Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #599: Featuring E. B. Goodale

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“Lula says: ‘This is hard work, Daddy.’ ‘It is,’ Daddy says.
‘But see what we’ve done already, even without Akaraka.’
‘Daddy!’ Lula laughs. ‘Akaraka can’t sweep.’ ‘Oh?’
‘She’s an imaginary girl.’”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Has anyone else noticed how many superb picture books former editor and now-author Richard Jackson has been penning? I tell you what, they have been some of my favorite picture book texts in the last couple of years. Last year’s This Beautiful Day, illustrated by Suzy Lee; last year’s All Ears, All Eyes, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson; and 2016’s In Plain Sight, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, are but a few examples. The legendary editor retired in 2005 and has taken up picture book-writing. Here is a great PW piece about him, published two years ago.

His newest picture book — A Kiss for Akaraka (Greenwillow), illustrated by E. B. Goodale — will be on shelves in late September. This is the story of a father and daughter (Lula) outdoors, raking leaves and discussing the girl’s imaginary friend, Akaraka. I just read the Kirkus review for the book, where the reviewer writes: “Questions about what we see and what we don’t see, what we know and what we don’t know ripple through this beguiling book like a playful October wind.” Ah, yes. Well-said.

The language here is vivid, lyrical:

“The leaves pile high. Lula and her daddy sweep and sweep — heaps and slithers of gold and red and every few sweeps, a purple.”

1706163832 797 Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Blog Archive 7 Imps“Heaps and slithers.” Slithers. I love this. In particular, I love how the dialogue flows in this story with the natural stops and starts (and interruptions) that occur as a parent and child talk — especially about something as magical as an imaginary friend in a child’s life: “Her name, Lula-bee. Where—?” the father starts to ask. “I dreamed it, Daddy,” she responds. “One time, she was just right here, next to me.” I also like that one momentarily hesitates when pronouncing “Akaraka.” (Well, at least I did. Which syllables, I wondered at first, do I stress?) It is evidently a word in the Igbo language of southwestern Nigeria. Having to pause, particularly with the child with whom you’re sharing this book, and let the word roll across your tongue? I think that is lovely, as it slows down the experience of the story and allows the reader to linger in it a while.

Goodale’s illustrations are equally enchanting. As the father calls for Akaraka (“Come along now, girl. We need your help here.”), he is always looking away from the imaginary girl’s presence in nature: Lula sees her outline in the Fall leaves flying through the air, in the wispy clouds, in a puddle on the ground. These are illustrations that breathe — they’re never too cluttered, never too hurried.

Here are some more images E. B. sent, as well as some notes about her sketches:

* * *

E. B.: The first sketch is my very first rendering of the characters, Lula and Pop. They changed slightly in their final versions (Lula is a bit younger in the book), but I think I got their essence captured in this quick sketch.


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This below is a thumbnail of the spread where Akaraka is a cloud in the sky. This was the first spread I completed for the book and was a guide for style and mood. This thumbnail cracks me up, because it is silly and tiny — but actually looks pretty similar to the final!


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(Click to enlarge)


The third sketch is a quick rendering of what I imagined Akaraka to look like if she were a real girl. It helped me to have a control profile and style for her image, since she takes on many forms throughout the book. I wanted her to be recognizable, even though she is always made up of her environment.


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* * *

Thanks to E. B.! Here are a couple more spreads from the book. …


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“‘Daddy, you silly …’ ‘Look Lula, there. I see her, I think! I was so hoping to see that girl loping her way to this shower of leaves — billowy, vast . . . as a cloud bank.’”
(Click to enlarge spread)


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” … ‘it’s naptime.’”
(Click to enlarge spread)


A KISS FOR AKARAKA. Text copyright © 2018 by Richard Jackson. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by E. B. Goodale. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York. Preliminary images used by permission of E. B. Goodale.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

This has been a busy week of just trying to keep up with work. My kicks, one to seven, are that my daughters had a good first week of school. (Also, we started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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