August in New York City – “Dogs pant. Hydrants are open. Women carry umbrellas for the shade.” Those words were written over twenty years ago during another hot, sticky New York summer and come from my very first picture book, One Hot Summer Day – now in print for …
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• Junior Library Guild Selection 1995 It is summer and it is HOT. Dogs pant. Women carry umbrellas for the shade. But the running, dancing narrator is busy. Drawing. Teasing her shadow. Eating Popsicles. Here is a perfect book for all seasons: If you are …
BELOW is now available as a print-on-demand paperback!
Last fall, I got the news that one of my favorite books, BELOW, was going out of print. I’ve had other books go out of print before and I have always felt disappointed, but rarely surprised. This time I was surprised. BELOW had been named an ALA Notable book and a Junior Library Guild selection. Sales were never big, but steady, and the book was always a hit when I read it aloud to school groups. I was also in the midst of facilitating a big order for a school visit when I learned that no reprints were forthcoming.
My editor encouraged me to look into keeping the book available through print-on-demand services – she worked with other authors who were doing so. I knew self publishing was getting easier and better. I did some searching for a service that offered good quality and reasonable pricing. Soon, I was ready to take action. The original art was finished digitally, so there was no need to scan the existing book as is sometimes done with reprints. I did need to digitally rebuild the layouts and the type, but overall it was pretty simple to create new production files for print. The paperback looks great. Good color, crisp type and very much like the hardcover original.
Buy a copy or two!!
• Bank Street Children’s Book Committee – Building Blocks Selection for Children Five & Under Playground songs and classroom songs, silly songs and sweet songs, wake–up songs and bedtime songs… Nina Crews brings her energetic style of illustration to this collection of thirty-four perennial favorites. …
• ALA Notable Book 2005• Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts (NCTE)• Texas Library Association 2×2 Reading List 2005• New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2004• CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Council) Choice 2004• Parenting Magazine Books of the Year 2004 …
A couple of reviewers have commented (very nicely) on the naturalism of my photographs of children. Many of my favorite photographers like Helen Levitt, Andre Kertesz and Roy DeCarava created images that capture the beauty of unexpected and unguarded moments. But this, like all things, does require some effort. In my case I use an extra tool when things don’t quite go my way, Photoshop.
When I planned the image I wanted for “Do Your Ears Hang Low” I imagined a group of kids hamming it up in front of a shop window filled with mirrors. There is a fantastic glass shop on Fifth Avenue just off of Bergen Street in Park Slope perfect for my needs, I thought. (If you are ever nearby you should go inside – it is beautifully grungy with old wooden shelves holding large pieces of glass.)
I contacted my cast – kids I knew through my nephews, Jack and Gus, and the son of a good friend of mine. We picked a date that worked for everyone – Yom Kippur. Public school was closed and all of the kids could make it. And when I arrived at the location just before four kids, plus accompanying adults and siblings – I found the unexpected. The glass shop was closed. Not for the holiday, it is always closed on Monday. It hadn’t occurred to me to check.
I scrambled around looking for likely reflective storefronts and had the kids try out one spot. But it wasn’t working. The glass was dark and the kids couldn’t really see themselves. They seemed self-conscious and were having a hard time understanding what I needed. The background looked too busy. I was having a hard time remembering the words to the song.
So we left. I thought that maybe I could pull something together with what we’d done, but I did need to try another idea.
We found a nice wide set of brownstone steps. If I left enough room at the top of the image, I would have a good clean space for the type. And then we started to shoot.
Most of the kids were upbeat and happily hammed it up. But I have learned to expect that not every child finds it easy or natural to be in front of the camera and also that a child can have a bad day sometimes. So it was expected, though still frustrating, that one kid would sulk in almost every frame I took. Luckily I got one or two nice shots that I could collage into the image above using a bit of Photoshop magic.
Perhaps the glass shop wouldn’t have worked after all. Perhaps if I had used the photo on the stairs with one slightly sad and pensive looking boy, I would have told a different story – a somewhat sadder, softer story. But I wanted upbeat and silly. So here we go!
Jack receives beans from his neighbor and – lo and behold! – those beans lead him up a beanstalk and into the company of giants. How will he ever get back home? In her innovative photo-collage style, Nina Crews freshens up a beloved children’s tale for today’s young readers.
Kirkus – A contemporary urban version of the ancient tale of beans and boy, with spiky parts rounded off.
Crews’ fans will be delighted; others will be drawn in by the nifty mix of folktale and photo-collage. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-9)