(ink and watercolor on paper mounted to flake)
Mark your calendar for the third auction of the Robert's Snow: For Cancer's Cure fundraiser at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, December 3-7, so you can bid on Matt Phelan's snowflake.
Look at that sly little grin, those arched eyebrows just daring you to come within range of that perfectly formed snowball. What spirit! What spunk!
Come to think of it, she reminds me a bit of Matt Phelan himself! When you look at Matt's work, you'll see that he has not lost touch with his inner air guitarist/trampoline jumper/yodeler/Tarzan.
In Matt's interview with 1000 Times No, a blog/podcast that explores the No's in life, I learned that Matt went through quite a few No's before he became an illustrator of children's books. His most notable No was the time he learned that the optioned screenplay he had quit his job to write would never be made into a movie. However, all of Matt's work in theater developed his skills of interpretation, which he has applied to illustration. After getting the screenplay no, he joined SCBWI and risked a portfolio review. Turned out to be the best $30.00 he ever spent, because it led to his first illustrating job!
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs
written by Betty G. Birney
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2005).
Three more followed in 2006:
The New Girl…and Me
written by Jacqui Robbins
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2006)
The Higher Power of Lucky
written by Susan Patron
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2006)
written by Liz Wu
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006)
Matt's 2007 books are:
Floridius Bloom and the Planet of Gloom
written by Lorijo Metz
(Dial Press, 2007)
A Box Full of Kittens
written by Sonia Manzano
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2007)
Where I Live
written by Eileen Spinelli
(Dial Press, 2007)
Very Hairy Bear
written by Alice Schertle
(Harcourt Children’s Books, 2007)
On Matt's website, you will learn that he is tickled to be able to say, "Now available in specially marked boxes of Cheerios is a cute-as-a-button miniature edition of The New Girl...and Me! The free book (one of five) is all part of Cheerios' very cool Spoonful of Stories program." You can also find some gorgeous Matt Phelan Original Wallpaper for your computer screen, and take a tour of his studio.
But here's what you've really been waiting for, my interview with Matt:
How and why did you get involved with the Robert's Snow project?
I first heard of the project two years ago and thought it was a fantastic idea. When the call for new snowflakes came up on the Blue Rose Girls blog this year, I wrote to Grace immediately and asked if I could participate.
What are some other children's book illustrators whose work you especially admire?
I'm a huge fan of children's books, so my list is pretty long. Emily Gravett, Brian Floca, and Alexandra Boiger are just a few current faves off the top of my head. Angela Barrett's recent version of Beauty and the Beast is stunning. David Small is not only one of our finest draftsmen, he is an absolute master of pacing. From the golden age, I have to put Ernest Shepard at the top of my list.
Did you have any sense when you were illustrating The Higher Power of Lucky that it might be Newbery material? Any idea that there would be the big brouhaha over the anatomical vocabulary?
I knew it was a wonderful book but it didn't occur to me to consider its award potential. To be honest, I wasn't sure an illustrated novel was even eligible. Although I realized that I had never read the word scrotum in a novel before, I had no idea it would cause a controversy. How naive.
Can you tell us anything about your top secret mission in Maine? (see sketches in recent posts on his blog)
Well heck, it wouldn't be much of a secret if I cracked the first time someone asked about it. No, I will say absolutely nothing. Except that the mission was for a book I'm writing. And the subject is somewhat nautical. But really, that's it. Stop your clever interrogation tricks!
Okay. No more clever interrogation. On to the silly stuff! Beer, wine, or sparkling water?
Beer. But only microbrewed beer, preferably from the Philadelphia area which includes some of the best breweries in the world.
Cake, pie, or creme brulee?
Creme brulee, because making it involves a tiny blow torch. It's the dessert of welders.
Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, or Oklahoma?
I'll have to pick Oklahoma because sometimes I whisper the phrase "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" as a mantra. It's very soothing.
Here's what ELSE you've been waiting for: a "raffle doodle" being offered by Matt to one lucky reader of this Robert's Snow feature. Just leave a comment, and at the end of the week, I'll put all of the commenters' names in a hat and we'll draw for a winner! This is the original sketch that you might win:
Let the auction fun begin! May Robert's Snow be a giant blizzard of bidding that shuts down schools for five days. When it stops snowing, let's meet at the park for a snowball fight. I get to be "She Never Misses," and I personally want to throw the snowball (maybe with a rock or piece of ice in the center -- he doesn't play fair, so why should I) that hits Cancer right between the eyes so that snow goes behind his glasses and he's blinded, he gets a bloody nose, and goes running to mommy. Take THAT, you creep, for the year of hell you gave me! And THAT for all of my friends you've pelted...especially the ones you've taken out of the game way too early.