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Sally Deng On Skyward, WWII History, and Supportive Parents

Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WWII is Sally Deng’s debut book, which published earlier this year. What started as a scroll through Pinterest developed into this beautifully-illustrated passion project about three young women who wanted to reach great heights—Hazel is an Asian American living in San Francisco, Marlene is a young woman living in the English countryside, and Lilya is from a small town in Russia. Here Sally tells us all about the fascinating stories she learned while working on this book and answers questions about her creative process, how she conducted her research, and her chocolate-filled studio space.

Nobrow: How did Skyward start? Did you already have a fascination with female pilots in WWII?

Sally: “I was looking through Pinterest in college and found a vintage photo of Hazel Ying Lee—the first Asian American female pilot in the United States. I didn’t think it could be real—how could a woman, especially a Chinese American woman, be allowed near a plane during that time? I spiraled into an internet research hole and came out with a whole series of paintings and drawings inspired by these pilots.”

Nobrow: What kind of research did you do while creating Skyward? Did you get to meet any WWII vets?

Sally: “I checked out quite a few books from my university’s library, and had to dig into out of print books about female pilots from other countries. One of my professor’s mothers was a WASP pilot, and he had hours and hours of recordings of her talking about her experience. One of her stories made the book: she was in her plane, and the oil started to leak. She needed a quick fix, so she took off her shirt to clean the oil off the plane.”

(Note: this is referenced in Skyward on page 54, when Hazel has to make an emergency landing and wipe down the windshield with her blouse.)

Nobrow: Are the stories of the three girls based on anyone in particular? If so, who?

Sally: “Yes. The Asian American pilot is based on Hazel Ying Lee, and Lilya, the girl from Russia, loves to draw, which is also what I love to do. Each one is sort of representative of me in some way.”

Nobrow: What’s a favorite story that didn’t make the book?

Sally: “There was a young girl in America who wanted to be a WASP pilot. She had scheduled her physical, but knew she didn’t meet the minimum weight requirement, so hours before her physical, her mother took her to a nearby diner and she ate until she couldn’t eat anymore. She barely passed the physical, but she did eventually become a pilot.”

Nobrow: Which character in Skyward was the most difficult to create?

Sally: “The character that was the most difficult to draw was Marlene. The English women pilots that I saw photos of always looked so beautiful, like models, with their amazing hair and makeup. That’s totally not me, but I just tried really hard to make Marlene look cool.”

Nobrow: In your research, what little-known facts about the female pilots of WWII did you find?

Sally: “I learned a lot of things. First, doctors in WWII didn’t know much about the female body—all the requirements for passing the physicals were in accordance with male bodies. Also, a lot of flying was learned on the go. The pilots didn’t have time or proper training to learn how to fly each air craft. The UK pilots (the ATA) had manuals they would tuck in their boots, basically ‘Flying This-Type-of-Plane 101.’

In America, many of the women who were pilots came from wealthy families who could fund their pilot lessons, but for those who weren’t, they had to go back to civilian life with little hope of having the money to continue flying on their own. In a lot of their interviews, the women pilots didn’t want it to end. They wanted to keep flying.”

Nobrow: What’s your ideal drawing space and what kind of snacks/beverages does it include?

Sally: “I just moved to a bigger shared studio space, but it doesn’t have windows like my last space. So windows and plants make the space ideal, and I always have chocolate around—it’s probably a vice.”

Nobrow: When did you start drawing? What’s pushed you to keep going?

Sally: “Ever since I could remember. My parents told me I started holding a pencil at 3. My parents really supported me from a young age with drawing. When I was a bit older, I couldn’t sit still, and I kept bothering them, so they sent me to art lessons. When I was trying to choose between colleges, my dad saw that I was hesitating between a studio art school and a regular liberal arts college. He encouraged me to go to the art school. I’m really lucky in that way.”

Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WWII is out now. Find a copy at www.penguinrandomhouse.com or www.flyingeyebooks.com


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Storytime with Keith Negley at Powell’s!
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Portland, OR–
Gather round, everyone!  Powell’s City of Books is hosting a special Kids’ Storytime with the one and only Keith Negley!

This Saturday, Keith will be reading from his latest picture book: the stirring, funny, and sweet My Dad Used to Be so Cool.  Follow along with Keith as he tells you about a tattooed dad with a rock star past, and find out the heart-warming reason behind why he decided to give it all up.

Afterwards, be sure to stick around for your chance to get your book signed by Keith!

Kids’ Storytime with Keith Negley
Saturday, July 16 @ 11:00 AM
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97209


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An Adventure in Orlando with William Grill!
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Orlando, FL –
At the end of last month the ALA Annual and the ABA Children’s Institute welcomed the award-winning artist William Grill for a week of panels, signings, and fun at their annual shows!  William sent over some pics of the cool things he was up to during his visit to Orlando and we thought you might want to take a look:

wgALA1Here’s William hard at work at one of his signings, carefully drawing in a copy of his newest book The Wolves of Currumpaw.  The lines to get to William’s table were pretty long, but he made sure to say hi to everyone and send them off with a quick sketch.

wgALA6One of the perks of being a renowned author and illustrator is meeting all of the dedicated readers from around the world.  Here’s William spending time with a young lady excited about her growing collection of William’s work.

wgALA7And here he is sitting with Bobby Byrd, one of the publishers behind Cinco Puntos Press and a big fan of William’s work!

wgALA3But it wasn’t all panels and meet-and-greets.  Here he is up to a bit of mischief outside of the WonderWorks Museum of Orlando, which we’ve just learned has Laser Tag.  If only we’d known sooner!

wgALA4William got into a bit of trouble on this mini golf course, but fortunately for him, he’s as skilled in the art of negotiation and charm as he is with a coloured pencil.

wgALA5Adventure can be found anywhere!  At least that what William was shouting before he found himself trapped in this backhoe.

All in all, it was a very fun and very busy week for us at ALA and the Children’s Institute!  We were so lucky to meet so many brilliant authors and fans at these wonderful shows!

Thanks so much to ALA and the Children’s Institute, as well as the beautiful city of Orlando for having us!
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Here’s a message from William:

Stepping out of the airport I was instantly greeted by the warm Orlando air, reminding me that it was Summer, something that I’d forgotten about back in London. Like the weather, the librarians, booksellers, and illustrators I came across all greeted me with the same warmth and enthusiasm.

It was a pleasure to chat to people from all over the country that had come together to get excited about new books. As an illustrator you rarely get to meet the people who actually help promote your work through shops and libraries, without them we’d be stuffed!

Having made a book that is rooted in American culture I’m glad I could make a connection with people of the same background, especially those that live near New Mexico and have heard of the story.

The most memorable part of the trip was discussing how to make books more appealing for reluctant readers with illustrators as well as librarians. This is what really drives me to keep making books and seeing what you can do with the format. It’s encouraging that the US is conscious of this, and it’s something I hope to continue being a part of.

Lastly, it might look fun to pretend you’re being scooped up by an excavator bucket but those things are ridiculously dirty, be warned.


For more on The Wolves of Currumpaw, be sure to check out our webshop!
Also, don’t forget to check out The Wall Street Journal’s review and Publishers Weekly’s interview with William!


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Marcel’s Guide to New York!

Hello friends!

By now you’ve probably already been introduced to Marcel, our favourite New York pup!  He loves to go for walks with his human, checking out the sights and sounds of his beloved neighbourhood.  Did you know a lot of the best spots in Marcel’s city are based on real places in New York?  Here are five, real-life locations that inspired scenes from Eda Akaltun‘s Marcel.

1- American Museum of Natural History 

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AMNH has an iconic dinosaur exhibit at its entrance hall, a dramatic representation of an imagined prehistoric encounter: a Barosaurus rearing up to protect its young from an attacking Allosaurus. The Barosaurus skeleton, which is the tallest freestanding dinosaur mount in the world, is composed of replica bones cast from actual fossils.

Entering the museum to see and maybe even taste those bones is Marcel’s biggest dream, one that he imagines will never come true as dogs are not allowed. When the new human manages to sneak him in, Marcel ends up having one of the best days in his life and the event changes the course of their relationship for the better.

2- West Village

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This is Marcel’s home with his human. He feels safe and loves it here, and gives the reader all the reasons why it’s so great in their area. He particularly likes that there are no high rises around and the abundance of activities that are available.

3- Doggy Day Spa, inspired by Biscuits and Bath

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Marcel is a very particular pup who loves the high life – he enjoys smoked salmon and listens to jazz! It’s only natural that he needs pampering spa days like the rest of us and his favourite one happens to be in downtown naturally.

4- Ruff and Sons (in real life: Sadelle’s – this is where the photo was taken. The name was inspired from a NY institution Russ & Daughters)

marcelbagels

Only the finest nosh for this pup! He loves this spot and introduces it to the reader as the best bagels in the city. The human happens to agree as she’s leaving it with a bag full of goodies!

5- Washington Square Park

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Ahh the Washington Square Park! This is where Marcel’s favourite jazz band ‘The Bone Daddies’ play. It’s also one of the best and most iconic parks downtown and has a great dog play area.

New York city has inspired countless artists, and we hope that Marcel inspires you to see the beauty of your own neighbourhood!
Be sure to check out the rest of Marcel’s adventures in Eda Akaltun’s Marcel, available now in our webshop!

And who knows where this adorable pup’s adventures will take him next…

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Create your own Cityscape with Marcel!

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Meet Marcel, he’s a New Yorker through and through. He’s jetting in to London this weekend to celebrate the launch of his new book. Come and join him for a morning of storytelling and crafts with his creator, acclaimed New York illustrator  Eda Akaltun.

Listen to Eda read Marcel’s story and then create your very own cityscape collage for Marcel to make his home. Marcel is sure to steal your heart and ignite your imagination!

Each child attending this workshop will not only go home with their very own cityscape collage but guests will also be presented with a fabulous goody bag filled to the brim with Marcel treats. Books will be available to purchase on the day which Eda will happily sign and dedicate for you.

Time: 11am-12:30
Date: Saturday 25th June
Address: MOLLY MEG 111 Essex Rd, London N1 2SL
Phone: 020 7359 5655
This is a FREE event suitable for 3-8 years (all materials will be provided)

If you would like to join us please email [email protected] – Places are limited.

Follow Marcel on Twitter and Instagram and buy the book now!

Marcel_cover


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Story Time With Keith Negley!
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Brooklyn!  The unstoppable Keith Negley will be at the wonderful Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene this Saturday at 11am for his patented brand of off the wall story time!  Keith will be reading from his best-selling hit Tough Guys Have Feelings Too and he’ll be following it up with one of his always entertaining interactive Ninja drawing sessions.  Bring some friends, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday!

Saturday, January 9th
11am
Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton St.
Brooklyn, NY 11217


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Keith Negley in New York!
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It’s an exciting week for us because Keith Negley‘s coming into town!

The author of the wonderful Tough Guys Have Feelings Too, Keith will be making appearances at bookstores around New York and New Jersey to read from his Flying Eye picture book debut and to show off his illustrating abilities!

All of these events will be fun for all ages so bring along your friends big and small!

Here’s where he’ll be this week:

Wednesday, November 4th at 4pm
The Curious Reader
229 Rock Rd
Glen Rock, NJ 07452

Thursday, November 5th at 11:30am
Edamama
568 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Friday, November 6th at 11am
Bookcourt
163 Court St
Brooklyn, NY 11201


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Wolf’s Whistle on sale!

Bjorn’s book, The Wolf’s Whistle is finally here! Albert is a comic-creating, scrawny little wolf who spends his lunch breaks sharing tales of the ‘Lone Wolf’, his heroic graphic alter ego, to his group of misfit friends; dreaming of one day selling the story to the esteemed Wonder Comics. In reality, Albert and his friends did regularly make battle with an evil force, the Honeyroast brothers. The school’s alpha male sports jocks, the three bratty pigs, the sons of the local property magnate, will stop at nothing to torment their weaker classmates. The story resumes many years later when Albert is a mail room assistant at Wonder comics, living in a dingy one bed studio in Brooklyn where the Honeyroast brothers are now reigning as slumlords… Bjorn Rune Lie’s first solo book for Nobrow is a work of pure beauty and also represents the first foray into children’s books by Nobrow and one of our most cherished collaborators.

This is what Venue Magazine, Bristol’s first rate art publication had to say about The Wolf’s Whistle:

“…enter the big bad wolf. But was he really so bad? This is the question at the heart of Bjorn Rune Lie’s book ‘The Wolf’s Whistle’, the first instalment in Nobrow’s ‘Behind the Tails’ series. The series will explore the back-stories of fairy tales’ most notorious villains – Bjorn’s follows Albert, a scrawny little wolf who spends his lunch break drawing and dreaming of selling his story to Wonder Comics. He is terrorised by the three bratty Honey-roast brothers (they’re of the porcine persuasion, naturally), the bully-boy sons of a local property magnate. Eventually Albert is forced to make a stand against his oppressors and fulfill his destiny as the crime-fighting Lone Wolf. Bjorn’s nostalgic, three-coloured drawings hark back to mid- century Americana with a prohibition twist and a cast of outlandish characters of extreme proportions. As you can see from these here pictures…”