar New Yorker cover artists including Roz Chast, Jules Feiffer,  Anita Kunz, Christoph Niemann, Gahan Wilson, and Lorenzo Mattotti.  Mattotti, one of Italy’s most important contemporary graphic artists, contributed a series of large-scale india ink drawings.

All images from

All images from

Pictures Came First: Françoise Mouly is also publisher and art director of the influential line of children’s books, Toon Books. She shared Mattotti’s moody artwork with her friend, writer Neil Gaiman. She asked him to retell the tale first written down by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.


Neil Gaiman, from Toon Book’s Facebook page.

Gaiman, best known for Coraline and The Sandman, took up the task. Gaiman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this tale of Hansel and Gretel, of lost children and starvation, resonates in 2014. He spoke of his recent tour of Syrian refugee camps, “talking to Syrian refugees who ran out of food, – telling me of getting permission from their imams to eat cats and dogs, – eating grass, – drinking swamp water. -This is Hansel and Gretel!” Full interview is here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

“…shadows crept out from beneath each tree and puddled and pooled until the world was one huge shadow.” There is a wonderful visual verbal synergy here. The cadence of Gaiman’s prose flows as swiftly and smoothly as Mattotti’s brushwork.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

In April at MOCCAfest, the comics convention in NYC, I met with Françoise Mouly about a book I’m working on with her. (More on that another day.) She shared with me the proof of Hansel and Gretel. The black and white printouts were neatly folded, fastened together with scotch tape. I held it in my hands and looked at Mottotti’s art for the first time. I found the images remarkably powerful, but not what I expected of a Toon Book. Toon Books are all different, but generally made in a colorful comic book style, with panels and word balloons. Mouly explained Toon Books was branching out with a new line, Toon Graphics.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

She asked me what I thought of the book. I told her it was quite beautiful and I expected it would be a great success. That was an understatement. Gaiman recently read Hansel and Gretel to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. The book hasn’t even been released yet and it is already in its third printing. Variety reports Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake bought the movie rights to the book.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

The NY Times gave Hansel and Gretel a glowing review. Gaiman said it was the best review of his career. Mouly said it took her breath away: Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of “Hansel and Gretel” astonishes from start to finish. It doesn’t hurt that the book itself is a gorgeous and carefully made object, with a black floral motif on its pages’ decorated borders, along with red drop caps and tall, round gray page numbers. (Published by Toon Books, the New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly’s venture into richly illustrated books for children, it comes in two formats, with an oversize one that includes an afterword about the evolution of the tale.) Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale.” -NY Times. The full review can be seen here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel & Gretel is being released Oct.28. For more info, including video interviews with Gaiman and lesson plans based on the book visit Toon Books here. Near NYC? Lorenzo Mattotti is flying from Europe to visit McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St, NYC on Sat, Nov.1. He’ll read from the book and share how he makes his pictures. Details here.

from Tuesday © David Wiesner

from Tuesday © David Wiesner

The great children’s book illustrator Davis Wiesner (WEEZner) came to Kutztown to talk at the 16th annual KU Children’s Literature Conference. The 3-time Caldecott Award winner visited a Communication Design class to share his art and creative process.

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

Oddly enough, he considered attending Kutztown University but was put off by our art test used in our admission’s process. Instead he attended RISD, Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with great illustrators including David Macaulay.

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

One of his illustration jobs after college was a cover for the kids’ magazine Cricket. He said he always enjoyed the art school assignments that were the most vague, and this magazine assignment was wide open. The editor said there were several stories about frogs in the issue. Once he began sketching, he discovered, to his great delight, the shape of a frog centered on a round lily pad resembled the classic flying saucer seen in cheesy 50’s science fiction films.

From Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, © Columbia Picures

From Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, © Columbia Picures

His cover was a hit and David was inspired to take the imagery further into a full 32-page children’s picture book. The resulting nearly wordless book, Tuesday, won the Caldecott Medal for the best U.S picture book in 1992. David shared his four stage process of book creation. Stage 1: Storyboard, rough little pencil thumbnail sketches of all pages that will appear in the book. Stage 2: a dummy book, or prototype made to the same scale as the final. Stage 3: Detailed drawings for each page.

Stage 2 and 3: dummy, then finished drawing © David Wiesner

Stage 2 and 3: dummy, then finished drawing © David Wiesner

Compare the dummy to the final drawing and you will notice the houses are a lot more detailed. This is because at Stage 3 he gets serious about his image research. In this case, he found photos of homes in Provincetown, Mass, to serve as models from the neighborhood under aerial amphibious attack. He also constructs clay models like the frog below to help him envision the final image.

model by D. Wiesner

Frog model by David Wiesner

Stage 4: is the final exquisite watercolor painting. For Tuesday he used traditional transparent watercolor, (no black or white gouache) applied with kolinsky sable brushes. He makes his own low-tech graphite carbon paper to transfer his finished drawing to stretched Arches cold press watercolor paper.

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

This was a wonderful opportunity for our KU students to interact with one of the great masters of the childrens’ picture book. David Wiesner is a very busy artist. He is working simultaneously on two big projects now: an interactive tablet-based tale, and his first full-blown graphic novel. The graphic novel is a collaboration with writer Donna Jo Napoli. It has an octopus in it; I can’t say any more.

David’s own web site,  has much more information about his creative process. I was especially blown away by his step-by-step documentation of the development of one single page from his picture book, Art & Max.

Kate Santee in Kutztown T center, racing against Jerzey Brigade photo © by Tom Gaylord.

Kate Santee in the Kutztown tee, racing against Jerzey Brigade photo © by Tom Gaylord.

Speaking of curious networking, another KU grad, Kate Santee, tells me she got to illustrate a book through folks she met in her role as roller derby racer! Kate recently illustrated a chapter book for young readers. First in a series, Silly Nomads From Palmerston Close is written by Jan L. Lewis and Marcus Mohalland. 

Cover art by Kate Santee © 2013 Mohalland Lewis, LLC

Cover art by Kate Santee © 2013 Mohalland Lewis, LLC

Kate’s freelance design work has been picking up. I asked about roller derby and she was good enough to explain the sport.  “I logo1still skate with the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls.  We play home bouts at Independence Family Fun Center in Schnecksville. I usually play as a blocker, whose job is to prevent the other team’s jammer from getting through the pack. The jammer’s job is to lap the other skaters in a pack, and they score points for each skater from the opposing team that they pass.” 

On the Lehigh Valley RollerGirl site I learned Kate Santee, a former KU honor student was chosen as November’s  “Rough and tumble player of the month” and she is part of the “Special Vixens Unit.”

Silly Nomads?

Silly Nomad illustration by Kate Santee ©

Silly Nomad illustration by Kate Santee © Mohalland Lewis

Kate wrote, “One of the authors is an acquaintance of a woman I skate with; she gave him my business card, and he sent me an inquiry through my website. The project was originally going to be one book, but the authors decided it would be more appropriate for their target audience to make it a series of three shorter books. I’m currently working on the second book and intend to illustrate the whole series.” 

The Silly Nomads are two Jamaican brothers who get into a series of misadventures when they decide to live like desert nomads. My favorite episode occurs when the boys decide they need a cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper. Mother must have already disposed of the tube, so the boys proceed to flush an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet.

The clogged toilet episode drawn by Kate Santee © Mohalland Lewis 2013

The clogged toilet episode drawn by Kate Santee © Mohalland Lewis 2013

Book signing in Bethlehem, PA on Dec 20

Silly Nomads is available on Amazon. Or better yet, if you’d like a signed copy, Kate Santee and both authors, M. E. Mohalland and J. L. Lewis will be at Bethlehem’s famed Moravian Bookshop, Fri. Dec. 20 from 4-6pm.  If you can’t make the signing, the Moravian Bookshop will likely have copies on hand for Christmas gifts.

All art in the post © Jonathan Bean

All art in the post © Jonathan Bean

Jonathan Bean now lives in Harrisburg, PA, but he grew up in Fleetwood and so, of course, he has often been in Kutztown. The gifted illustrator and author is returning Kutztown to share his new picture book Big Snow at Firefly Bookstore, Friday, Dec 6th from 6-8pm.

Big Snow has wonderful reviews. Publisher’s Weekly writes “another terrific offering from Bean   -his subtly rhythmic prose and elegant, astute watercolors hit just the right notes of comedy, suspense, and fantasy.”

“This delightful picture book… begs to be read aloud.” – School Library Journal

The town pictured in Big Snow looks a lot like Kutztown. We see lovely watercolor images of familiar-looking row houses, several Lutheran church steeples, the smokestacks from the old foundry. Matthew Williams of Firefly Books pointed out the most conclusive evidence, “Look at the water tower,” he said, “and you will see the letters ‘K U T Z’!


Jonathan Bean’s prints can be seen in Harrisburg at Robinson’s Rare Books and Prints. He also sells prints at his online Etsy store. One of his charming works is the limited edition linoleum print of the Big Snow boy.

Firefly Bookstore, 230 W. Main, Kutztown is a wonderful place, a true independent bookstore, supportive of local authors and illustrators. I love the place. Meet Jonathan Bean there 6 – 8 pm on Friday, December 6th. There will be children’s activities and cookies.

Note: Lisa Scheid of The Reading Eagle wrote an interesting story about Jonathan. It is worth reading and can be found here.


I visited Hoboken, my old hometown, for the opening of an art show from Meadowlands, Thomas Yezerski’s beautiful children’s book. His book is about the battered, but amazingly resilient, ecosystem that exists just a few miles from Hoboken and it’s better-known neighbor, New York City. The exhibit runs to March 10 at the Hoboken Historical Museum, my favorite small museum.


I met Thomas last year when he came to Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference. Raised in Allentown, PA, he now lives in Hoboken. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s famed illustration program. Thomas has illustrated a variety of kid’s books, but Meadowlands: A Wetland’s Survival Story is his masterpiece.


His ten years of research began by reading everything he could find about the natural history of the area. Then he got into a canoe so he could observe the North Jersey wetlands firsthand.


Thomas found some remarkable wildlife thriving beside some of our nation’s noisiest, and ugliest highways. His watercolor washes and finely detailed pen and ink drawings are perfect for depicting this strange world. The New York Times gave the book a glowing review: “Meadowlands is tremendously (but not intimidatingly) informative, fun to read and gorgeous to look at.”


The book is a generous 40 pages, more than the typical children’s picture book. Nearly all of the panoramic two-page spreads are framed by multiple vignettes, like those appearing here. Thomas includes dozens of these supporting images in the current exhibition.

The artist custom matted his illustrations to include the supporting details.

The artist custom matted his illustrations to include the supporting details.

Thomas Yezerski will return to the Hoboken Historical Museum on Sun. Feb 10 at 4pm to describe his research, writing, and illustration process. (And sign books!) More info on the event can be found here. Admission to the Museum is $2 for adults, free to children and members.

Thomas Yezerski at Kutztown

Thomas Yezerski at Kutztown’s Children’s Lit Conference in 2012

If you can’t get to the Hoboken Museum, Thomas’s publisher has a nice page about the book with more pictures. To see the wide range of his illustration work, visit

All artwork on this page © 2012 Thomas F. Yezerski

Matt Phelan is coming to Kutztown this weekend for the 2012 Children’s Literature Conference. Even if you can’t make the conference you might go to the KU bookstore to pick up his books at a discount. He is a prolific and popular illustrator. He writes as well. A piece of Matt’s original artwork from his award-winning graphic novel, A Storm in the Barn, was in the Dornish collection show last year at KU’s Miller Gallery. I emailed him five questions and here are his replies.

Art from Storm in the Barn, courtesy & © Matt Phelan

1. Do you recall an author or illustrator visit your elementary school when you were a kid?

Matt Phelan: I don’t recall anything that remotely cool happening at school. I don’t think author visits were a thing back then. It’s a shame because Lloyd Alexander (author of the Chronicles of Prydain and many other books I loved) lived in my town and might have been open to a school visit. Many years later, I ran events at a Borders store and I would invite illustrators in for signings mostly so I could ask them questions.

pencil sketch © Matt Phelan for cover of Around the World

2. Are more children’s books headed in the graphic novel direction, like your recent Around the World?

Matt Phelan: The children’s publishing industry is definitely interested in putting out more graphic novels for kids. The great thing is, like all of children’s publishing, they are open to many different kinds of graphic novels. So there’s room for superheroes, talking mice, and creepy historical fiction set in the Dust Bowl. I believe there will be more picture book illustrators like me trying graphic novels in the near future. It’s already happening with people like Dan Santat (“Sidekicks”), Jarrett Krosoczka (“Lunch Lady”), and multiple Newbery Honor-winning author Jennifer Holm (“Babymouse”) putting out fantastic graphic novels for kids. Eric Wight came from comics and animation and is now creating a hybrid of prose and comics for his Frankie Pickle young reader series. Innovations like that and the variety of stories makes me think that children’s publishing is the most exciting place for comics today.

3. Any advice for aspiring illustrators?

Matt Phelan: The only thing you have compete control over at the beginning is your portfolio. And that’s really the one thing that will get you work. Before you worry about mailings, contacts, or any of that marketing stuff, concentrate on making the strongest portfolio you can. Other than that, I recommend that illustrators take an acting class or two or at least read some books on acting. I studied acting in college and it has proven to be the most useful training I’ve had for my work.

"Niles" watercolor © by Matt Phelan from his blog.

4. Often students say they met/know someone who has written a kid’s book and wants illustration. I give them the standard warning that publishers prefer “unencumbered projects.” What do you think, are they better off coming up with their own original story?

Matt Phelan: Publishers do not want to see illustrations in manuscript submissions unless the author and illustrator are the same person. If you want to write, then submit a sketch dummy of a book you have also written. If you want to illustrate other people’s books, then all you need is a strong portfolio. I’d say that illustrating someone’s unsold manuscript (even if they offer to pay you) is time that could be better spent elsewhere.

5. Have you been to Ireland? or taken a trip abroad that’s influenced your art?

Matt Phelan: I actually went to Ireland on my honeymoon, Why do you ask? Does my work seem Irish? At any rate, I always bring plenty of sketchbooks on vacation. I think everything has potential to influence your work at some point. The important thing is to be open and observe as much as you can. Sketching forces you to slow down and notice. (I’ve included some Ireland sketches of one of the many walls of the Aran Islands and some sheep in County Galway.) I have taken some research trips for my work. I spent a week in Muskegon, Michigan which is the setting for my next graphic novel. Sadly, I didn’t have the time to circle the globe for Around the World. A missed opportunity there, I think.

Stone wall, Ireland, from a sketchbook. Courtesy Matt Phelan © 2007

Notes: I asked about Ireland out of curiosity after finding a web page where Matt explains the pronunciation of his Irish surname. If you haven’t read any of Matt’s work, I especially recommend Around the World. It graphically recounts three true stories of round-the-world voyages, by the reporter Nellie Bly, sailor Joshua Slocum, and bicyclist Thomas Stevens. It is like getting three good books for the price of one!

Courtesy Matt Phelan,

More of Matt Phelan’s entertaining thoughts and lively sketches can be found on his own blog – planetham.

photo courtesy Jonathan Bean

Once upon a time, a young man named Jonathan Bean  stopped by KU’s beloved old Communication Design House. This must have been nearly a decade ago. He was a recent grad from Messiah College in central PA with a small portfolio and large ambitions. He was wondering about topping off his bachelor’s degree from Messiah with a BFA in illustration from Kutztown. Of course, we might want to steer a talented young artist toward Kutztown University, but I find a second bachelor’s degree redundant. Like adding a side of cheese fries to your cheese steak. At KU a second degree, especially now with our new gen ed requirements takes three more years of schooling.

In my opinion, a recent grad who wants more illustration classes is better off earning a two-year MFA in illustration. That’s the advice I gave Jonathan. They have a limited residency MFA at Marywood in Scranton called Get your Master with the Masters,  for example. Jonathan decided to apply to SVA, The School of Visual Arts, my alma mater, in NYC. Flash forward to 2011: He has recently moved back to nearby Fleetwood, PA and he stopped on campus earlier this semester to tell me how it went. It worked out OK.

New book by Lauren Thompson, Artwork by Jonathan Bean

He has no regrets about going to SVA. It was expensive, for sure, but he found living and working in New York City exhilarating. He also said he was very lucky to be part of a really talented and supportive MFA class. On his website he has links to his SVA classmates’ work, including Paul Hoppe and Taeeun Yoo among others.

Jonathan has had great success as a children’s book illustrator. He is already working on his twelfth children’s book. His most recently published book is One Starry Night, a retelling of the Christmas Story (the original one with the birth of Jesus, not the one where Flick’s tongue gets stuck to light pole.) One Starry Night is written by NY Times bestselling author Lauren Thompson. The text is nicely complimented by Jonathan’s deceptively simple art. To my eye his work harkens back to the classic style of Wanda Gag. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an artistic tour de force. ” The Society of Illustrators has honored Jonathan by including artwork from One Starry Night in their current exhibition, on view through Dec.29, 2011.

At Night, words and watercolor paintings © 2007 Jonathan Bean

He wrote and illustrated At Night, a Boston Globe Horn Book Award Winner. Here is what the NY Times said about At Night, “Bean’s debut as an author is sweet and resonant, as calming as a mug of warm milk…he captures the solitary sense of being the last one awake…the peacefulness that comes with discovering a restful space of one’s own.”

Sketchbook page from ©2011 Jonathan Bean

Take a look at his website. He has had many more accomplishments than the few described above. It is wonderful to see the well-deserved success of this talented young man. Hopefully, we can get him to visit our illustration classes this year at Kutztown.

Elaine Cunfer, Kevin Cornell, Matt Twombly, and David Bullock

We had a full house, an audience of 177, for the David Bulluck Return of the CD Grads. Prof. Elaine Cunfer deserves a lot of credit; she did a great job organizing the event. Both speakers shared their passion for illustration. Matt Twombly talked about his internship at Marvel Comics. A highlight of that experience was a personal portfolio review from Joe Quesada  Marvel’s editor-in-chief. He also talked about the four months he had to move back to his parents house, before landing his job at Science Magazine. He had some good news to share. At the end of this month Matt begins a brand new job for National Geographic. In his free time Matt is creating his own Western-themed comics.

copyright © 2011 Matt Twombly

Kevin Cornell punctuated his presentation with fond recollections of KU. He showed a hand-written index card on which I had scrawled a note,” Kevin, you have  12 recorded absences and I only took attendance 22 times. This is an insult to the concept of a studio class!”

Over lunch at the Tavern Kevin graciously told me I was on the mark with the criticism. During his presentation he said that students can’t expect to be “taught illustration” by a professor. One needs to do lots of work to gain illustration skills. He also had other painful truths, like, “Don’t expect your first job to be glamorous.”

Kevin illustrated Moustache! written by Mac Barnett, a brand new book published by Hyperion-Disney. So new, that it arrived in the KU bookstore on Friday, one day after the Return of the CD grads. Check it out. Kirkus Reviews praised the artwork “Cornell ushers the story forward with cinematic artwork, framed in elaborate medieval-like borders, but paced sequentially like a comic book.”

from "Moustache" © artwork 2001 Kevin Cornell

Dallas Clayton & KU CD Student Janaya Buck.

Update: The Awesome Happening announced below already happened. It was a sunny morning in Kutztown. St. John’s PreSchoolers,  Kutztown Elementary students, and lots of KU students joined Dallas Clayton for a morning frolic on the lawn. Dallas was a hit. He gave away, by my count, something like 180 of his Awesome books! We didn’t even give him gas money, Let’s hope his generosity boomerangs back at him a hundred times over. We’ve added one photo of the event above, and will add more soon.

Does the name Dallas Clayton ring a bell? KU illustration student Janaya Buck is a big fan. When she heard about the L.A. writer / illustrator’s Awesome Back to School Tour she invited him to visit Kutztown. You are invited, too, this Weds, Sept 14 at 11. The official room is SH 209, opposite the dean’s office in Sharadin. The classroom may not be big enough, in which case we will spill out into Sharadin’s awesome atrium. If the atrium isn’t big enough, we will spill out onto the lawn. If the lawn isn’t big enough we will go dance in the awesome fountain.

Dallas Clayton's book tour stopped at Borders, perhaps a bit late.

Clayton self-published his first children’s book, The Awesome Book. It was so successful Amazon decided to partner with him. Now he has another book, The Awesome Book of Thanks. Both are available for free on the internet. If you buy a book, he donates a book to a bookless child in a hospital or shelter somewhere in the world. This buy one, give one, philosophy is contagious. First, there  was Tom’s Shoes, then the retro eyeglass site  Warby Parker sent over 50,000 pairs of glasses to needy people worldwide.  Now Dallas Clayton is doing it with books. I’ve never used the word paradigm, and I’m not going to start now, but something is happening, and it may be, um, awesome.

From what I see of Dallas Clayton he is in sync with the New Sincerity Movement. “New Sincerity ” according to Wikipedia, “is a term used in music, aesthetics, film criticism, poetry, literary criticism and philosophy,  to describe art or concepts that run against prevailing modes of postmodernist irony or cynicism.”

Clayton’s illustration style is charmingly simple: it reminds me a bit of the great Shel Silverstein. So, unless you are a postmodernist cynic, please join Janaya Buck in welcoming Dallas Clayton to Kutztown’s campus.

Note: Apart from Janaya Buck’s poster, all artwork © Dallas Clayton from the websites: and



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