Category: Blog

If Chick was not annoying

In PW’s otherwise favorable review of Fox + Chick, the author questions the two friends’ relationship: “The root of their friendship remains an enigma—why does Fox tolerate such an annoying friend?” I’m happy to rethink the three stories making Chick not annoying:

– The Party (to be renamed The Bathroom)
Fox is at home, reading a book. Chick arrives and asks if he can use Fox’s bathroom. Fox says yes. Chick uses the bathroom and then leaves.

– Good Soup
Fox is picking vegetables to make soup. Chick follows Fox around. Fox makes soup for both of them. They eat the soup.

– The Portrait (to be renamed The Landscape)
Fox is on a hill to paint a landscape. Chick arrives and admires Fox’s talent. When the painting is done, they walk together down the hill.

To see the original version of the stories, you can get the book at your local bookseller or on Indiebound.

 

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“Vita di uno strano signore” or, “Life of a strange gentleman.”

About two years ago, the Associazione Culturale Hamelin invited me to have personal exhibition of my work in their beautiful rooms in the center of Bologna. Flattered but equally scared, I accepted the invitation. The show, titled “Vita di uno strano signore,” opened last month during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and will stay up until May 4.

Here are a series of pictures from opening night, taken by Hamelin’s own Emanuele Rosso. I will post soon a different series of pictures without visitors, to better illustrate what was shown.

Thank-you to all who helped to organize the show and to everyone who visited.

S.R.

ruzzier_inaugurazione-56loresruzzier_inaugurazione-23loresruzzier_inaugurazione-2loresruzzier_inaugurazione-5loresruzzier_inaugurazione-6loresruzzier_inaugurazione-7loresruzzier_inaugurazione-8loresruzzier_inaugurazione-10loresruzzier_inaugurazione-11loresruzzier_inaugurazione-12loresruzzier_inaugurazione-13loresruzzier_inaugurazione-18loresruzzier_inaugurazione-19loresruzzier_inaugurazione-20loresruzzier_inaugurazione-22lores

The most important moment of the preparations: stuffing the tigelle.

ruzzier_inaugurazione-25lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-33lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-38lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-41lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-43lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-44lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-47lores ruzzier_inaugurazione-50loresruzzier_inaugurazione-60_lores

 

 

Helpful Books for Disturbing Times

Here is a small selection of children’s books that I personally find helpful and perhaps hope-inducing without trying to hammer a moral lesson into your head, which could be not only painful but counter-productive.

(The links are to Indiebound.org, but of course you can find or order these books at any other bookstore or library.)

 

Arnold Lobel

Grasshopper on the Road

9780064440943

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780064440943

 

Leo Lionni

Little Blue and Little Yellow

little-blue-1

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780688132859

 

Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak

Brundibar

9780786809042

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780786809042

 

Jo Hoestlandt and Joanna Kang

Star of Fear, Star of Hope

Star of fear

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780802775887

 

Tomi Ungerer

Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear

51UeK3Gw6iL._SX357_BO1,204,203,200_

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780714857664

 

Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson

The Carrot Seed

TheCarrotSeed

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780064432108

 

William Steig

Amos & Boris

Amos-Boris

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780374302788

 

This Will Be Your Picture Book!

Teachers! Librarians! Bookstore event coordinators! Parents! Kids!

Here’s a little bundle of ideas for your drawings. Click on the image below to download the PDF, and enjoy!

thiswillcoverhoriz

 

Three Stars So Far

Some reviews for This Is Not a Picture Book! have come out. As usual, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus were the first ones, and they both gave my new book (my first with Chronicle) wonderful, starred reviews. More recently, School Library Journal published their own starred review.

PW writes:

This isn’t a book about books; it’s a book about learning to read. A duckling with a pink beak picks up a fat volume and discovers, in the irritated comment of the title, that it has no pictures. “Can you read it?” asks his sidekick, a bug. “I’m not sure,” says the duckling. “Words are so difficult.” In luminous watercolors, Ruzzier (Two Mice) shows the duckling and bug crossing into a strange, many-colored world, where unfamiliar words are represented as odd machines, blobby shapes, and bizarre creatures. When the duckling stumbles on a word he knows (“bee,” “flower”), its recognizable image pops up among the mysterious ones. Duckling and bug wander through the ever-changing landscape of reading—“There are wild words… and peaceful words”—before landing cozily in bed. Ruzzier’s story offers gentle empathy for kids tackling this intimidating task. Observant readers will note that the endpapers represent learning to read, too; the initial pair retells the story as a beginner might see it, with most of the words scrambled, while the words of the final endpapers read clearly—and no pictures there, either.

And here’s what they think at Kirkus:

A metafictive delight of a picture book.

Alice would be pleased: despite Ruzzier’s title, there are plenty of pictures and ample conversation in this picture book. The titular book within the book, however, is illustration-free. This initially causes distress for the duckling protagonist (who oddly has a bellybutton, but that’s beside the point) who finds the book in the spreads before the title page. When a bug appears and asks, “Can you read it?” the duckling gives it a try. In a brilliant feat of page layout, the recto depicts a green landscape encroaching on the verso, with a log laid across a chasm as a bridge to the white space on which the duckling and bug stand. Their walk across the log is a visual metaphor for the duckling’s successful decoding of the text in its pictureless book. Whole worlds open up to them as the duckling reads aloud. Illustrations depict these worlds evoked by “wild words… / and peaceful words,” and the duckling ultimately declares that “All these words carry you away.” The satisfying conclusion is an affirmation of the transformative power of reading. In one outstanding design touch, the front endpapers tell the not-a-picture-book text in garbled type with transposed letters that one must strain to decode, while the text is clear in its entirety on the back ones.

 

School Library Journal:

In this winsome examination of the power of words, a little duckling is delighted to find a red book lying on the ground. “Where are the pictures?!” the fuzzy yellow bird exclaims in dismay upon opening it up. The duck flips through the pages, scanning the plethora of print, and begins to recognize some of the words. His interest and enthusiasm flourish as he continues, reading words that are funny and sad, wild and peaceful. His imagination takes off, and along with his tiny cricket friend, the duckling is swept away on a fantastic adventure. He tells the little insect, “All these words carry you away…and then…they bring you home.” The straightforward tale is enhanced by endpapers featuring lines of text, which are jumbled in the front and placed in order to relate the duck’s story in the back. The eclectic pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations add color and energy to the narrative. At first, the pictures are set against a canvas of white space and then slowly expand as the duck begins to envision scenes with each additional word he reads. One of the final spreads portrays the duck and his friend safe at home in his bedroom, which contains a shelf crammed with books.

 

 

 

I can’t wait to know what the others think!

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Book Thoughts From Bologna

This year I was one of the five jurors of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition. In the beautiful catalogue published by Corraini, I was asked a few questions on creating picture books and more.

jury_final

 

The five jurors: Klaus Humann, Nathan Fox, Francine Bouchet, myself, and Taro Miura.

 

You have said in the past that there are so many obstacles and taboos when creating children’s books, that you run the risk of censoring yourself. How do you avoid self-censorship?

I was specifically referring to the U.S. market, where all my children’s books so far have been originally published.

I consider myself fortunate to have found such a fertile ground for my ideas and my style, and I doubt that I would have been able elsewhere to make my passion for picture books into an actual profession. I am very grateful to the editors who saw potential in my work, beginning with the unforgettable Frances Foster.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin. Compared to what gets published in other Western countries (Germany, for example, or France, or, perhaps to a minor degree, Italy), American books for children tend to be very tame. There are glaring exceptions, of course, but generally speaking you don’t see books that deal with issues that are considered too mature for the audience: death, sex, war, violence, depression, and so on. When books on such themes do get published, they tend to be heavily weighed down by a predictable message, and illustrated incompetently. There is the widespread belief that children need to be shielded from the reality of life. That, in my opinion, is a huge mistake, and is akin to lying. Of course I’m not suggesting that children’s books should include pornography or gratuitous violence, but if a story calls for it, one shouldn’t shy away from showing unpleasant situations. The risk of self-censorship I was talking about is always looming, and can be difficult to detect.

When writing a story, or drawing a picture, you do feel the pressure to deliver something free of possible controversy, or to make choices based on specific political agendas. But in order to produce the best possible work, the only pressure you should feel is the pressure to be true to your own voice.

 

When creating a children’s book, do you ever have a precise image of your ideal reader in mind?

Absolutely not. I don’t think of the reader at all. I believe that when writers think too much about who’s going to read their book, the result will be formulaic at best.

 

Which illustrated book would you have liked to have authored? Why?

There are so many authors and illustrators I worship and whose books I hold dear. In general, I’m drawn to unusual stories that are beautifully illustrated without trying to impress. I can’t stand authors who follow a trend and illustrators who want to show off without even possessing the appropriate skills. Warmth, sincerity, and irony are the main qualities I always look for in a book.

Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories are among the most profound, funny, endearing books I’ve ever read. The drawings perfectly match the tone of the text, at the same time melancholic and reassuring. William Steig, Maurice Sendak, Tomi Ungerer, Edward Gorey: they all have created wonderful books that keep inspiring and humbling me.

But if I have to pick one single book, it would probably be Wolf Erlbruch’s Duck, Death, and the Tulip. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a death dance for children. It’s original, powerful, sweet, compassionate, sad, comforting. It’s done with such measure and good taste. I would be happy if I could produce something comparable to that book.

 

Quotes on Two Mice

My new picture book Two Mice came out in September. It is making quite an impression among the international intelligentsia.

Here are some comments, and I’ll keep updating as more will come by:

TWO MICE are better than one.“—Walter E. Disney

Sergio Ruzzier’s TWO MICE is mousetastic.” —Beatrix Potter

I just ♥ how in TWO MICE Mr. Ruzzier lets the pictures tell the story.” –Randolph Caldecott

The most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of TWO MICE.” –Sir Walter Scott

“If one cannot enjoy reading TWO MICE over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde

TWO MICE is, like, wow. Just… wow.” —J.M. Barrie

No man remains quite what he was when he reads TWO MICE.”  —Thomas Mann

Within the covers of TWO MICE are the answers for all the problems men face.” ―Ronald Reagan

1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1… That’s insane! TWO MICE is blowing my mind!” —Leonardo Fibonacci

TWO MICE is fabulous!” —Aesop

A thorough knowledge of TWO MICE is worth more than a college education.” —Theodore Roosevelt

“There was a good book called Two Mice,
That offered this piece of advice:
When leaping o’er cracks
You should never be lax— 
Lest you wind up with less than two mice.” —Edward Lear

“OMG, look at those tiles. The perspective! How does he do it?!” —Piero della Francesca

“Look deep into TWO MICE, and then you will understand everything better.” —Albert Einstein

“I can’t believe those TWO MICE like veggie soup.” —The Subway Pizza Rat

“The first and almost the only book deserving of universal attention is TWO MICE.” –John Adams

 

 

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.