One of my favorite things about being on Tumblr is the discovery of so many awesome illustrators on almost a daily basis. It never ceases to amaze me just how much artistic talent and potential exists for picturebook illustration here. Twice now, I’ve been so impressed with the work of a certain artist that when they’ve announced the release of their picturebook, I’ve ordered it without knowing much about it. I never do that with other books. But there’s a certain kind of pleasure in discovering someone few others know about and supporting their endeavors.
I can’t remember when I first saw the cover art for Briana Mercedes Weidner’s Bird Boy, but I loved the style of it so much, I immediately followed her and kept a close eye on its progress. It reminded me, I think, of Kid Icarus on the NES, a videogame I loved growing up. When the announcement came of the book’s release, I ordered it that day, based on the cover art alone.
When it came I wasn’t disappointed. The story is a little slight, a consequence of its shorter than normal length. It also suffers from the tired trope of “Be unique!” but it does so with humor and without overtly trying to teach a lesson, which would’ve been a dealbreaker.
The real draw of the book is the art. I’ve read it to Imogen at least a dozen times now (the shorter length is perfect for her—she usually doesn’t sit still for the length of a typical picturebook and I feel like most board books end the moment they begin). The art, especially the character designs and their expressions, grows on me more each time, and Imogen seems as captivated by it as I am. I can’t wait to see what Weidner does next. I hope she continues to illustrate for children, because her talent for it is evident.
I knew immediately Owen Gent’s picturebook wouldn’t be something Imogen could appreciate for a long time. But I knew I would appreciate it and someday she would too. So I ordered Molly Bawn as soon as it was announced. I even bugged the artist about it because I couldn’t figure out where to order it from.
At first I was disappointed by its size—it’s quite small and feels almost fragile—but the moment I opened it up, I was entranced. Gent avoids any pitfalls in the story by choosing a traditional Irish folk ballad, so the text is, of course, beautiful.
The art is intensely beautiful as well and appropriately matches the tragic subject matter, both in color and style. I wish the text and pictures felt more like a cohesive whole. Both could stand equally well on their own. But that’s hardly a criticism. Like I said, this book isn’t for Imogen yet. I haven’t read it to her and probably won’t for a few years. It has the feel of an art object, something I want to keep protected and only read every once in a while.
Gent included the print below with the book, as well as a short personalized note, two things that added value to my purchase.
These two books are only the beginning. I’m always on the lookout for more picturebooks on Tumblr, and, chances are, if you’ve put a lot of love and effort into the creation of a book (something clearly evident in even a single illustration, and even more so in the prose), I’ll order it and read your book with my little one. I may even write a review and/or try to get the word out about it. So, please, picturebook artists and writers, if you’re working on a book, tag it in the “children’s books” or “picture books” tags. I check those constantly and I follow just about anyone who posts there regularly.
If you want to follow these two artists (and you should) you can find them at:
Follow them. Consider buying their work. It’s worth it.
Let’s make Tumblr a place where picturebook artists and those interested in the artform can flourish.