My Life With Gracie…New Ways Of Looking At The World

A New Way Of Looking At The World

Recently I’ve used some weekend time to experiment with other styles of illustration. This has mainly been driven the realization that any lengthy illustrated book, like a novel, would likely be quite expensive with full-color illustrations. Using black-and-white illustrations only would seem to be the best alternative.

But even so, as you can see in today’s main illustration above, I can’t get away from having at least some color! Even what appears to be black-and-white is actually a warm black-and-white.

When I put a filter over this illustration to make it truly black-and-white as below, it feels to me like some of the “life” went out of the illustration. See what I mean?

For further comparison, below are two different styles of the same basic illustration. On the left is what you would normally see here on “My Life With Gracie.” On the right is a different way of looking at the world, at least the world of my chickens.

Personally, I’m unsure which I prefer. (My chickens like the scratchy texture, but then scratching around is a good part of their day!) Most likely it will depend on the type of story and intended audience.

For me, one thing that really stands out as a major difference is the eyes. On the left, they seem blank and unblinking. On the right, they seem more alive.

Anyway, just wanted to share with everyone what I’ve been thinking about and working on.

Also even though we have finished our little series on “Gracie’s Summer Reading List,” Amelia spotted a book that we didn’t get to read yet. The title? “Amelia Bedilia Unleashed.” If that wasn’t enough to get her attention, the cover also has shiny glitter on it. Chickens love shiny things like glitter.

Thanks for looking and reading!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Gracie’s Summer Reading List…“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

This was our “vacation book” while taking time away from adding new stories and illustrations to “My Life With Gracie.” It is a perfect book for a vacation, even if it is only in your own backyard.

At first, my chickens didn’t realize this was a book. They had never seen a book this thick. They thought it was just something to stand on. As you may know, chickens like to stand on things, and the first thing my chickens ever stood on top of was a brick. This book is as thick as a brick. I’m not kidding. It is over two inches thick.

Don’t let the thickness fool you. This is not “War and Peace” or “Ulysses” for children. There are many pages with only pictures, and parts of the story are told only through pictures. Some pages are full of text, but others have only a short paragraph surrounded by white space. These all help with pacing. This is a brilliant combination of several book types: novel, picture book, and animated flip book.

While it is a substantial book, it is also a delightful book to read and to treasure. As you can see on the cover, it won a Caldecott medal which is intended for children’s picture books. This was the first novel to ever win a Caldecott medal because of its delightful pencil illustrations drawn by the author. (You can see part of one on the book jacket’s spine.)

“My favorite thing about this book is how the setting is Paris where they dance ballet. There are French words in this book too. All important ballet words are in French. Even though there wasn’t any dancing in this book, I did like the descriptions of the train station and the streets of Paris. My dream is to one day dance in the streets of Paris. This book is mostly about dreams, and it was written for dreamers. You may not know this, but I am a dreamer.” – Gracie

“I felt really sorry for the main character, Hugo. He lived all alone in the walls of a train station and he had no one to take care of him or cook for him. Sometimes he stole croissants to eat. If I knew how to bake croissants, I would make some for him. They do a lot of baking in France. If Gracie and I ever get to visit France, she will study ballet dancing and I will study baking. They do fun things like that in France all the time. I do wish there had been some birds in this story though. Did you know that a chicken, a rooster, is the national bird of France? I do hope we can visit France some day.” – Bessie

“Hugo was very clever, just like me. He collects things and put them together to make clocks and toys. (I collect scraps of fabric and paper and other things. I put them together and make hats.) Hugo even fixed a mechanical man that drew a picture! Most people don’t realize it, but chickens are fascinated by mechanical things. We study them and watch them move and try to figure them out. Isabelle was Hugo’s friend and she liked secrets, just like me. – Pearl

“The wonderful drawings were my favorite part of this book! They helped tell the story and helped me feel like I was right there in the story. I draw with chalk, and I paint with watercolors. The pictures in this book were drawn with pencil on watercolor paper. I will have to try that. This book was also about making movies. I think I might like to see a movie some day. Movies are pictures that move, and they must be quite remarkable if they can do that all by themselves.” – Emily

“Even though this was a book mostly about Hugo, things would have never worked out without Isabelle. She was smart. She was strong too, but also pretty. She read a lot of books. And some books she would read over and over again. I’m not sure I could do that much reading because there are so many real-life adventures I want to have instead, but I do want to read this book again. Anyway, Isabelle is a lot like me, except she reads words and I only read pictures.” – Amelia

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is suitable for ages 8 to 12 and is available through Barnes and Noble. The regular price is $24.99, however Barnes & Noble is offering it for considerably less. (Currently it is $19.99.) Summertime discount codes offer additional savings.

“Hugo” is the film adaptation of this novel, and like the book, it is also delightful and encourages dreamers of all ages.

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!

Gracie’s Summer Reading List…“We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” by Ryan T. Higgins

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

When I think about the time spent reading our last book, A Wrinkle In Time, to my chickens, I believe I’ve spent just as much time reading and rereading this short picture book to them. I don’t mind though because this book is delightful. It makes me say, “I wish I had written that!”

Penelope is a young dinosaur who goes to school for the first time. She is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, known as great hunters. All of my chickens could relate to that because they are all excellent worm and bug hunters. They could not relate to school because even though we live only three blocks from an elementary school, chickens are not allowed to be students.

“Penelope is a very fortunate girl to be able to go to school. I like how she has problems just like everyone else. It’s nice how she has her own bedroom. Sometimes I wonder what that would be like. She looks really cute in her pink overalls too.” – Gracie

“I liked Penelope’s teacher. She was very accepting and fair towards Penelope, even when she ate all of her classmates. Oops! I probably shouldn’t have said that. I don’t want to give the story away. Walter was hilarious! Oops! There I go again!” – Bessie

“I would really like to have a backpack just like Penelope’s. It has ponies on it. Who doesn’t like ponies? But seriously, I can really understand how hard she tried to fit in and stay out of trouble. I would be her friend for sure. – Pearl

“One of my favorite parts was when Penelope got to do finger painting with her class. I would like to do that even though I don’t have fingers. Is there such a thing as feather painting? She had a hard time making friends even though she was the biggest in her class. I thought that was interesting because I had a hard time making friends too and I’m the smallest.” – Emily

“To be honest, I thought this was a deeply philosophical book which challenged my moral beliefs. It made me ponder the possibility of being the only chicken in a classroom filled with worms. Would my teacher tell me, ‘We don’t eat our classmates’? And if so, what would I do? Penelope definitely faced a real dilemma.” – Amelia

“We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” is suitable for ages 3 to  5, but there are plenty of chuckles for every age group. This picture book  is available through Barnes and Noble. The regular price is $17.99, however Barnes & Noble is offering it for less. Summertime discount codes offer additional savings.

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!