S.R.

Two Mice

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Two Mice

Since it came out last September, Two Mice has received a lot of attention, including the inclusion in four prestigious best-books-of-the-year lists:

The Horn Book Fanfare

The Washington Post

Kirkus Reviews

The Boston Globe

And here’s what people think of the book (click on the links for the full reviews):

“Ruzzier’s surreal landscapes, personable animal characters, elegant story arc, and profound theme combine into something truly award-worthy here.” –Calling Caldecott

“There’s a lot of drama for a book about counting, but that’s not the only stunner. The world Ruzzier creates with his illustrations is so singular, so extraterrestrial that the pictures give the story a sci-fi vibe.” –The Boston Globe

“What a cute, clever way into number sense.” –The New York Times

“Expressive, mildly mischievous pen-and-ink illustrations in soft colors develop details and drama that the words leave out. (…) The book’s creative focus on pattern in plot leaves plenty of room for readers’ imaginations to play a strong role.” –The Horn Book (Starred review.)

“The simplicity of the text means that the earliest readers will soon be able to pick it up and will return to it over and over. One story. Two mice. Three cheers. Lots to love.” –Kirkus (Starred review.)

“A scintillating combination of danger and comfort.” –Publishers Weekly

“Sweetly satisfying.” —School Library Journal

“Two Mice is a brief master class in the picture book form.” –Nine Kinds of Pie

“The inventively undulating narrative structure, the sherbet-like color palette, fantastic tile floors, countless tiny visual surprises–and last but not least, the comfortingly resilient mouse friendship–make Two Mice a standout.” –Shelf Awareness

“A simple and simply lovely book. A sort-o- counting (well, one to three and back again) book and a tiny adventure story too. Absolutely charming.” –Monica Edinger

“Ruzzier’s counting book is a gem.”  –Waking Brain Cells

“Using pen and ink and watercolors, Sergio Ruzzier assures a place on the Caldecott list this year (well, I think that should happen).” –Sal’s Fiction Addiction

Two Mice is a tiny treasure waiting to be found over and over by readers.” –Librarian’s Quest

Read my interview with Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Read my guest post on the making of the book on Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog.

 

Second Star for Two Mice! (One each.)

Julie Roach writes on the Horn Book:

Using only two-word phrases (“One house / Two mice / Three cookies”) and a simple repeating number pattern (one, two, three; three, two, one; one, two, three), this clever book (with an extra-small, preschooler-perfect trim size) creates a fast-paced adventure for listeners and new readers alike. Expressive, mildly mischievous pen-and-ink illustrations in soft colors develop details and drama that the words leave out. For instance, in the pictures, when the two mice “share” three cookies, the spotted mouse gets two cookies, while the plain mouse, miffed, gets only one. Before long, the mice venture out to sea (“Three boats / Two oars / One rower”), and this time it’s spotted mouse who does all the work, while plain mouse takes it easy in the boat’s stern. Soon the situation grows dire — “Three rocks / Two holes / One shipwreck.” They nearly become a raptor’s dinner before managing “One escape.” The two work together as a team after this near-
disaster, and “Three carrots / Two onions” lead to a final nourishing “One soup” that both mice are happy to share — equally. Sometimes the pattern leaves the reader with practical questions: how did “One nest / Two eggs” hatch into “Three ducklings,” for instance? But trying to fit together all the pieces is part of the fun, and the book’s creative focus on pattern in plot leaves plenty of room for readers’ imaginations to play a strong role.

One Star for Two Mice!

Kirkus says:

The deceptively simple counting story of two mice, their adventure, and friendship. One morning in Ruzzier’s imaginative and colorful world, two mice wake to explore. The tiny window above the bed beckons: water, mountains, and sky are waiting for these two. Starting before the title and ending on the copyright page, minimal text says all that is needed: “One house / Two mice / Three cookies. / Three boats / Two oars / One rower. / One nest / Two eggs / Three ducklings.” New readers will soon notice the number pattern and slow down to see how the droll illustrations extend the story. For instance, the mouse with one cookie has an angry expression and a rather tightly curled tail, while the loose-tailed mouse looks gleeful as it chows down on two cookies. The sunny rowboat scene is not so sunny for the mouse who has to manage the two oars. By the time the two buddies return to their home, all is forgiven when the delicious soup is served. (And, in a visual nod to Sendak, it is clearly “still hot.”) The small trim size and careful attention to details give this book enormous appeal; the decorative floor tiles, ornamental feet on the kitchen table, and mismatched stools fit right in with the red hills and ever changing sky. The simplicity of the text means that the earliest readers will soon be able to pick it up and will return to it over and over. One story. Two mice. Three cheers. Lots to love.

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“A Letter for Leo” in Japanese!

Here’s the jacket of the forthcoming Japanese edition of A Letter for Leo, published by Mitsumura (which already published my Amandina a few years ago). The blue band is the obi, the traditional paper strip that wraps the book jacket. Yumiko Fukumoto translated the text, as she did for Amandina and The Room of Wonders. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

LEO_cover+obi

For the Fear of Failing

I wrote this piece for this year’s illustration issue of The Horn Book. They graciously let me post it here as well.

 

I don’t like to experiment.

I know it sounds pusillanimous, but I’m just being honest: I don’t like to experiment because I am afraid of failure.

But at least two times in my life – at the very beginning of my artistic life – I found enough courage and determination to take risks. I was a fearless teenager then.

Being already passionate about picture books and comic strips – in particular those of Maurice Sendak, George Herriman, Elzie C. Segar, and Charles Schulz – it was clear to me how important would be to master pen and ink, if I wanted to be in that business.

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak

George Herriman

George Herriman

Elzie C. Segar

Elzie C. Segar

Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz

Each of those artists had a very sophisticated and personal way of using the pen, and I wanted to find my own.

I remember going to the stationary store to buy my first two nibs, one very flexible and the other stiffer; then returning home and try them on the paper, keeping my hand from trembling; realizing I had to go from upper left to lower right to avoid; understanding how different pressures produce different lines; learning what kind of paper had the best surface for the kind of line I wanted to make.

In time, I did find my own way with pen and ink, which became my favorite and, for a few years, my only way of drawing. Most comic strips, at least the dailies, were in black and white, and I knew that even Sendak’s illustrations for Little Bear – a crucial source of inspiration for me – were colored mechanically. Because of all this, I didn’t think the lack of color in my drawings would be an obstacle in my future career as an illustrator.

Of course there was a hidden reason why I didn’t use color: the fear of failure. I had a fascination for Hieronymus Bosch, medieval frescoes and illuminations, so how could I not realize how important color can be for an artist? In fact, I had timidly attempted one or two small acrylic and a few oil pastel paintings, with very disappointing results, at least according to my overpowering superego. Those painful experiences kept me from seriously trying for years.

Once I became more conscious of the necessities of a professional illustrator, I couldn’t hide anymore, and had to face the challenging task of finding myself a method to add color to my pen drawings.

The most natural way to do that is watercolor, and so one day I went to an art store, bought a few half-pans of Schmincke watercolors, a brush or two, some Arches paper, and began testing the technique and my own resilience. For what concerned the techniques, I was set.

Maybe one day I will venture into buying a new kind of nib, or a new brand of watercolors, or even be audacious enough to try a paper with a slightly smoother surface. Who knows. For now, more than twenty-five years later, I’m still recovering from that initial double stress.