art, Behind the brush, Book Updates!, illustration, Uncategorized

A Picture’s Worth: Behind the Brush

Delightful Children's Book! For ages birth to 7.
Sweet, sweet bedtime story for kids ages 3-8

 

Although you may have seen the official release of debut children’s book author Erin Broestl back in 2019, I’m adding it to the list of wonderful things happening in 2020.

There are so many aspects of this highly-acclaimed Christian children’s picture book (CPB) that I could blog about it for a month of Sundays.  Eventually, I’ll secure an interview with the gifted wordsmith whose — should I call it poetic prose?– seems to speak a language all its own. The making of God Made the Moonlight is the perfect topic for a “Behind the Brush” post. That is, it’s a great example of how illustrations can shape a story. Therefore, I’d like to share a look back at the illustration journey that brought out a second, rather unexpected, meaning to Mrs. Broestl’s God Made the Moonlight.

I can’t believe it’s been three years, but it has. While this is not completely unusual as far as the typical amount of time it takes to bring a new CPB to life, it’s a bit longer than I’m used to. As usually happens in the illustration business, I received the author’s manuscript, nicely-typed, with “illustration notes” next to each block of text. Many, I’d even venture to say most, new authors of children’s books include such notes with their submissions, in varying degrees of details, along side their stories.  Erin’s little notes were blessedly few, but she did have some idea of certain colors and other elements she envisioned for her first book. She suggested a sort of genre (fantasy, in this case, “I’m seeing castles, a fairy-tale,”) and even lent me a book with images that she liked.

For almost two years I sketched out scenes of hazy moons and foggy, night-time castle scenes. While there was nothing technically wrong with the watercolor sketches, I suppose, the “meh” feeling I got from them kept me up at night. Since the Broestls had just welcomed a new member to their family, I chanced that Erin might also be awake.

 

ink-and-wash painting for proposed manuscript
Early idea for “God Made the Moon”

 

“Erin, would it be ok with you if I rearranged the order of some of your lines?”  I texted.

I proposed the idea of using the phases of the moon to guide the sequence of the picture-story that was just beginning to come to life inside my head. (To understand this sequence of events, I highly recommend re-reading your copy of GMtM right now and trying to imagine the text alone on a single sheet of paper.) The verbiage was already there in Broestl’s quiet, charmingly unassuming manuscript:

  • Each day, the moon’s shape changes a little.
  • Tonight, it looks like the Cheshire Cat’s smile.
  • Soon, it will be so dark that I can hardly see it.  A new moon!

There were references to car rides, and airplanes, and city lights. And then,

I love the moon! Just knowing that it is there makes me feel at home, no matter where I am.

There it was: the longing, the pull, the emotion, the universal themes of journeying, going out into the unknown with a spirit of adventure, yet yearning for the familiarity of home.

The story.

I could see the girl on the page, packing her suitcase, the child being read to asking, “Where is she going?” There is a boy on the next spread: her little brother. They are out of their norm, experiencing things that are all new. They are happy, but sometimes the unfamiliarity of a situation can be a little scary.

Packing her suitcase
A young girl sets out on a journey from the city to the country.

 

How blessed I am to work with such a gifted writer as my friend, Erin Broestl! And I’m so thankful that she was open to listening to my new “vision” of GMtM. I sketched out, verbally and on paper, my ideas for a “subplot” to the revised manuscript. The images came to me more easily now, and I worked with a clearer goal in mind. Erin and I collaborated, filled with a new energy.  Over the next months I painted, adjusted, and sometimes even deleted new spreads of artworks. (Here’s a deleted scene from the storyboard before we had the full new story worked out:)

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 12.28.19 PM

 

This one’s Erin’s favorite (it made the cut):

scene from God Made the Moonlight by Erin Broestl and Jean Schoonover-Egolf
The moon plays peek-a-boo through the treetops.

 

“It’s like you saw inside my mind,” says Broestl, who recalls a family trip from her childhood. Believe me, it is a rare thing when an illustrator can actually see what the author “has in mind” for the proposed manuscript. And I assured Erin that this was just a coincidence! I’ve since said this, so many times, to so many children’s book authors:

“An illustrator’s happiest clients are the ones who, when it comes to the artwork,  completely hand over the reins to the artist.” 

The simple truth is that, no, the illustrator cannot see inside the author’s mind. The more details the author has already conjured up in his or her mind about the way each page “should” look, the more that author is setting himself/herself up for disappointment with almost any illustrator’s work. Please see my post on “How to prepare a children’s book manuscript for your illustrator.”

Mrs. Erin Broestl is one amazing woman, folks. She blogs at Eight Hobbits. Although God Made the Moonlight is Broestl’s first published children’s book, she’s no stranger to the writing industry. I’ve no doubt we can expect more great volumes from Erin.

 

Book Updates!, It's sharing time!, Uncategorized

Molly McBride 4 Tackles OBEDIENCE

And CHRISTMAS!

Friends, I am so excited to announce the forthcoming release of the FOURTH book in the Molly McBride series of Catholic children’s picture books fostering vocations:

Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733493506/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=molly+McBride+and+the+Christmas+Pageant&qid=1572118114&s=books&sr=1-1
Christmas Pageant

From the back cover:

The kindergarten class at Holy Trinity School is having a Christmas pageant, complete with stable, angels, barn animals, and baby Jesus. Molly McBride thinks she’s a shoo-in for the role of Mary, while her bestie, priest-wanna-be Dominic, has his heart set on the role of Joseph. But Mrs. Rose, kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, might not have quite the same “vision” for this year’s Nativity that the kids have, leading to an upset that snowballs into a lesson on obedience.

Will Molly’s feisty temperament ruin the whole play? Or will she find the strength, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, to say, “Thy will be done?”

From Amazon: Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience is the fourth book in the Molly McBride series about a little girl who wants to be a nun when she grows up. Catholic kids young and old have fallen in love with the feisty, red-haired five-year-old heroine and her faithful wolf-pet-named-Francis. The tales, along with their charming illustrations, help school teachers, parents, and grandparents pass on our beautiful Faith to children around the world. The Molly McBride series not only deights readers with the funny and familiar antics of childhood, but also makes learning about virtues, Sacraments, and the Bible stories enjoyable. Because the stories feature religious sisters and priests as role models, both girls and boys become acquainted with religious vocations.

Preorder Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience by clicking here.

Blessings,

“Momma McBride”

It's sharing time!, Recommended Reads

For Eden’s Sake: Pro-Life Blockbuster Pending

We are so close, friends.

It’s been years since the Pro-Life Movement has made such great strides. Clinics are closing at record rates, and awareness hasn’t been this high since Roe V. Wade.

But we’ve still miles to go. And you all know my thing, of course. Redemption through reading, preach in parables, all that. I’ve found us the perfect book.

For Eden’s Sake by T. M. Gaouette is a pro-life story like I’ve never seen or read before: DAD’s side of the story. By alternating points-of-view between pro-life Isaac and pro-choice Rebecca, Gaouette masterfully gives a voice to the often-ignored victims of abortion, the fathers. Sometimes seemingly ridiculous in his passionate beliefs, co-protagonist Isaac’s behavior, through Rebecca’s eyes, gives us a glimpse into the minds of the pro-choice contingent. True, we pro-lifers must seem similarly ridiculous at times. But as readers come to learn the story of these young adults, as well as Rebecca’s father, her angry roommate Tess, Isaac’s loving parents, and a mysterious stalker, I believe even the hardest of hearts will come to see why such passionate faith in Life is the only truth.

For Eden's Sake

Even though the baby is conceived during a drunken one-night-stand, Issac is deeply regretful of his mistake and tries desperately to right his wrongs. As for Rebecca, there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. It is rare that a book moves me to tears. This one did it to me. It’s very compelling. The plot is suspenseful from the very beginning, and readers will wonder how God can ever fix the mess these two young adults have made. Gaouette has woven a truly creative and celebratory story. A pro-life blockbuster waiting to happen, For Eden’s Sake is a masterpiece and a must-read for every young adult.

Friends, pray with me that some Hollywood producer or the like will see this review and read this book and help us to reach more people and save more souls by making For Eden’s Sake into the beautiful film it deserves to be.

Coming soon: “An interview with T. M. Gaouette: Inspiration Behind For Eden’s Sake.”

Get yours here on Amazon, or visit the author’s website here.

Molly McBride and the Purple Habit is a series of children's picture books by Jean Schoonover-Egolf.
art, Molly Comics, Mothers of Mollies, Uncategorized

Happy Mother’s Day!

MothersDayChocolates-01

OSV Acquires PBG content, including "Molly McBride" Series
Book Updates!, Molly Comics, Promoting Vocations, Uncategorized

“Molly” Meets New Publisher

OSV Acquires PBG content, including "Molly McBride" Series
Molly McBride series to be published by Our Sunday Visitor

Friends, I’ve had to keep a secret for a long time, but now it’s all out there:

Peanut Butter and Grace officially announced yesterday that Our Sunday Visitor, the largest English language Catholic publisher in the world, has acquired several of their titles and content, including my “Molly McBride” children’s picture book series promoting religious vocations.

The news that Molly was being sold to Our Sunday Visitor was a shock to me. Change is scary, and Peanut Butter and Grace has been by my side since almost the beginning of this journey. But on the other hand, I’m really excited. When I first found out the name of the company looking at my series, I thought, “Our Sunday Visitor? I remember their weekly newspaper on our porch and my parents reading it after Mass.”

Religious vocations awareness through children's literature
Sister and Molly have a heart-to-heart.

OSV has a huge reach, and that helps me in my mission, which can now be on a grander scale, to encourage Catholic parents and teachers to talk to kids about becoming religious sisters and priests. All of us here at the “McBride” household are looking forward to merging into the OSV family. Everyone I’ve spoken with over there is a gem.

You know, it’s always been my dream that “Molly McBride” would someday be a household name in Catholic families, a cute little reminder to plant those seeds early about becoming priests and nuns. Plus, she reminds us all to do as Jesus told us, to have the faith of a child.

Since OSV boasts an audience of millions of Catholic readers globally, it seems possible that dream can come true. I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me in this endeavor.

JesusWithMeWill the cartoon will be picked up by OSV Newsweekly There are currently no plans for this. But how cool would that be? One “Sunday” in the other “Sunday.”

Fellow authors, book stores, reviewers, and fans awaiting copies or even Book Four, I’m in a bit of  a “publisher limbo” at the moment. As OSV transitions over each new title, books will again become available. I’ll do my best to keep you all posted! Meanwhile, look right here for the next Molly comic on Mother’s Day.

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Recommended Reads, Uncategorized

The Review I was Afraid to Write

Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby

I read this book “cold,” that is, I never once glanced at any reviews, summaries, or other potential spoilers. I had no inkling what this book was about other than the cover and the title. And, I admit, I didn’t really want to read it, figuring it was just another teeny-bopper “OMG she’s pregs!” story. Definitely not my cup o’ tea. So what made me pick it up? The author bio!

Here is this YA novel, put out by a Catholic publisher, written by a graduate of what is probably the most authentically-Catholic university in the world, with this rather shocking title that definitely does NOT look like the kind of thing I hand down to my daughters as “inspiring reading.” Curious. But I am here to tell you, this is not a book to be judged by its cover!

*SPOILERS a-comin’!*

Told as a retrospective account by (not-baby-daddy) Calvin, this is a painfully honest look into today’s Catholic high school culture through the eyes of a British student recently come to live in the States with family he never knew existed until the recent death of his single mother. Although he narrates the story of main character Sydney, a gifted social outcast who has been date raped by Calvin’s American cousin Josh, Calvin is the redeeming character in the story, a hero’s hero in every way. Thorne’s genius in crafting this “cursedly dashing British fellow” is the reason this (not really!) typical teenage tale, which could have potentially come off as trashy in the hands of a less-adept wordsmith, is worthy of high praise amongst diehard March-for-Lifers and Cafeteria Catholics alike. Similar to how Harper Lee used a child-protagonist/narrator to address volatile social topics in To Kill a Mockingbird, Thorne uses Calvin, a good-natured “foreigner” with an almost innocent bystander persona, to deliver harsh truths that might not sit as well with us coming from our own neighbors or family members. 

Calvin observes, “This particular Catholic school was one of those uniform-clad institutions that might make a pass at religious instruction here or there, but you’d probably never guess it if you walked the halls.” He relates a typical family dinner: “The three of them mumbled a quick, standard Catholic grace and began eating…” His perspective on the lackluster attitudes of American Catholic families comes off somehow less offensive to readers in the same way that Lee’s Scout could make racial observations no adult character could get away with in the deep South. Even so, it was pretty uncomfortable to read (one of) the (several pieces of terrible) advice from Sydney’s best friend Winnie on the topic of abortion: “Oh come on. Big Catholic school, oh no. Like we’re not all screwing each other and on the pill and watching our parents get divorced? Nobody cares about that stuff anymore. It’s not a big deal.” Ouch.

Winnie is not the only astonishly-horrible giver of advice. I was very surprised and sad at how Syndey’s beloved and trusted aunt, the adult she turned to for help, also let me, um, I mean Sydney, down. But then again, Thorne is telling a story that is painfully realistic. Parents, police, and even the school principal majorly drop the ball throughout, and a careless reader may call out Thorne on this aspect of the work, citing lack of good role models as a reason to keep this book out of the hands of our Catholic young adults. I admit this is something that had me dragging my feet a couple of days before I could recommend this book whole-heartedly to the Catholic community. But after letting it gel and rise and bloom in my heart for a night or two, I think what a mistake it that would have been, to not share this book!

I believe Thorne has heaped up such a high pile of mistakes and obstacles for our protagonist with good reasons beyond lending to a dramatic suspense the size of impossible: she’s fearlessly daring to illustrate our human fallibility. She’s shaking us all up a bit, saying even we grownups make mistakes, and we need to face it. Many situations in Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby are hard to look at, for young and not-so-young adult readers. And I’m sure many a Catholic mom-reader, as I did, will want to deny that a Catholic school could really be as bad as the one in this story, but I’ve lived this. I have to admit it really can be.

These harsh truths give Thorne’s tale power and credibility, for it is in contrast to such horribleness that we appreciate the profound goodness that exists in a character such as Calvin. Thorne gives YA readers a modern-day saint, if you will, that we can truly aspire to be. Oh! this book. It isn’t for the weak-of-heart, folks, but somehow I wish everyone would read it.


Adrienne Thorne is a Franciscan Steubenville grad who worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood until she returned to her first love, writing YA novels.

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Adrienne blogs here.

 

art, Molly Comics, Uncategorized

Happy Easter from the McBrides!

Molly McBride Easter Banner 2018
Happy Easter from “the McBrides!”