Thank you, Laurent, for allowing me to blog about what you spoke about at the event..
Recap: Recently at the SCBWI Northern California 3rd annual Illustrator's Day, Laurent Linn, Art Director for S&SBooks for Young Readers, spoke about Children's Picture Book Illustration, and his perspective on what genres his publishing firm focuses on for children's picture books. He also spoke about how he and the illustrator work together, and the give and take that happens during the span of the production of a book.
1) A story of a child's discovery of the world.
Laurent describes the book "Scarecrow's Dance" by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. The inanimate character (the Scarecrow) in this book, gives the reader (a child) something to identify with. Laurent stated that it's extremely rare for a picture book to have an adult as the "hero". Here, the hero is the scarecrow, and almost always, the hero is another child, or an animal. Interesting! (I didn't know this!). Mr. Ibatoulline's illustrations combined beautifully painted surroundings and texture (Laurent spoke of the detail in the wheat, the texture of the scarecrow's burlap face); as well as amazing "camera angles" on each spread.
2) Picture books dealing with a "difficult" subject.
Books about death (whether it's a relative, or a pet); divorce, etc.
Laurent describes a book by Karen Katz, called "Can You Say Peace?". This book deals with a "difficult" topic of how to address "peace" to children. The book shows kids from all areas of the world doing similar things...going to school, playing with their friends, having dinner with their families, and all saying in their native languages, "peace". By showing similarities of a "peaceful" life in our world, the author introduces this "new" topic to young children for further discussion at home or at school. The book introduces the concept but without being "preachy"..and it shows peace through cultures. Very accessible appeal (this is what Laurent describes as Karen's illustration style).
3) Non-Fiction Poetry Books.
"Toad by the Road" by Maggie Kreen. Laurent shows how the illustrations in this non-fiction poetry book, have character – a smile on the frogs faces, here and there, which makes the book more friendly and accessible to the reader. There are "facts" sprinkled throughout the poems which are also highlit by the illustrations.
4) Dog books. He says that there are plenty of dog books, but this is still a valid genre. The challenge was to show something unique story-wise, and illustration-wise. He presented the book: "Wind Wild Dog", by Barbara Joose, Illustrated by Kate Keiser. Laurent described his art direction of this book which dealt with the dog's inner struggle. The cover–a project on it's own–was fascinating to hear about. Laurent determined that this dog's uniquely colored eyes would be a great focus. Looking at the top of the book..to the left is a picture of the dog sitting near her sled team as she looks over to the right which is of an image of her howling (her wild self); this top image shows her inner-struggle, but also from a far, creates the full picture of the dog..the top two illustrations being her "ears". This was Laurent's vision as art director. Pretty cool!
5) Fairytales/Folk Tales - Laurent presented a book about Cinderella from a different culture. He chose an illustrator that illlustrated Cinderella in a folk-like, woodcut style. I must find the book and let you all know of it's title. He described how working with this illustrator, (he had used her before); that he could let her "run with" the spreads and turn in quick pencil sketches to give him an idea of what it would look like in color. He was confident of her ability to turn in completed color spreads without tight pencils being approved beforehand. Interesting, as he also spoke of his work with Amy on the Hillary Rodham Clinton book, and how there were a few illustrations that they had to work over and over again (pencil sketch after sketch after sketch) before they got to the final piece.
6) Holidays - Laurent spoke about this portion, and while doing so, I had to leave because I had my review with Amy Bates...so I'm sorry I can't write more about this. But Holidays are also a mainstay...traditional holidays, as well as cultural holidays, though he says that each publisher is different in terms of which they include for their markets.
That was it for genres. He also discussed his relationship as Art Director with the editor, the author, and the illustrator, and how it is rare that the illustrator and author ever communicate with each other...and that usually, the author is very happy with what the illustrator presents for the story. They collaborate to make the book the best that it can be..that's the end result, the book. Amy reiterated that it is definitely a collaborative, joint effort to bring a story, and picture book to life.
Hope you enjoyed this, and if you have any questions (I'm sure I left things out..) let me know.