It's a pleasure to feature author-illustrator Mike Wu in my latest Author Spotlight post. Wu is the creator of the ELLIE picture books. Since Ellie was first published in 2015 (Disney Hyperion), this sweet elephant's big bashful eyes have been calling readers near to grow more familiar with her gentle heart.
Later this year (October 2018), Ellie will be joining the board book world in ELLIE IN COLOR. Here's the brilliant cover...
It's no wonder that Ellie continues to find new ways to connect with young readers. Picture book characters can often be quite loud, bossy and quirky. Ellie, in contrast, is so very sweet, measured and reflective. Her adventures deliver a tenderness that many children seek at reading time, and Wu's artwork provides a lyrical journey that's full of memorable movement.
All of this is especially apparent in Wu's latest Ellie picture book: ELLIE IN CONCERT.
From the beginning of ELLIE IN CONCERT, readers are reminded of the comfort and warmth of Wu's vibrant storytelling. Animals pop off the pages like familiar friends - their sounds calling out in large letters that beg a dramatic read-aloud.
The central conflict in ELLIE IN CONCERT is... well... all that glorious noise - which isn't so glorious to poor Lucy, the giraffe. It's keeping her up when all she wants is a good night's sleep.
When Ellie hears Betty Bluebird singing a beautiful tune, it gives her a great idea. (I adore this spread, which uses a musical staff to seamlessly carry the reader from Betty's song to a close-up of our familiar friend's thoughtful eyes.)
Is it possible for Ellie's zoo friends to express their unique sounds, but make music, not discord? That is the question posed in ELLIE IN CONCERT - and this lovely book provides a hopeful and celebratory answer.
Mike Wu hopped over to the blog to answer a few questions about ELLIE IN CONCERT and share a bit about his approach to illustration and his animation experiences, as well.
3 Questions with Mike Wu
The Ellie books are at times gregarious, but also so gentle and soothing. How did you arrive at this style?
For college, I attended Cal Arts (known as the Disney school) in Valencia, CA, and was fortunate enough to be inspired by many creative artists there - particularly one great teacher, Deborah Ross, who introduced me to the art of watercolor painting. It was at school and through her that I really fell in love with the soft, natural and beautiful art of watercolors. I would often go to the zoo and paint the animals in watercolors and it was so fulfilling and almost therapeutic. I came back to this style as an professional and through my children's books and have really enjoyed finding that part of self expression again! I feel like the medium really suits the sweet characters in my Ellie series and makes her unique for readers today.
I love your use of the rainbow and the musical staff to illustrate the tone and tenor of animal voices. What inspired this?
Since I have an Animation & Film background, there are always subliminal elements added into movies to lead the viewer, evoke emotion or movement, etc., and I felt like both of these elements sort of acted as almost like a character within itself to either spark creativity or illustrate music/story point in a fun and visual way.
My kids were excited to hear that you’ve also worked on some of their favorite movies (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3). As an animator, what about picture work writing and illustrating appeals to you? Do they relate at all?
So happy to hear your kids are fans of the Pixar films! Those are some of the greatest ones! They are actually related since they are both an art form trying to convey unique stories or introduce characters in fun or unique situations. I'm so incredibly lucky to work at a great studio like Pixar where I get to work with some of the most talented artists in film today but I also get to tell/create my own unique stories through my children's books.
Thank you so much for stopping by the blog, Mike! Visit www.theartofmikewu.com to learn more about Mike's books, including HENRI'S HATS (September 2018) created in association with the Pixar Artist Showcase.
ELLIE IN CONCERT can be purchased in bookstores nationwide, as well as online through the bookseller of your choice. You also can enter to WIN an autographed copy through my Twitter page and blog!
*** Win ELLIE IN CONCERT ***
1. "Like" this post (click the heart below)
2. Follow me (@anitraschulte) on Twitter
3. Retweet my pinned contest tweet by 4/13/18
(Submit a blog comment below and get a BONUS ENTRY!)
For an in-depth chat about ELLIE IN CONCERT, listen to Episode #374 of The Children's Book Podcast with Matthew C. Winner. (Thank you, Matthew, for introducing me to this book in this interview!)
And, as a parting treat, here's the fabulous book trailer for ELLIE IN CONCERT, with music by composer and artist Andrew Jimenez.