Monthly Archives: January 2012

Old friends

Each month our group meets and we bring along the books that we are working on. But we also bring many books inside of us – books we have read that have made an imprint.

Today I am going to post illustrations from books that I have loved throughout my life. Because there are so many to choose from I am going to start with Slavic and Russian illustrators. Every summer when I was a child we stayed in Churaevka, a village of Russian expatriots in Connecticut. Maybe that is why I am drawn to these artists.

This illustration is by the Czech artist Rudolf Mates and it comes from a book my mother had as a child called The Cock and the Hen.

Here are Andrewshek and Auntie Katushka from the Poppy Seed Cakes, illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham.

As a teenager I was given a book illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. This is his: Ivan and the Firebird.

As an adult I discovered Tatyana Mavrina

and Yuri Vasnetsov.

Not every meal includes an incandescent squirrel or giant cockroaches, but these artists are always with me at the table.

– Julie Paschkis

A Place at the Table…


I am honored to be the first to write a post for our group blog, and I have chosen to begin by saying a bit about our group and its history.

This critique group originally grew out of a Children’s Book class taught at the Seattle School of Visual Concepts in 1994. Meg Lippert was also in the group at that point, but Julie Larios left in 2000, and I was then asked to join. Since that time there have been quite a few celebratory events around the table; Julie Paschkis has made it onto the New York Times Best Illustrated Books list a few times, Laura Kvasnosky has won a Geisel Award, and I have received a Caldecott Honor. Meg left us in 2010 to follow other pursuits and we miss her dearly. Julie Larios has rejoined the group and we are moving on.

We meet once a month, taking turns hosting. We start by laying out or reading whatever current project we are working on, and follow with updates on any back-burner items. All items are open for comments and input.

We have an implicit understanding that it’s okay to say we don’t like something as long as we articulate why. After all, one shouldn’t join a critique group expecting to avoid criticism. And, it’s okay to like something too, as long as we articulate why. We have lengthy discussions about writing and picture-making. Then we break for lunch.

To be in a monthly critique group is a good way to discipline yourself to keep your nose to the Kid-Lit grindstone. To be part of a group that knows your strengths and your weaknesses, and that those two categories are often interchangeable, is invaluable. To be working with people whom you admire, respect and trust, is something I am eternally grateful for. The fact that we all are good cooks is just darned good luck.

Here’s to beautiful and satisfying books and food–and sharing them around the table!

–Margaret Chodos-Irvine