December 3, 2008

Drawing Crickets

When I was growing up, we had a pretty big stack of 1970s-1990s Cricket magazines that I would periodically work my way through - sometimes just looking at the pictures, other times reading them cover to cover. Many years later, I was very surprised to discover that my favorite childhood illustrator, Trina Schart Hyman, was the art director of Cricket from it's beginning in 1973 until 1979 (she illustrated the first cover!). She continued contributing to the magazine until she passed away in 2004.

Trina Schart Hyman illustrated more than 150 books in her career. She received Caldecott Honors in 1984 for Little Red Riding Hood, in 1990 for Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and in 2000 for A Child's Calendar. In 1985, she received a Caldecott Award (the most prestigious children's book award) for Saint George and the Dragon.


December 2, 2008

Visit to Cedar Rapids

Alright, this is old news, but this past summer I went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to visit my family and celebrate my Gramma's 90th birthday. Here's my Gram, Helen Wehby, on her big day with my sister Erin (always posed, tanned and up front), my three cousins (Lori, Lisa & Lynne) and me.

Most of my mom's side of the family is from Cedar Rapids - and my family lived there when I was young. Mom, Erin and I were lucky enough to spend some time in Cedar Rapids and explore some of my old haunts, like Bever Park.

I even visited my old school - I was a student of Mrs. Semeroth's second grade class at Erskine Elementary school in 1979. The school seemed a lot shorter than I remembered it.

- MR

Welcome to the Library

Our studio space is really coming together. Our new library actually holds all of our books. It's a great resource for pop-up and picture books, both past and present.

Matthew and Robert have amassed an impressive collection of reference books, with subjects ranging from Amphibians to Ziggurats. When we need to look at the anatomy of a lion to make a pop-up of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia or learn about the origins of Hamadryads for EM: Fairies and Magical Creatures, that's where we look!

The most important feature of the library, however, is to house our massive Simpsons figure collection. The citizens of Springfield have lived on top of our shelves for as long as I have worked at the studio - they like it there!

The only thing missing is a nice beanbag chair to tie the room together and provide a good place to take a brake with a book. There's a lot of options, but we have yet to find something that fits with the studio's particular aesthetic. Matthew may like at least one of these for sure!

- Simon

I Wanna Ghana Book!

I had the good fortune to see a great book arts show in New York recently.  In the summer of 2005 a wonderful pop-up book artist from Chicago named Shawn Sheehy traveled to Ghana to help create a paper mill at the Abba House Cultural Center in Accra.  Since that time the good people at Abba House have been teaching local children how to create handmade paper from plants and materials found in the area.  Once the paper is finished, it is made into cards, Coptic bound journals, personal storybooks, ornaments and other paper creations.

I was able to see many of these works in the Project Room at the Phoenix Gallery in Manhattan where handmade books and the cards stood on pedestals before large photos of the young kids engaged in making the paper.  In one corner of the galler y stood a large tree adorned with colorful paper ornaments folded in an accordion-like fashion.  After speaking with Linda Handler, the lovely director of the non-profit center for the arts, I learned that all the proceeds from the show went to the school expenses for the budding Ghanaian artists.  Well I was sold!  In short order, I had all my holiday shopping complete, plus Linda gave me literature on the Abba House and Cross Cultural Collaborative so that their inspiring story can accompany the wonderful works of art.

To see slideshows of the paper mill at the Abba House check out:

To keep tabs on Shawn, see the newly launched website at:

To learn more about the Phoenix Gallery go to: