Monthly Archives: July 2012

Why We Broke Up

Last night I finished reading Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (also known as Lemony Snicket) and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Isn’t the cover fantastic?

The story is about a young couple who fall in love despite their differences- he is a basketball star and she is an artsy film buff. But it ends in heartbreak as high school relationships often do. The ensuing narrative is a letter from Min to her ex explaining the break up with a series of relationshipy artifacts that she is now returning to his doorstep in this box:

Kalman illustrates each artifact as the story unfolds- a thrift store coat, a ticket stub, a couple of bottle caps, and the result is beautiful in a minimally poignant way. I’ve admired her artwork for a long time- if you haven’t already seen them, her illustrations for The Elements of Style are amazingly strange and lovely.

Aside from the illustrations, my favorite thing about the book was the back cover, which featured little break up stories from various kid lit author stars.

I was heartbroken when my boyfriend announced he was moving to Chicago without me. But, oh yeah, I could keep his guitar amp. Thanks. – Sara Shepard

When my heart was broken I was fifteen, I listened to Lou Reed’s Berlin over and over and walked around in the rain while my friends followed me looking worried and imploring me not to do anything stupid. Well, stupider than walking around in the rain, anyway. – Neil Gaiman

I knew I had to break up with Ann Rosenberg after she chose a teal dress for the prom. I had never heard of teal. Also, I was gay. – Brian Selznick

Very clever, but what else can you expect from Lemony Snicket?


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the owl and the pussycat

I’ve been fascinated with this poem by Edward Lear lately. When I consulted with Lucy Ruth Cummins of Simon and Schuster in April, she suggested it would be a good match for my illustrations. And the imagery and the nonsensical story did indeed strike a chord. Sailing away in a pea green boat, eating mince and slices of quince, dancing on the sand by the light of the moon… perfect!

Here are some initial drawings for a dummy book:


A bunch of other sketches didn’t quite make it to this stage. The other day I had drawn the cat leaning over the side of the boat and lazily trailing her paw in the water. At least that’s what I’d wanted to convey. This conversation made me rethink it a bit:

Me: Can you tell what’s happening in this drawing?

Chris: Not really.

Me: Her paw is in the water.

Chris: Oh. Maybe they should have a sail or some oars instead.

Me: Instead?

Chris: That’s not so nice of the owl to make her paddle the whole way with her paws.


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