Monday, December 8, 2014

First Review for ZIG!

A happy surprise in my inbox today:  a review of ZIG in Kirkus.  

Author: Sylvie Kantorovitz
Illustrator: Sylvie Kantorovitz

Review Issue Date: December 15, 2014
Online Publish Date: December 6, 2014
Pages: 32
Price ( Hardcover ): $16.99
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-8037-3913-0
Category: Picture Books

A magic umbrella transports Zig to a faraway place where adventure and friendship await. All seems blue on this dark and stormy day, until a red umbrella whooshes by Zig's treehouse. The Shrek-eared protagonist grabs hold of the umbrella, which pulls him to an unfamiliar land where dandelion-shaped trees and corallike plants have a mysterious, cheerful allure. When a bird he encounters asks for help, the umbrella becomes a tool to set a trapped flock free. Transformed by Zig's imagination, it becomes a boat, pick ax, bridge and lance. But its real magic lies in the friendship it forges between Zig and the little bird. Kantorovitz's mixed-media collage, full of pattern and texture, creates a vibrant fantasy landscape; the character designs and scenery recall the work of William Steig, Heinz Edelmann and Jill Bliss. For all its seeming strangeness, a comforting and familiar tale about a journey that ends in companionship and contentment. (Picture book. 3-5)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Update on Work Front

What's cooking on the book table since Zig was done? 

- Lots of time on SUZETTE.  Probably more than I should have. 

- Finally putting SOPHIE to rest.  A proposal I worked on for years.  It starts with an Ogre stealing a baby away and, during this economic time of duress, we can't have anything like that it seems. 
 However fanciful the story and soundly rescued said baby.  Oh well.  Better move on than dwell. 

For fun, here is a page from SOPHIE:

- Slow, slooooooow  progress on another project.  I have a story line.  In spite of the agony over its worth, I finally have a VERY ROUGH dummy.  And a couple of character sketches (top image.) Now I need to tackle that dummy and bring it to a readable state.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Albany Academy Book Festival

Saturday was the Albany Academy Children's Book Festival.  This kind of day is  a bit draining for homebody me.  But it is also exhilarating: books, children, book lovers, and author friends, both new and old.  (Took only this one picture of Barbara Lehman and Diane deGroat.)

It was good to sit between Kyra Teis and Patrice Kindl.  It was good to decompress afterwards with many other authors, and have dinner with Jeff Mack.   It was good to share the pre-festival dinner with Yona Zeldis McDonough, Anita Silvey, Herman and Mary Jane Auch and more.  It is good to be back at work.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zig's F&Gs

Yoohoo!  F+G's came today!  (Folded & Gathered.)  Zig looks very good.  I feel great.  Also, in the package, the Penguin catalog for January to April 2015.  Zig will be out in March.  Still over 6 months to go!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Diverse Children

Reviewed the spot images of school visit page on web site.  Feels good.  (Drawings were from a project that never found a publisher.  As it happens with so many projects.)  Eventually need to replace a couple of images on portfolio but need to create some good horizontal pieces for that.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

About Diversity

On Friday, I received an e-mail from a reader of my very fist book WHEELS ON THE BUS.  A thought-provoking e-mail about the lack of diversity in children's books.  Thank you to Ariane and her daughter for voicing their concern.  Here is our exchange: 

Ms. Kantorovitz,

My daughter and I recently read (well, sang) the Wheels on the Bus book from the Raffi Songs to Read series that you illustrated, and while my daughter and I liked your drawings very much, I was appalled by the fact that in the entire beautifully detailed town there is not one person of color - any color, really - included.  That kind of oversight (hopefully unintentionally) communicates a message of exclusion to little kids who read the book and don't see anyone in an entire town who looks like them or their family. 

On your website I noticed your portfolio only had one little brown girl featured. I truly hope that you'll consider incorporating more diversity into your art for children in the future. Below is a link to an article about the importance of diversity in children's books.

Thank you for your consideration,
Ariane Corcoran

Dear Ariane,

Thank you for your very thoughtful note.

I am glad that you enjoyed the illustrations of WHEELS ON THE BUS.  I totally agree with you that children of all colors need to be incorporated in children's literature. 

WHEELS ON THE BUS was my very first assignment.  I was 26, and had lived in the US for only a few months.   I chose a little French town for the setting of WHEELS because that is what felt natural at the time.  I grew up in small French towns which were very white. In fact, as the only Jewish kid in class, I often felt like an outsider myself.  So I do understand your concern.  I am not offering this as an excuse but as an explanation.  I believe I would handle the assignment totally differently, were I to do it again, some 27 years later.

As far as my website is concerned, I am glad you brought this oversight to my attention.  I will soon include drawings I have of children of various ethnicity. 

The notion of inclusion is one of importance.  Among my colleagues, this is a notion we often discuss.

Please give a hug to your daughter from me.  I hope she will enjoy the little drawing I pasted above.  It is from an project that has not found a willing publisher.  

With all my best,

P.S.  Would you mind very much if I posted your letter with my answer on my blog? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

ZIG's First Proofs!

Package of first proofs arrived.  YEAH!!!  Things are moving fast.  I am very happy with the proofs.  The colors are beautiful and so true to my originals.  

Following Amy Biancolli's advice:  Celebrate every little thing.  So B and I ate at the Gastropub last night.  YUM!  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Interview in Times Union

A nice interview for the Times Union, Albany local Newspaper.  By Elizabeth Floyd.

A memory unburied

Difficult time in author's youth inspires children's book
Published 4:19 pm, Thursday, June 19, 2014
  • Children's book author Sylvie Kantorovitz, right, with her daughter Sam Wickstrom on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Albany, N.Y.  (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union) Photo: Michael P. Farrell / 00027379A
    Children's book author Sylvie Kantorovitz, right, with her daughter Sam Wickstrom on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union) | Buy this photo

  • Albany resident Sylvie Kantorovitz drew on personal experience when she wrote and illustrated her new picture book, "The Very Tiny Baby" (Charlesbridge, 2014). The book traces the confused feelings of an older brother, Jacob, upon the premature birth of his sibling, when the baby must stay at the hospital and all the joy in the house has been replaced with fear.
Kantorovitz's own first child, a girl, died soon after her birth three months premature. A second daughter was also born three months early, but after spending three months in neonatal intensive care, "came home to lead a healthy life," Kantorovitz said in a recent interview. That daughter, Sam, will be a senior in college this fall.
Kantorovitz has illustrated 25 books to date. This is the fourth book that she has also written. (The earlier three were under the name she used throughout her marriage, Sylvie Wickstrom.)
Every story, she says, seems to call for a different approach to the artwork. With this book, she wanted to write from the brother's point of view and keep the artwork childlike, so that it would feel like a "story told and drawn by a child."
Q: What was it like, writing a story that was so personal for you?
A: Writing "The Very Tiny Baby" was one of the most intense things I have experienced, and this took me completely by surprise. As I was creating the first draft, I felt very emotional, the words poured out of me, I barely took breaks. I cried. What was going on?
Then something dawned on me: I was writing for myself! I was writing as the older sibling of a very premature younger brother. I was too young to remember anything, but our family story goes like this: When I was 2 1/2, my brother was born very premature and was not thriving at the hospital. He was sent home "to die," and my mother, in terror of germs, closeted herself with him in an empty white room and nursed him to life.
The story does not mention what happened to little-me. I am sure I was very well cared for, but what was I told? Was I told anything? What did I feel? Was I scared? Was I lonely? These questions are not part of the story. So I finally answered them through my story of Jacob.
Q: What is your feeling about facing up, in your writing, to kids' fears and darker thoughts? Your book depicts Jacob's jumbled feelings about this tiny baby who is absorbing everyone's attention and making everyone sad and worried for days and weeks on end. At one point, he feels resentful and actually wishes that the tiny baby would die; that page is mostly black, with just one small line at the bottom that says "I wish the baby would die."
A: The world of children is not as carefree as we'd like to think. Sometimes it can be confusing and scary. Children feel very strongly, and this intensity of emotions can itself be confusing, too. Books that depict a range of emotions may help some children recognize, understand, and accept their own feelings. It is always comforting to find out others feel the same as we do.
Children waiting for a new sibling feel a variety of emotions ranging from excitement and anticipation to anxiety, jealousy, anger, resentment.
These feelings may be heightened if a baby is born prematurely, because the danger is real and the parents are especially anxious.
I felt very strongly about the line that you mention, and I am thankful to my editor and the marketing department for letting me keep it in. Jacob is not a monster. He doesn't understand the implications of what he is saying. For him, the baby's death would mean a return to the life he knows, just him and his parents. He does know the thought is uncomfortable, shameful, terrible even. But at that moment, he doesn't fully understand why.
Another reason that line is important to me is that children are afraid of their "bad" thoughts. Will the thought come true? This can be terrifying. But Jacob's wish has no effect on the outcome. The baby comes home healthy and Jacob falls in love. Isn't that reassuring?
To me, the main theme of "The Very Tiny Baby" is emotional upheaval. It is a universal theme, whether there is a baby-to-be-born or not. In fact, I have seen many adult friends reading the book and tearing up. In recognition, perhaps?
Elizabeth Floyd Mair is a freelance writer. Reach her at

Friday, June 13, 2014

Off to production!!!

Zig is "off to production".  A phrase that sings in my ears!

Thank you, Lucia, thank you Lily, thank you Maya!!!  I enjoyed working with you all SO MUCH!  Even though I have illustrated about 25 books, this kind of team work hasn't happened much.

The good thing is that we are due for another book together.  YEAH!

And thank you to my fabulous agent, Linda, who liked Zig right from the start!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Clean Tables

Table 1 and Table 2 ready for the next project!  (On Table 1, I tend to do writing, drawing and watercolors.  On table 2, acrylics and collages.)  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ZIG Delivered!!!!!!!

I can hardly believe it!  Zig is done and delivered!!!  Took the whole package to city myself yesterday.  I have to say, the pages looked good all spread out on the huge display tables at Dial.  Doesn't mean I'm off the hook.  Now we have to discuss type and layout.  Still I can clear my work space.  It's been covered with collage material for months!  

work space after delivery and before clean-up

Note about lost art back in the winter:  what felt like a disaster turned out to be a good thing.  On one hand, I am happier with the redone pieces.  (Hard to admit but true.)  On another hand, it pushed me to shake my tendency to inertia and go to the city to visit with my editor/art director team.  I have enjoyed meeting with them all so much!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Story I Needed to Write

Here is a link to an article I wrote for Unabridged, the blog from my publisher for The Very Tiny Baby:   here

With pictures and everything!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Review in Portland Book Review.

Another very good review for The Very Tiny Baby.  In the Portland Book Review. Again, I highlighted my favorite lines.  This book definitely needs to find its audience. 

The Very Tiny Baby
TheVeryTinyBabyOne Incredible Resource
By Sylvie Kantorovitz
Charlesbridge Press, $14.95, 32 pages
Jacob is going to be a big brother. He is both happy and worried because while a baby might be fun to play with, she might steal his toys. And what if Mommy and Daddy stop loving him the most? Time for the baby to arrive! Oh no! Something has gone wrong. She is premature and very small – too small. What does this mean for Jacob and his family? There are plenty of books on the market celebrating the birth of a new healthy, big baby. But what if the baby isn’t healthy? What if she is dangerously small – so small she might not survive at all? How do you explain this all-too-real scenario to an older sibling who is experiencing the normal feelings that come with gaining a new family member plus the stress of a health crisis? Author Sylvie Kantorovitz’s The Very Tiny Baby is an invaluable children’s book that is quite unique. Based on her own experiences as a sister and mother coping with premature babies, Kantorovitz offers a resource for parents, grandparents or any caretaker with the goal of helping ease the tension and anxiety in a house surprised by the arrival of a preemie.
Written in a child’s scrapbook format, the book shares Jacob’s wealth of feelings as he learns about his very tiny, special new sister. The colors used reflect Jacob’s emotions (yellow and white represent happiness about a new family member he can play with and love, but red and black represent fear, anger, uncertainty and doubt). Jacob expresses very real feelings that parents will likely see in siblings of premature babies. Imagine having to cope with the regular thoughts of jealousy on top of a fear that the new baby might die. This is what Jacob is going through with only his grandmother to help as his parents spend all day and night at the hospital.
Kantorovitz has Jacob deal with circumstances specific to a family going back and forth from home to the hospital in order to care for a special needs baby. Jacob sees Mommy using a breast pump to prepare milk (“Mommy uses a machine. The machine pumps Mommy’s breast and the milk comes out into a little bottle.”) and he learns that his new sibling has to be hooked up to various life-saving machines (“At the hospital, there are machines that help preemies get stronger.”). The illustrations are kid-like drawings that make looking through the book a much more relatable experience.
The Very Tiny Baby will encourage conversations between children and their parents about very sensitive matters. Parents of a preemie will be very thankful to have this resource as they plan how to present information to their older children during a difficult, trying time.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sweet Dreams


Good News!  Go to Bed, Monster! is now included in an anthology:  Sweet Dreams, 5-Minute Bedtime Stories.  The whole package is quite appealing.  They did a wonderful job adapting the original book to this new format and page number.  And I am in good company.  Curious George leads the way and Melissa Sweet is one of the other illustrators. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hudson Book Festival

Saturday was Hudson Children's Book Festival.  Great fun.  Loved seeing some author-illustrator friends there, and making new ones.  
Did some quick simple portraits.  THAT was different.  The people liked what they got and I didn't take pictures.  Darn!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review in the The BCCB.

Another nice review for The Very Tiny Baby.  In the Bulletin of the Center for children's Books.  Again I highlighted my favorite line:

Kantorovitz, Sylvie The Very Tiny Baby; written and illus. by Sylvie Kantorovitz. Charlesbridge, 2014 32p
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-58089-445-6 $14.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-60734-635-7 $6.99                               R 5-8 yrs

Jacob’s parents are expecting a baby, but the usual older-sibling storyline takes on a more serious turn when the baby arrives much too early, ending up in the NICU and sending the family into a tailspin of anxiety and disruption. When Jacob’s parents turn all of their attention to the needs of the preemie, Jacob’s feelings of frustration rapidly evolve into feelings of anger (“I am thinking mean thoughts. I think the baby is ruining my life. I think we should give the baby away. I wish the baby would die”). Even when danger passes, the baby must stay in the hospital, requiring Jacob’s mother to pump breast milk (while Jacob covers his ears in frustration at the noise of the machine). Finally, the baby comes home, and while still a bit uncertain, Jacob appears mostly ready to welcome his tiny sibling. This is not a book to accidentally hand to an unsuspecting soon-to-be older sibling, but it’s a frank look at a common life situation not usually addressed for this age; Kantorovitz deals with Jacob’s very real and intense emotions with unusual honesty and a keen sense of child perspective. The pen, pencil, and gouache illustrations mimic a child’s drawing style, and they’re laid out with hand-lettered text captions in sequential bordered panels against contrasting backgrounds, as if they were in Jacob’s scrapbook. Introduced in the right context and with the right amount of adult support, this could prove a useful story to families in a similar situation; consider purchasing this for your parent shelf rather than your picture-book collection.  HM

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review in SLJ

Here a review of The Very Tiny Baby in School Library Journal.  I am very pleased with the line I have highlited:

KANTOROVITZ, Sylvie. The Very Tiny Baby. illus. by Sylvie Kantorovitz. 32p. Charlesbridge. Mar. 2014. RTE $14.95. ISBN 9781580894456; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781607346357. LC 2012038697.

K-Gr 2–Jacob’s parents are excited about their expected baby, but the child isn’t so sure he wants to share the limelight. Then when the infant arrives too early and everyone–even grandma–is so preoccupied with its survival that they don’t pay much attention to him, he’s certain that the new baby is a bad idea. When the baby improves and eventually comes home, though, Jacob, assured of his parents’ love, is ready to assume his roles as big brother and helper. The hand-lettered text appears in several framed rectangles of varying sizes on each page. Most rectangles contain ink drawings colored with gouache and pencils. Although text and illustrations have a childlike quality, the story doesn’t gloss over how fragile life is for preemies, the anxieties experienced by family members, and even the complaints, often expressed here through the mouth of his stuffed bear, of a sibling who feels left out. A striking example is the solid black rectangle covering a page on which Jacob declares, “I wish the baby would die.” Pumping of breast milk, hospital visit precautions, and care of preemies are all depicted. This story can provide information and comfort to youngsters experiencing worry about a sibling born prematurely or even for those who are preparing to share parents with a new brother or sister. –Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review from Kirkus

Actually the whole review is posted on the Charlesbridge website.  So I can do it too.  Here it is:

 Kirkus Reviews - February 1, 2014
Just because a book fills a need, that doesn't guarantee its quality; fortunately, this book both addresses premature birth and succeeds marvelously. Like any big brother-to-be, Jacob is conflicted when he hears about his family's upcoming arrival. Sure, he's excited, but teddy bear Bob, clearly Jacob's externalized id, is unafraid to bring up potential problems. Bob's worries are utterly forgotten, however, when the infant arrives far too early, and the grown-ups' fear communicates itself to Jacob. As time wears on, Jacob feels abandoned; all his parents and grandmother think about is their preemie. Reminiscent of the straightforward honesty of a Robie H. Harris title, the storyline doesn't coddle the viewer but acknowledges feelings, both good and bad. From conversations about what's going to happen ("Is the baby going to die? Grandma didn't know") to anger toward the baby itself (a black page contains just an image of Jacob and the words "I wish the baby would die"), Kantorovitz draws on personal experience to give a rounded view of the situation. Images are laid out like snapshots in a family album, drawn in the faux-naif style of Jacob himself, and his childlike narration is printed in a typeface that emulates a child's handwriting. This filter helps to blunt the potential horror even as it honors Jacob's emotions and experiences. A laudably candid effort, unafraid to treat its readership with the utmost respect.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Starred Review!!!

Oh I am so pleased, The Very Tiny Baby received a starred review in Kirkus.   The review will come out in their February issue so I'm not sure I am allowed to post the whole review yet.  Believe me, it's a good one!

From the Charlesbridge FB:  

"A laudably candid effort, unafraid to treat its readership with the utmost respect." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review. THE VERY TINY BABY by Sylvie Kantorovitz. Coming this March!