Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, August 5, 2013

Never Again...

I'll bet there's been at least one or two times in your life when you've been in a bit of a pickle.  To make the situation even worse, you know this state of affairs is entirely of your own doing.  And I will surmise even further, you have probably thought to yourself or maybe aloud, "if I get out of this mess, I'm never going to do this again."

Sometimes it's in the act of doing the simplest thing that the potential for disaster strikes.  It might even be eating your most-loved fruit in the whole world.  In The Watermelon Seed (Disney Hyperion Books) by debut picture book author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli, a crocodile goes from enjoying a moment of gourmet ecstasy to full-blown panic.

I love watermelon!

Crocodile is obsessed with watermelon.  It's his number one favorite food.  In fact even before he was out of the baby carriage stage, he craved the stuff.

No meal, morning, noon or night, is worth eating if watermelon is not served.  And for dessert?  Watermelon, of course.  Here it goes, one last delicious chunk for dessert.

OH! NO!  Crocodile swallowed a seed.  (Let's pause for a minute here.  I don't know about you but there have been times, admittedly when I was younger, despite every rational, intelligent thought, I wondered if a seed eaten by mistake was going to take root in my stomach.)  He yells out this latest development.  Close on the heels of the vocal exclamation, worry consumes our reptile friend.

He imagines it's growing already.  He envisions vines sprouting out his ears.  His body will change shape to accommodate the watermelon's size.  His skin might even change color.

His future is looking dim.  As a matter of fact his stomach REALLY does feel out of sorts. With gas to the rescue, a promise is made.  Will it be kept?

In this type of story, pacing is everything.  Every page turn, each word choice and sentence written must be carefully placed.  Greg Pizzoli has excelled in that respect.  For the most part a single phrase or word conveys the exact mood or thoughts of crocodile.  When he becomes more excited or wishes to convey his convictions to the reader, a string of short sentences appears.  These techniques, combined with his exaggerated emotional state, are sure to induce gales of laughter.

To create the illustrations for this book Pizzoli used three spot colors, red, green and black.  A process of inking with a brush pen, screen printing by hand and drawing with a tablet in Photoshop produced these singular, textured results. He introduces the main character, the favored fruit and the color palette on the dust jacket.  The book case looks like the skin of a watermelon and the opening and closing endpapers look like the juicy, seedy insides.

A thicker, matte finished paper highlights the pictures with backgrounds in either white, black or watermelon red; changing to reflect or accentuate a portion of the narrative.  Sometimes we see a portion of crocodile, his whole body or a close-up of his face.  The text may share the page with crocodile or have a page of its own.

Crocodile's facial expressions are pure fun; the eyes say it all.  Little details like the watermelon rinds on the ground around the baby carriage wheels add to the humor.  One of my favorite visuals is two pages of black.  On the left is a panicky looking crocodile in a spotlight circle of white.  On the right, in white, are the letters spelling Gulp.

 Author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli has delivered a delightful, delicious rendition of what happens when one crocodile swallows The Watermelon Seed.  Every aspect of this book, color selection, production, layout, design and text has been done with infinite care and it shows.  I can promise this will be a storytime favorite.

Be sure to visit Greg Pizzoli's blog via the link embedded in his name above. He gives readers a very thorough and interesting view of the process in making this book.  Head over to Design of the Picture Book for an interview with Greg Pizzoli by Carter Higgins about this title.  Here is a link to an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast which contains lots of artwork.  Enjoy the book trailer below.

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