Friday, October 19, 2007

Robert's Snow--Jeff Newman

We are happy to host Jeff Newman's snowflake on our blog today!
Jeff's snowflake is called "The Christmas Hair." This is one of the snowflakes that will be auctioned off as part of the third auction.

If you have not taken time to read about the auction, please visit the site where you can see the snowflakes on display. You may have to visit again later this month to see all of the snowflakes, but MOST of there are so many on display right now that you will want to visit several times. They are all gorgeous! Another amazing reminder about how lucky we are to be part of this world of literacy and books.

Now back to Jeff Newman. I am a HUGE fan of Jeff Newman. I can read the book HIPPO! NO, RHINO every day and laugh every time. It is a great book told almost completely with the illustrations. It is clear from this book that Jeff Newman is quite brilliant and talented and that he has a great sense of humor.

We were able to ask him a few questions about his work and his snowflake project.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for Hippo! No, Rhino. Where did the idea come from?
Hippo! was based on a real incident I witnessed at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. I was sketching the rhinoceroses one morning (the zoo was only a few blocks away from my apartment), when a woman approached their enclosure, and waved her family over to look at the “hippopotamuses”. A few minutes later, another person did and said the exact same thing, even though there was a prominent sign indicating what type of animals these were. The rhinos didn’t seem to care, but I started to wonder what would happen if they did. I wrote down three words next to one of my drawings:

That was in 2004. Two years later, Hippo! was published. Of course, some stuff happened in between, too.

What new projects are you working on?
I’m currently working on my next picture book, The Boys, with Simon & Schuster. It’s about a kid who’s kind of shy, and has a hard time working up the nerve to join a weekly baseball game with a group of boys his own age. As with Hippo!, the story is told primarily through pictures, but unlike Hippo!, there’s a significant amount of plot. On top of that, the characters’ motivations and emotions are more subtle, and therefore more difficult to express in a way that’s easily understood. It’s been very challenging trying to convey all of this pictorially, but so far, I think it’s going well.
After The Boys is finished (it’ll be released in Summer 2009!), I’ll be starting on my fourth book (also with Simon & Schuster), but I can’t say for sure what it will be, yet. I’ve got a bunch of different ideas in various stages of completion. We’ll see which one bubbles up first. I can almost positively guarantee that whatever it is, it will be out before 2027.

Tell us a bit about your blog and website--what will readers find there?
My website has a selection of my illustration work, mixed in with some personal pieces. It’s definitely in need of an update, though. There’s an “animation” page with a little, placeholder pencil-guy banging a drum. It’s been there for three years. I’m sure anyone who’s a regular visitor to the site has long since given up on the promise that the page is “coming soon”, and they’re probably right to do so.
On the other hand, I update my blog at least once a week with comics, short stories, drawings, the occasional giveaway, and, on very odd days, a legitimate account of events in my personal life. It’s mostly family-friendly, but it borders on blue, sometimes.

Tell us a bit about your experience designing your snowflake--the process, why you decided to do it, how you came up with the design, etc.
I had a few ideas for my snowflake illustration, inspired by winter activities I enjoyed as a kid (sledding and making snow angels, for example), but I ultimately settled on re-doing a picture of a boy with a Christmas tree-styled ‘do from one of my old sketchbooks. I’ve got this weird thing about hair. A lot of my characters, even the animals, seem to feature some kind of distinct hairstyle. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with hair, but it’s something I take notice of more and more as I get older (and, maybe not coincidentally, as I continue down the slow road to baldness). Anyway, it just seemed like a funny concept, and the design of it, particularly the shape of the tree, was such that it fit nicely into the angular snowflake pattern.

As to how I became involved in the project, I first read about Robert’s Snow on the Blue Rose Girls blog shortly after last year’s snowflakes had already been auctioned off. So, I was really looking forward to volunteering this year. It’s been incredibly fulfilling to be able to do what I love and contribute to a great cause at the same time.

We were thrilled to host Jeff Newman's snowflake and to learn more about one of our favorite illustrators!


  1. Okay, THIS snowflake? Is the one I've wanted. It has my hair.

    And I love the book, too! Such a great interview, thank you!

  2. The snowflake is hil-hairious, and his book looks great, too, but what I really want is that sketch and the "three words." I hope he has that framed in his studio or something.

  3. Hi Ladies!
    I absolutely loves this snowflake. It's so whimsical. Great interview, by the way. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Love his whimsical style. Very unique snowflake. Thanks for the lovely feature :)!

  5. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Aw, man. Just...just. Wow. Look at that snowflake. I love love love me some Jeff Newman. I also adore Hippo! No, Rhino, and I can't wait to see what he brings us next. Of course, I'd like to read his blog every day, too, but do I? Nope. I need to fix that. I think he's a distinctive new talent in children's lit. Woot!

    I was really looking forward to reading this feature, and you all really delivered (as I knew you would). Thanks!

  6. Man, just the title of that snowflake made me laugh! People respond to hairstyles. In fact, my featured RS illustrator (Tue. Oct 18) is getting more replies about her hair than her art. :)

    Love the "three words" story. Sara, I'll arm-wrestle you for the sketch! OK, maybe draw straws instead.

    Looks like I'll need to add one more blog to my daily reads.

    Thanks for the great post Mary!

  7. Thanks for stopping by, Gail (and everyone)! It's Franki's post, not mine! I'm doing Matt Phelan in a couple of weeks. (And that art school hair deserves notice!!!)

  8. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Well, then, YAY, FRANKI!


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