Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Matt Faulker and a Big-Headed Kid

If you haven't seen Matt Faulkner’s new graphic novel, Gaijin:  American Prisoner of War yet, you should.  I’ve long admired his consummate draftsmanship and fluid use of color.  But I’m reading Gaijin now, and partially because of the virtuosity of the word/picture storytelling and partially because of the subject matter (Japanese-American internment camps during WWII), this book is hitting me the way Art Spiegelman’s Maus did when I first saw it, way back when.  The palette of warm browns and reds here, with an occasional splash of blue, is rich and welcoming, and pulls you right in.  As George Takei writes, in a blurb on the book’s jacket, Powerful . . . Matt Faulkner tells his tale with fierce graphics and moving delicacy.”  And if the man who played Sulu likes it, well . . .

Today, Matt Faulkner answers the Midweek Musings question:  Who is one of your favorite children’s literature characters, and why?

Matt Faulkner:  I gotta be honest, I wasn’t a big reader as a kid. It wasn’t till I ventured into that rough patch some call middle school that I started to appreciate the fantastic gift that reading books became for me. But prior to that, I was first and foremost a guy who dug cartoons. One of my favorite characters was “Charlie Brown.”  Now, I also have to admit that I loved Charlie first and foremost because of his wonderful animated shows on t.v.  I recall nearly losing my mind when the t.v. guide reported in 1968 (I was 7 at the time) that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” would be running back to back in early December. Of course, it didn’t hurt that “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” would be the chaser for these gems at 8 pm. I’m still recovering from the cartoon bliss I experienced that evening.

With that said, I want it also to be known that I still have a box of well-worn “Charlie Brown” books I gathered since the age of 5 or 6 and I also count my first copy of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” as a prized possession in my kid’s book collection. And, of course, I own all three animations— “Charlie Brown,”  “Grinch” and “Rudolph."
"Charlie Brown and the Alphabet"
by Matt Faulkner, 1st grade, 1967
So, you see, I consider Charlie Brown to be my first literary love. Why Charlie Brown? Fact is—I just dug him. I dug the way he was drawn by Mr. Schulz. I dug the zig zag design on his shirt. I dug his dog. I dug his round head, which I could never seem to make as perfectly round when I was drawing him. I dug his kite getting stuck in the tree and the way Charlie would talk to the tree as it devoured his kite. And I got the “why” of Charlie’s point of view, too. I saw that life had a way of dumping far too many lemons on him, yet, he kept at it. And, I loved how he kept himself, too, when everyone else wanted him to be someone else. And, I’m a little ashamed to say that, I also loved laughing at the never ending troubles which visited upon Charlie. I remember howling with laughter at the frames that depicted Charlie’s fountain pen dumping ink onto his book report, his desk, Snoopy and himself. Hilarious! In hind sight, I guess I'd say that it was his Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin quality that drew me to him. Or perhaps it was the Hokusai-esque economy of line that inspired me to copy and redraw Charlie, over and over again. 

Of course, I wasn’t aware of these reasons at the time. Back then, I just loved him.


Award winning children's book author and illustrator Matt Faulkner has over 35 illustrated books to his credit since he began writing and illustrating them in 1985. He enjoys working on projects of both historical and fantastical natures (and he concentrates very hard not to get them confused). His author/illustrated book A Taste of Colored Water (Simon and Schuster) was recently chosen by the School Library Journal as a significant book for sharing concepts of diversity with kids. And the San Francisco Chronicle calls his recently released graphic novel, “Gaijin: American Prisoner of War” (Disney/Hyperion) “superb!”

 Matt is married to author, national speaker on early literacy and librarian Kris Remenar and lives with their children in the lower right hand corner of Michigan. 

Learn more about Matt and his work here:

Matt’s upcoming books, both 2015:

•  Groundhogs Dilemma by Kris Remenar (Charlesbridge)
A fun tale that shares the travails of Groundhog as he works to tell it like it is and make his friends happy!
•  Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport (Disney/Hyperion)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth- just a few of the American Super Heroes you’ll read about who fought for the vote for women and so much more in this dramatic book!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Midweek Musing— Elizabeth O. Dulemba and Someone Who Won't Take "No" for an Answer

My guest for Midweek Musings this week is Elizabeth O. Dulemba, author and/or illustrator of many picture books for children.  She has just published her debut novel, a historical fiction mid-grade book, A Bird on Water Street.  

Response to the book has been terrific—it has already picked up three awards:  a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Okra Pick, a Gold Mom's Choice Award, and it is THE 2014 National Book Festival featured title for Georgia!  

Elizabeth, who goes by e, has generously offered one signed and dedicated copy of A Bird on Water Street as a giveaway prize in connection with her Midweek Musing here.  You can enter the giveaway and read more about e after her answer.

BL:  So, e, welcome to Getting Into Character.  Who would you describe as your favorite character in childrens literature?

e:  Gosh—its hard to choose just one character that I love the most in childrens lit! And what an interesting exercise you set me upon. In looking through my picture book collection (I limited my choice to one genre), I realized most picture books are story-based rather than character-based. 

Of course, the ones that are character based are especially strong and we all heard of them: Skippyjon Jones, Pigeon, Olivia, Fancy Nancy, Mrs. Biddlebox. In fact, oftentimes, the books with strong characters are named after the characters. That's an interesting thing to keep in mind as I write. Hm! 

But you asked me to choose just one, which is a nearly impossible task. So Ill talk about one that I'm enchanted by right now

That would be Lucy from Peter Browns YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND. Lucy sets out with a goal, and nothing will get in her way. In trying to make a friend, she forces the matter, making for some extremely awkward situations instead. Its when she finally stops trying so hard that luck comes her way in the form of a friendly flamingo. 

I can so relate to Lucy. Ive always been goal-oriented and ambitious. Im a go-getter, I make things happen! And it works for me. But I've always thought it would be nice to be the sort of person who sits back and lets things come to them. I consider those to be the cool kids. I am not cool. I worry—what if they never come!? Im not one to wait. Its why I work as hard as I do and reach out as much as I do. I dont have any regrets, as I think my way is a valid approach to life. But it is nice when Flamingos surprise me sometimes, like with Lucy. I get her.

BL: Ive sometimes wished I had Lucys unbridled enthusiasm myself.  She's a real force of nature!  Thanks for stopping by, e.


When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing?
A Bird on Water Street is a coming of age story about Jack, the son of a miner growing up in a Southern Appalachian town environmentally devastated by a century of poor copper-mining practices. After a tragic accident and a massive company layoff, the miners go on strike. When nature begins to flourish as a result, Jack fights to protect it, but the cost could be the ruin of everything he loves.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning childrens book author/illustrator with two dozen titles to her credit. She is Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI Southern region, a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, and a Visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University in the MFA in Childrens Book Writing and Illustrating program. A BIRD ON WATER STREET is her first novel (Spring 2014, Little Pickle Press). Learn more at