Thursday, December 23, 2010

Henry Aaron's Dream featured on WGBH

I think of myself primarily as an illustrator, so any time another writer has nice things to say about my writing, it really means a lot to me- which is why I thought it was pretty awesome when Chuck Hogan (author of The Town) recommended my book, Henry Aaron's Dream, on last night's episode of Greater Boston.

The part about Henry Aaron's Dream is about 11 minutes into it, but if you have time, watch the whole thing for some great holiday book recommendations from booksellers and authors.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Kiddo Awards

Henry Aaron's Dream is a finalist for a Kiddo Award!

This new award, started by bestselling author James Patterson's organization, ReadKiddoRead, honors "the very best books of the year for getting kids absolutely addicted to reading." The finalists were chosen by a panel of children's book experts, and the winners are chosen by... YOU!

So head over to and cast your ballot. Voting goes until February 15. Henry Aaron's Dream is in the "transitional books" category (and doing pretty well so far...).

And please spread the word!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Upcoming Events

I'll be reading and signing books at a few fun events around New England in the next few days:

This afternoon (Friday, December 3) I'll be reading and signing at Barnes and Noble in Portsmouth, New Hampshire from 4 to 6 pm.

Then tomorrow (Saturday, December 4) I'll be at Jonathan's in Ogunquit, Maine from 1 to 3 pm, for a Holiday Tea fundraiser for Young Maine Readers, a wonderful organization that provides a book in the mail every month to kids in York County (including my two daughters), from birth to age 5.

And on Monday night, December 6, I'll be schmoozing with Mayor Menino in Boston for the Boston Hometown Authors Reception at the Hotel Commonwealth, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, a fundraiser for ReadBoston. Come meet the mayor, get some books signed by a whole bunch of Boston-area authors, and help a good cause. Tickets are $30, and complimentary beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963

Perhaps the greatest challenge I faced while illustrating Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy was deciding how to illustrate the page that deals with his assassination. I tried a few different ideas, but ultimately I decided to let Doreen Rappaport's well-chosen words tell the tragic news of his death, and I focused my picture on the last moments of his life, when he looked so young, vibrant and happy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kansas City recap

Last week I went to Kansas City to do a couple presentations about Henry Aaron's Dream. Here are a few pictures from my trip.
First I visited Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Liberty, MO, just outside of Kansas City. I presented to a group of 200 4th and 5th graders. I did a presentation about Henry Aaron's story, and about how I made the book. The librarian's husband is a big baseball memorabilia collector, and she borrowed some of his treasures to put together this great display of Henry Aaron memorabilia, along with some of my books. Very cool

another picture of the Henry Aaron display

It's always amazing to arrive at a school and see a big huge sign welcoming me!

After the school visit it stopped raining for long enough for me to walk around a bit. I stayed in a section of Kansas City called the Plaza, which was very nice. It had Spanish architecture, which I didn't expect in Kansas City. This is a picture of a rather surreal moment, when I noticed this beautiful bell tower and wondered what it was. Just then, the bells in the tower began playing "Something" by the Beatles, and I realized that the building was a Cheesecake Factory. Interesting...

Next I had a wonderful lunch with a great group of librarians from the Kansas City Public Library: April Roy, Kim Patton, Crystal Faris, and Helma Hawkins. We joked about some web site they had seen of "awkward photos with authors", so we decided to take one ourselves. Not very awkward, but definitely blurry!
After lunch I headed over to Reading Reptile, which is an amazing children's book store. It's one of those places where there's something interesting to look at everywhere you look.

This picture doesn't do it justice, so if you're in Kansas City, you should go to Reading Reptile to see it for yourself.

Next I visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which was amazing. If you're a baseball fan and you ever find yourself in Kansas City, you should visit this museum. The exhibits are every bit as impressive as those in Cooperstown. Here's a picture of the bronze statue of Rube Foster.

A Jackie Robinson bat
and a nice display about Henry Aaron's time in the Negro Leagues

My favorite part of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was the Field of Legends, an impressive group of bronze statues arranged on a baseball diamond. It was very moving to walk on the field past Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard and other Negro League legends.
Now and then an announcer's voice would call all the names in the starting lineup, and from the field the statue of Rube Foster could be seen beyond the outfield fence, watching the game.

Satchel Paige

One more picture of the Field of Legends

Next up was Family Fun Night at the Kansas City Public Library, where I did a presentation on the making of Henry Aaron's Dream. We had a very nice group of families, and I had a great time. Everyone in Missouri is so nice!

This was all in one day. Looking back, I see why was so tired by the end of it! Still, I found the strength to walk over to Jack Stack BBQ and get some dinner. And I'm glad I did, because it was one of the most spectacular meals I've ever had. Wow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The Author in You" tv show

During a visit to Rock Springs Elementary School in Lawrenceville, Georgia last spring, GCPS-TV filmed this segment with me for their show, The Author In You. There are some interview questions from students, some snippets of my presentations, and footage of me throwing out the first pitch at a AAA Gwinnett Braves game (I thought I threw a strike, but in the video it looks a little high). Enjoy!

And check out their web site to see other episodes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New York City

I'm back in Maine after a great weekend in New York City. On Thursday night I attended The Original Art show at the Society of Illustrators, and had a great time seeing lots of friends and checking out some amazing artwork. It's always so interesting to see the art in person and see the different ways people work. Some of the originals are gigantic, some are the size of the book (I always work at the same size of the book). I noticed that more and more artists are using elements of traditional media combined with digital, which I guess isn't a big surprise. The best part of the exhibit was being able to hang out with so many illustrator friends I don't see very often. Writing and illustrating books is a very solitary job much of the time, and I get such a creative boost from being able to spend time with other people who are doing the same kind of work that I'm doing. I always forget to take pictures, but I did get a few:
my friend Dan Santat accepting his Silver Medal

The amazing Eric Carle accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award

My Art Director at Candlewick, Kristen Nobles, and me standing in front of my cover illustration from Henry Aaron's Dream
me and my Henry Aaron's Dream illustration

...and one more.

The best time to actually see the artwork was after most of the crowd had left. The show is up until November 24, so if you get a chance, go see it!

Then on Saturday I had my first signing for Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy, at Books of Wonder. As always, they put together a great event, with the creators of five new picture book biographies, including Sean Qualls, Bryan Collier, and Javaka Steptoe, all on hand to talk about their work and sign books. It was great talking with all the authors and illustrators, and I got a copy of Dave the Potter signed by Bryan Collier- an amazing story, and a beautifully made book. Here are some pictures from the Books of Wonder event:
a display of all the books

my daughters were excited to find some of my other books there too

my camera died toward the beginning of the Books of Wonder event, but here are a few from the panel discussion.

Now, back to work!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Children's Book Illustrators exhibit, recap

On Saturday I attended the opening reception of the Children's Book Illustrators exhibit at the Brush Gallery in Lowell, MA. Will Winslow, the curator of the exhibit, did a marvelous job organizing the event. It was a great day.

First there was a panel discussion with a nice big enthusiastic audience, where Will moderated and David Macaulay, Kelly Murphy, and I talked about our work, our creative process, the book business, and whatever else came up.

Then we signed books until there were no more books left to sign, then a reception in the gallery. Christopher Bing missed the panel discussion because he was busy signing copies of his spectacular new version of Little Red Riding Hood down at NEIBA in Providence. But he made it to Lowell in time to sign a bunch of books during the reception. After the reception Will took all the artists and our spouses (or in my case, my entire family) out for a wonderful dinner.

One of the many highlights of the day for me was a surprise guest- my elementary school art teacher, Barbara Gagel. She lives in Santa Fe now, so I was not expecting her to walk into the gallery! Turns out she's friends with the curator and when she heard about the exhibit, she decided to surprise me and come to the opening. She was an amazing teacher who did so much that wasn't necessarily part of her job (like taking me on several trips to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), and it was really a thrill to have her there. It was also great to have my parents there, and some friends from Candlewick, and other friends and fellow illustrators. What a day!

The exhibit is up until October 24, so if you're anywhere near Lowell, MA, you should check it out.

There wasn't much opportunity for picture-taking (I wish I got some pictures of David Wiesner's artwork from Sector 7 and Christopher Bing's amazing illustrations...), but I did get a few:

some of David Macaulay's originals
more David Macaulay

Kelly Murphy's original artwork

I had four pictures in the exhibit- one from Jack's Path of Courage, two from Lady Liberty, and one from Henry Aaron's Dream.
same illustrations from a different angle

me and David Macaulay

Kelly Murphy, David Macaulay, Matt Tavares, Christopher Bing

Monday, September 27, 2010

upcoming events for Jack's Path of Courage

Now that the publication date for Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy (written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by me, published by Disney-Hyperion) is less than a month away, I thought I'd start spreading the news about a couple fun events I have planned.

First, on Saturday, October 23, I'll be at Books of Wonder in New York City, from 12:00 to 2:00, part of the "Picture Book Biographies" event, along with Sean Qualls, Bryan Collier, and an amazing lineup of award-winning authors and illustrators. The authors and artists will present their picture book biographies, take questions from the audience, and sign copies of all of their books.

For details, go to the Books of Wonder event page.

Then on Saturday, November 6, I'll be at Book Ends in Winchester, MA, 2:00-4:00 pm. I'll present Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy, show some some sketches and talk about my experiences working on the book, answer questions, and sign books.

For details, visit the Book Ends event page.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Award news for Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy

Good news- Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by me (Disney-Hyperion, October 2010) won't be in stores until October 26, but it already won an Oppenheim Gold Seal Award!

Children's Book Illustrators Exhibit at the Brush Gallery

The Children's Book Illustrators Exhibition is now on display at the Brush Art Gallery & Studios (Lowell, MA), until October 24, 2010. Please note the updated and definitive lineup of artists: Christopher Bing, David Macaulay, Kelly Murphy, Matt Tavares and David Wiesner.

Opening reception: Saturday, October 2, noon-2 pm
Meet the illustrators, and book signing: Saturday, October 2, 1-4 pm

first reviews for JACK'S PATH OF COURAGE

The first reviews of Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy are in! So far, so good:

From School Library Journal:
      "[Rappaport's] descriptive narration is spiced with memorable quotations and Tavares’s larger-than-life illustrations. The realistic paintings portray the different periods in JFK’s life with depth and detail, capturing his emotions, courage, and sovereignty while remaining true to this unique time in history.... This beautifully illustrated and gracefully told story serves as a superior introduction to our 35th president."

From Publisher's Weekly:
      "As with these collaborators' Lady Liberty, the striking cover of this picture-book biography features a closeup portrait of the subject, all the more compelling in this instance with the omission of any type.... Tavares's light- and shadow-infused paintings balance lifelike portrayals of Kennedy with renderings of dramatic events, notably a Japanese destroyer ramming Kennedy's PT boat during WWII and the planting of the American flag on the moon. An evenhanded, graphically stirring biography."

And from Kirkus:
      "A striking cover close-up of Kennedy (with the title information on the back of the jacket, à la the author's Martin's Big Words, illustrated by Bryan Collier, 2001) introduces the reader to this biography of the 35th president of the United States.... The handsome and vivid illustrations pop."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

THE EYEWITNESS REPORTS Auction is up and running!

Bid now on some great (and cheap!) original artwork by some of the best children's book illustrators in the biz, like Grace Lin, Scott Magoon, Dan Yaccarino, Anna Alter, and of course Dan Santat, who threw this whole impressive fundraiser together. Here's the cool poster that Dan made to promote the auction, with a list of all the talented illustrators whose work is featured in the auction: (Click on the poster to check out the auction)

And here's my painting that's up for bid, of a giant frog chasing helicopters:

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I got this package from my editor at Candlewick today.
Inside was a copy of Henry Aaron's Dream...

and a note that said "Check out the front end paper".