Saturday, January 30, 2010

Drawn to Read: The Klise Connection

The wait is over, this week's edition of "Drawn to Read" is here. As you hopefully know by now I am highlighting illustrators of picture and chapter books, that are creating exemplary work — adding style and life to current children's literature. I welcome your suggestions for future illustrators and comments on the ones I post. I have featured Elise Primavera, Jon J. Muth, Adam Rex and Mo Willems. Then last week we put the spotlight on some charity work illustrators, crafters and artists were doing for Haiti. Now we are back to children's book illustrations, in a big way, with the wonderful stylings of M. Sarah Klise.

Teamed with her sister Kate (above left) as the author, M. Sarah Klise(above right) has illustrated and published 13 books (two more on the way) for children 3 – 12 years old. She first came to my attention when I read the first of a series of middle reader books — "Regarding the Fountain." You may have children familiar with them: "Regarding the Fountain," Regarding the Sink," "Regarding the Trees," "Regarding the Bathroom," and "Regarding the Bees."

The "Regarding the..." series follows Mr. sam N.'s middle school class through several wacky adventures with famed fountain designer, Florence Waters, criminals, principals, weddings, and much more. The stories unfold in scrapbook 
style presentations of news articles, memos, e-mails, photos, postcards and notes. The execution of the tale means the illustrations are as much a part of the narrative as the words themselves. Sometimes, for that matter, the illustrations are the words. Aside from the cover art, everything is black and white line art. The somewhat primitive style ads movement and humor to the situational comedy. This style of storytelling is not always easy. It can create choppy flow and plot development can be lost. Such is not the case with this series. The Klise sisters create a seamless marriage of illustration and text. Visual and verbal puns abound.

M. Sarah and Kate Klise have penned and illustrated four other books using the scrapbook/journal style, they have seemingly perfected, to tell the story. "Letters from Camp," is a spoof on the classic summer camp story. It follows pairs of brothers and sisters who have been sent to Camp Harmony to learn how to get along. "Trial By Journal," is a comedic mystery that follows a 12-year-old girl as she serves on the jury for a murder trial. The "43 Old Cemetery Road" series is an extremely quirky tale of a ghost and her friends. All of these books are filled with visual and verbal puns and wordplay. Sarah's line art adds character to the storytelling and encourages children to follow along.

Next I came across a series of picture books, by the Klise sisters, that focus on Little Rabbit and his mother. These engaging tales of childhood are brought to life with richly colored acrylic illustrations that are layered with texture and detail. The Little Rabbit books include, "Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn," "Why Do You Cry: Not a Sob Story," "Little Rabbit and the Night Mare," and the soon to be released "Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth." Klise easily enters a young child's world with whimsy and wonder. She attacks childhood fears and challenges head on and softens the threats with warm illustrations that invite children to linger in each scene.

M. Sarah and Kate Klise have won just about every award and honor imaginable and deservedly so. Unfortunately the ALA has not deemed to honor them with a Caldecott or Newberry Award. It's only a matter of time though. 

Also, keep your eyes out for a new picture book by the Klise sisters due out in May — "Stand Straight, Ella Kate: the True Story of a Real Giant." If you are interested in learning more about this dynamic duo or their books visit and tell them Chapter One Book Reviews sent you.

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