Tuesday, November 29, 2011

artwork from kids

One of the fun parts of being a children's book author-illustrator is getting mail from kids. Usually it comes in big batches, from an elementary school class that just read one of my books, or from a school I visited. It's always so cool to look at art made by kids, and it's very inspiring to know that the books I'm working on here in my studio will (hopefully) inspire kids to make art of their own.

Here are a few pieces of artwork I've gotten in the mail recently:

Over the River and Through the Wood, by Grace

Over the River and Through the Wood, by Celia

Captain Cookie, by Marissa

Captain Cookie with the sleigh from Over the River, by Anonymous
Mudball, by a different Anonymous

A picture of me doing a drawing demonstration, by Kaeden

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


With Thanksgiving just a day away, Over the River and Through the Wood has been getting some nice mentions lately. Here's a quick rundown of a few new blog reviews, with links to the full reviews:

"A stunning book of song with the feel of yesteryear.  Beautiful matte pages with the slightest texture.  Stately red endpapers.  Exquisite artwork... An ideal picture book."  -Picture Book Reviews

"Matt Tavares has created a fantastic version of the song “Over the River and Through the Wood. The pictures of the snowy 19th century New England town and landscape are beautiful, setting the blues and grays of snow and horse with the vivid reds of the sleigh and brick houses. He’s livened these lyric illustrations also with a story of a dog sometimes teasing and sometimes chasing after the sleigh holding in his teeth a boy’s hat that had flown off in the wind.... It's a song and book everyone can enjoy." -Sing Books With Emily, the blog

 "One read through Over the River and Through the Wood and readers will long for the pastoral life, to be swept up the side of a mountain by horse power, to hear the quiet of the woods settling deeply around. Beautifully done and so peaceful it made me yearn to be in it, Tavares's edition is just the thing to slow readers down and keep their thoughts centered." -Where the Best Books Are

"We are touched by the beautiful and detailed illustrations and the loving attention to each inch of the book." -Bellissima Kids 
"Echoing the language of Child's time and sparkling with Norman Rockwell-like detail, the book may well carry your young readers - and singers - away into history in the rushing sleigh, in the snowy woods, and in the busy New England town, right beside the poem's characters and their spirited horse! -Great Books For Horse Lovers

Thanks to all the bloggers who took the time to enjoy my book and share it with their readers!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Barnes & Noble Book Fair recap

I signed books at a book fair for Wells Elementary School at Barnes and Noble in Newington, NH last weekend. It was a wonderful event, with tons of people and some excellent performances by students and teachers. The book fair was organized by my wife, Sarah, and she and everyone in the WES PTSA did an amazing job. Here are a few pictures:

So many teachers made the trek to Newington to help out with the book fair. Here's computer teacher extraordinaire Mr. Sprankle on guitar and the one-and-only Mr. I on the banjo, entertaining the crowd with some excellent songs they wrote. One of my favorite lines: "Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be readers. Because then they'll be smarter than you..." or something like that...

Then Mr. Sprankle had the kids laughing their heads off as he read and performed a few Elephant and Piggie books. Did I mention that Mr. Sprankle is awesome?
Tough to follow up Mr. Sprankle's hilarious read-alouds of Mo Willems books with my own reading of a 19th century poem, but that's what I did! I read Over the River and Through the Wood, and then did a drawing demonstration with a live model posing as a baseball player.
Later in the afternoon I did another reading and drawing, but this time all the kids were freaking out because they ALL wanted to be the model. So I told them all to sit still, and I drew EVERYBODY. Then they all wanted to keep the picture, so we had a raffle.

My daughter and some of her classmates also sang Over the River and Through the Wood, which was awesome.

Wish I got more pictures, but I was too busy signing books! It seemed like the whole town of Wells was there, and people bought armloads of books and raised over $1300 for Wells Elementary School! Not too shabby.

After the book fair, many of the participants drove up to Portland, Maine to watch the Wells High School football team win the State Championship game. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Awesome Autographed Book Bag...

One more little post about the Connecticut Children's Book Fair- my wife, Sarah, was carrying this canvas Wells Public Library bag with her for most of the weekend, and asked several of the authors and illustrators to sign it. By the end of the trip, it looked pretty awesome. Here it is:
On the front of the bag, clockwise from upper right: Walter Wick, Barbara McClintock, Alison Paul, Betsy Lewin, Ted Lewin, Sarah Weeks, Stephen Savage, Jane Yolen, Grace Lin, and Wendell Minor

And on the back: Heidi Stemple, Mo Willems, Tomie dePaola... and my daughter, Molly

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zachary's Ball, Fenway Centennial Edition

Just got my first real copies of the new edition of Zachary's Ball, due out on February 14, 2012. Zachary's Ball was my senior thesis at Bates College back in 1997, and was my very first real book when it came out in hardcover in 2000.

It's only been available in paperback for the past few years, so it's really exciting to see it back in hardcover. It has a newly designed cover, a new author's note about Fenway Park (which will turn 100 years old in 2012), and an awesome quote on the back from Peter Gammons.

The new edition will be available in hardcover and paperback, and both versions will hit bookstores on February 14, the same day that There Goes Ted Williams comes out.

Here are a couple pictures of my first copies:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Over the River and Through the Wood news

Over the River and Through the Wood was reviewed in The New York Times on Sunday! I went out and bought a paper copy, just to make sure they actually printed it. They did! Check it out- they even included a nice little color illustration:

I happened to be at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair on Sunday, so I asked Mo Willems to sign the awesome Knuffle Bunny illustration he did for the cover of the NYT Children's Books section. I think this will be going up on my wall:

Since a good review in The New York Times doesn't come along every day (or every year...), I decided to update my Over the River book trailer to include a nice quote from the review. Here's the new version:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Connecticut Children's Book Fair

I just got back from an awesome trip to Connecticut and New York City. It was mostly a work trip- I was presenting at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, then signing books at Books of Wonder in NYC and a meeting at Hyperion with my art director and editor, for the Helen Keller book I've been working on- but we sort of made a family vacation of it.

We all had a blast. I got to meet Tomie dePaola, Ted Lewin and Betsy Lewin for the first time, and I had a wonderful time hanging out with Grace Lin, Mo Willems, Barbara McClintock, David Macaulay, Wendell Minor, Alison Paul, Jane Yolen, Walter Wick, Stephen Savage... So many amazing authors and illustrators in one place. It was very inspiring, and made me want to get right back into my studio and make some books. I even met Al Jarreau in the hotel elevator (seriously!), but that's another story...

Here are some pics from the weekend:
We weren't sure how long the kids would last at dinner on Friday night, since it was after their bedtime. But they did great, thanks in part to the amazing Barbara McClintock, who entertained them with her remarkable paper-animal-making skills. She made this awesome little mouse for my 4-year-old daughter.
Grace Lin, covering my name and claiming Over the River as her own.

There were tons of books...
...and TONS of people.
I signed a bunch of books, met lots of nice people, and did a presentation about how I make my books.

My kids are HUGE Elephant and Piggie fans, so they were really excited to meet Mo Willems.

One of the highlights of my weekend was when Terri Goldich, curator for the Children's Literature Collection at the Dodd Center, gave Mo Willems and me a private tour of the archives, where they store original artwork and papers of some of the true legends of children's literature.

 We got to look through some of James Marshall's original art. It was fascinating to see the original notes, book dummies, sketches, and paintings.

We also got to go through these file drawers, filled with original artwork by Richard Scarry. So cool.

It was fascinating to see all the steps that went into making illustrations back then, when printing technology was less advanced, and there were no computers.

We stayed for most of the day on Sunday, because I really wanted to see David Macaulay's presentation. It was definitely worth sticking around for. It really made me want to get right back to my studio and get to work.
Then it was on to New York City...

We stopped by the children's room at the New York Public Library, and got to see the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals. We had a great day in New York City, then hopped in the minivan for the long drive back to Maine.
To see more pictures from the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, visit their facebook page.