Sunday, April 23, 2017

Places To Be Creative

We have a lot to celebrate in the coming months, Renata has several new books including the brand new Places To Be, an exciting collaboration with writer Mack Barnett! We've also been lucky to have the opportunity to be included in a new creative incubator called cSPACE King Edward. It is a historical sandstone school house built in 1912 that has been painstakingly rejuvenated to be a home to artists and cultural organizations. In May I am hoping to combine these creative endeavours with an exhibition and open house at the studio in this wonderful building. We've named our studio The Principles Office inspired by the fact that it was the Principals Office starting around the 1950's. I am hoping The Principles Office will truly be a place to be creative, for ourselves and others. Our goal is it will be a place to celebrate and collaborate creativity in illustration, design and the like.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Renata was very excited to see a post from Marsha Diane Arnold talking about their shared book Waiting for Snow on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She is a big fan of the blog so it was a special treat. In it Marsha mentions that Renata had asked her to change the animal species of one of the characters, the Dormouse. It is interesting to read the emotional adjustment that Marsha had to make, which Renata super appreciated. (plus the replacement character turned out to be one of Renata's new favourite characters!)

Further to that, I thought it would be fun to discuss why Renata asked for the casting change? And it's an excellent segue to introducing Renata's next book, Dormouse Dreams written by Karma Wilson. By the title you can perhaps see Renata was worried about having the same character in two unrelated books in a row. In truth, Renata's characters are like her own little shakespearean acting troupe with the same cast of rogues appearing in different roles for each of her books. But because Dormouse, actually Dormice, are the stars of this newest book she was worried about overlap.

Interestingly this is not the only parallel between the books. Waiting for Snow's central theme is patience, and everyone involved in this project had to show a little patience in it's development process. Dormouse was actually started before Waiting for Snow. This delay worked out in one way because the two books also have a seasonal parallel. Waiting for Snow involves waiting for snow and the anticipation of the winter season. While Dormouse has a background narrative, that literally, is the transition from winter to spring, and the anticipation of spring.

I've noticed each of Renata's books have it's own unique character. Little Panda has a formal and classical feeling that reflects its asian art influences, The Quiet Book has a simplified and minimalist style that reflects the frankness of the narrative. Once Upon a Memory's art is more refined with an exactness to detail that works well with it's crisp poetic style of writing, and the art for Waiting for Snow has a playfulness that builds on the playful tone of the text. So what about Dormouse Dreams? Dreamy obviously, but I would say Karma Wilson's are some of lushest and loveliest words Renata has drawn from. The result is some of the most lush and lovely illustrations by  Renata.

The challenge with Dormouse Dreams was to parallel the real world and dream world and based on the reviews Renata has been able to accomplish this, something which can be potentially tricky to communicate to young viewers. You can check out one of the reviews below and very soon the book which comes out officially February 7th!

A review of Dormouse Dreams published by Disney/Hyperion, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Renata Liwska

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays

Hope you have a wonderful holidays and we wish you all the happiness, good cheer, and christmas music you can stand. From Renata and Mike.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Waiting for Inspiration

To celebrate the launch of Renata's new book Waiting for Snow written by Marsha Diane Arnold, I've  put together a video of Renata drawing in her sketchbook and talking about the book.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Waiting For Snow Blog Tour

Marsha Diane Arnold (The author of Waiting For Snow!) is doing a blog tour for their book starting tomorrow.

 Here are the locations:

Oct 31, Monday - Cynthia Alaniz, Librarian in Cute Shoes

Nov 1, Tuesday - Alyson Beecher, Kid Lit Frenzy

Nov 2, Wednesday - Dylan Teut, Reading with Mr. Tuet

Nov 3, Thursday - Mia Wengen, Pragmatic Mom

Nov 4, Friday - Margie Myers-Culver, Librarian's Quest

Nov 6, Sunday - Matthew Winner, The Best Book Ever (This Week)

Nov 7, Monday - Niki Ohs Barnes, Daydream Reader

Nov 8, Tuesday - Bridget and the Books

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Something in Common

Joy Ang, Kim Smith, Karen Klassen, Jeremy Tankard, Jillan Tamaki, Jacqui Lee, Laura Bifano, Renata Liwska, Julie Morstad, Dave Whamond, and Josh Holinaty

What do all these illustrators have in common?
1/ They're all amazing illustrators, of course.
2/ They're all alumni of the Alberta College of Art and Design.
(Some are even my former students, and I will take full credit for not 'totally' messing them up.)
3/ They all have super new books!

Here's a handy list of those books:

July 26, 2016

101 Reasons Why I Am Not Taking A Bath 
illustrated by Joy Ang and written by Stacey McAnulty

No one likes baths. What a waste of time! There’s so much more important stuff to do! Plus, baths are super dangerous for a number of reasons. You want me to list a few? Most household accidents happen in the bathroom. Scientific fact! A kid in Texas turned into a prune after taking a bath. Scientific fact! If you need more evidence, allow me to point you to an excellent book called 101 Reasons Why I'm Not Taking a Bath. It’s full of insightful and logical reasons why you should definitely not be subjected to this useless ritual.

Random House Preview
Kirkus Review

August 9, 2016

Hey, Coach!
illustrated by Kim Smith and written by Linda Ashman

GOAL! This sprightly rhyming picture book captures all the fun and energy of very young children having a blast on the soccer field. Over the course of their first season, the players progress from unsure newcomers to enthusiastic good sports who love the game—and even score!

Kid Lit Review

September 13, 2016

You Are Two 
illustrated by Karen Klassen and written by Sara O'Leary

The second in a three-book series,You Are Two is a charming read-aloud that addresses the baby directly. Supersaturated ink-and-wash illustrations play with pattern and perspective and lend a contemporary, artistic feel to the book. The diverse group of babies pictured comes to life on the page and adds to the text’s warmth and broad appeal.

Kirkus Starred Review
Seven Impossible Things review of You Are One

September 26, 2016

Hungry Bird 
written and illustrated by
Jeremy Tankard

The hilarious blue-feathered anti-hero who first starred in Jeremy Tankard's high-flying debut, Grumpy Bird, returns in another laugh out loud melodrama. For every child who has ever needed a snack right now, and for every parent who has had to cope with a hangry, fussy child, Hungry Bird is sure to satisfy.

Kirkus Review
Publishers Weekly Review
Quill and Quire Review

October 4, 2016

Gertie's Leap to Greatness 
illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Kate Beasley

Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she'll be leaving behind. There's just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.

Entertainment Weekly Excerpt
Kirkus Review
Publishers Weekly Review

October 11, 2016

I am Josephine 
illustrated by Jacqui Lee and written by Jan Thornhill

Playful, kid-friendly illustrations in vibrant colors paired with minimal text make this an easy introduction to the classification of living things. Endmatter goes into further detail about the unique characteristics of humans, mammals, animals, and living things.

Kirkus Review
49th Shelf Review
Publishers Weekly Review

October 11, 2016

In The Red Canoe
illustrated by Laura Bifano and written by Leslie A. Davidson

Fish and herons, turtles and dragonflies, beaver lodges and lily pads—a multitude of wonders enchant the child-narrator, her loving grandpa and any other nature lovers along for the ride in this tender, beautifully illustrated picture book. Baby ducklings ride their mama’s back; an osprey rises with a silver fish clutched in her talons; a loon cries in a star-flecked night. Rhythmic, rhyming quatrains carry the story forward in clean paddle strokes of evocative imagery.

November 1, 2016

Waiting For Snow
illustrated by Renata Liwska and written by Marsha Diane Arnold

Badger cannot wait one more minute for it to snow. When his friend Hedgehog explains that everything comes in its time, Badger is as unconvinced and impatient as ever. But Badger’s friends have a few tricks up their sleeve to try to get the snow’s attention and distract their pal in the meantime. In the end, Badger sees there’s no trick—only waiting—until at last, it’s time.

Kirkus Review
Publishers Weekly Review

November 18, 2016

written and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Every day is full of endless possibilities - especially TODAY! The simplest moment has the potential to become extraordinary in this beautiful book by Julie Morstad. From getting dressed, to having breakfast, to choosing ways to go, Today has a little something to delight everyone.

I couldn't found any reviews, but here are some reviews for her recent book When Green Becomes Tomatoes written by Julie Fogliano

NY Times Review
School Library Journal
Kirkus Review

December 27, 2016

illustrated by Dave Whamond and written by Robert Munsch

Ashley hates it when her mom puts braids in her hair. It looks nice when it's done, but she has to sit still for hours while her mom brushes and pulls and braids: back and forth, up and down, round and round. It takes ALLLL day, and Ashley never has time to do anything fun. That is, until Grandma comes for a visit, and they decide that it's time to braid MOM'S hair!

49th Shelf Review

Frank and Laverne is another book from earlier this year

National Reading Campaign
CM Magazine Review

March 15 2017

Liam Takes a Stand 
illustrated by Josh Holinaty and written by Troy Wilson

Lister and Lester are identical twins who do identical things. But their constant striving to outdo each other means their little brother, Liam, is always left out. When Lester’s Lemonade Universe and Lister’s Lemonade Multiverse open for business, there’s no role for Liam. He does odd jobs around the neighborhood while Lister and Lester’s competition spirals into overdrive and their lemonade stands get increasingly, outrageously out of hand.
This book is a ways off, but I'm super stoked to see it! And read it of course too.

And if your an ACAD grad that has a book coming out let me know, and sorry I missed you!