FOSSIL Blog Tour & Special Guest Post with Bill Thomson

At the beginning of November, I had a chance to meet up with the amazing, Bill Thomson in person.  He emailed me to say he would be in town and did I want to get together.  Well, I didn't need to think about it.  Of course, I wanted to meet up.  I picked Bill up at a local artist's studio and we headed over to Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena.   It's a great space to hang and I wanted to introduce Bill to one of the staff at the museum.  As we walked around the museum, we talked about Bill's newest book, FOSSIL and about children and imagination and science and more.

After leaving Kidspace, we headed over to Montrose and stopped by Once Upon a Time Bookstore.  We were lucky that owner Maureen Palacios was in and I had a chance to introduce Bill to her.  I must have done a pretty fabulous job book talking Gris Grimly's Frankenstein because Bill picked up a copy while we were there.

We then headed to a small barbeque place for dinner where we managed to talk books and creative process for a couple more hours.

Here's a few things you need to learn about me...I will never make a great reporter.  I managed to not take a single picture or take notes throughout my whole time with Bill.  It just felt wrong somehow.  It would have completely messed up the tone of the afternoon/evening.  Another thing about me, I was plotting the whole time about how I might be able to create several events around Bill and his books.  Did you notice that I was taking him to places that could be potential event spots? *smile*

Now, here is the fun stuff.  During our dinner, Bill was talking to me about how he sometimes makes creative decisions with his art so that it will work better for children who are viewing his books.  I was fascinated with what he was sharing.  He then offered to share some images with the readers of my blog.  If you haven't figured this out yet, Bill is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and I am very blessed to have had the chance to spend so much time with him.  

This is what Bill shared with the readers of my blog about creating the Pteranodon in the book.

From Bill - Here are the steps used to create the illustration:

My initial thumbnail sketch establishes the basic idea.

Then I take the reference photos so I can make the details looks as convincing as possible. I shot photos from higher vantage point matching my thumbnail sketch, but I thought a lower perspective worked better. I shot over 10,000 reference photos for this book, and usually take multiple vantages for each illustration to see what works best. I have a very skinny nephew named Sam and used his back as the basis for my pteranodon. The pteranodon was a mix of a figure that I painted, Sam’s back, lizard photos, ptranodon research, and stuff I made up. I was originally going to make him brownish, but then opted for a reddish color so he would stand out from the other colored fossils and also to add more color to the book.

Looking at the reference photos, I make a tight pencil drawing.

Then I paint a light coat of yellow acrylic paint over my entire pencil drawing, and add black acrylic paint on top to establish the darkest areas.

I paint over the entire illustration with a light coat of purple oil paint and remove the areas of sunlight with an eraser. This creates a yellow and purple under painting, establishing base colors for light and shadow.

I always paint backgrounds first. The flat blue color of the sky was painted with an airbrush to keep it smooth, and the ground painted with a sponge to create texture. Many of the illustrations in the book had actual rock mixed in with the paint, but the ground in this illustration was from a farther vantage point.

Then I create a tight acrylic painting on top of the under painting. This is the most time consuming part of the process.  And finally, I go over the entire illustration with colored pencil to refine the illustration. This final step is also quite time consuming, but brings the illustration to life with subtle details and textures.

Other illustrations with closer views of the ground included actual volcanic rock in the paint:

To create texture in ground on the closer scenes, I mixed rock in with my paint and dabbed it on with a sea sponge.

While the printing process can’t reproduce the three dimensional aspects of the rock, it does capture how the paint reacts to it. I liked including actual rocks in the paint for the illustrations of a book about fossils.

And then you have this amazing book trailer:

For more information about Bill Thomson:

Bill Thomson has been called “a master at visual storytelling.” He is the illustrator of several children’s books, including Chalk (Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2010), which received many accolades. Thomson is also Professor of Illustration at the University of Hartford. He lives with his family in Connecticut. Visit Bill at

To download a copy of the educator guide or student activity guide click on the images:

To check out all of the stops for the FOSSIL Blog Tour:

Sat, Nov 9
Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 11
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Nov 12
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Nov 13
There's a Book
Thurs, Nov 14
Fri, Nov 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Nov 18
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Nov 19
The Children's Book Review
Wed, Nov 20
5 Minutes for Books
Thurs, Nov 21
Geo Librarian
Fri, Nov 22
Growing with Science

For a chance to win a copy of FOSSIL, complete the form below.  Winner must be 13 or older and have a US mailing address.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 3

Independent Bookstores! Yep, that's what I am very thankful for today.  I am especially lucky that I have several in close proximity to home and work.  I am fully aware that some people do not even have one near them.  I do my best to support as many of these indies so that they will continue to be around.

Here are just two of my favorites - I love Maureen Palacio, Kris Vreeland and the rest of the staff at Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose, California.  OUaT is small but has incredible author events and the best service.

My other frequent bookstore hangout is Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena.  It's been around for 120 years and it has an incredibly large children's and young adult section.  A definite must visit if you come to Pasadena.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation:

created/illustrated by Bill Thomson
Two Lions (November 5, 2013)

This is Thomson's follow-up to CHALK.  It is wonderful, and it comes out on Tuesday.  Quick, go order it! :-)   

What are you thankful for?

CHALK - Bringing the Book to Life

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you will know that I happen to be a BIG FAN of Bill Thomson's wordless picture book CHALK.  It was released a year ago and though I would have selected CHALK for a Caldecott, the committee members obviously didn't agree with me.  Since I am unable to decorate this book with any gold medals, I will have to be content with what I can do. Which has looked something like this...

Emailed the illustrator -
Yes, I have completely been a fangirl when it comes to this book.  When I first discovered it, I immediately hunted down an email address so that I could gush about my love for CHALK with the creator/illustrator. This YouTube interview/video shares a little about how complex it was to create the book. (And how did this not get an award?!)

Bought lots & lots of copies for giveaway:
I was just so in love with this book that I gave it to several children for Christmas and to all of my teaching staff as their holiday present.

If I didn't giveaway a copy, I told everyone to buy it:
I am pretty certain that I have told every bookseller, librarian, and teacher I know about CHALK and that they should buy it. We also featured it at our school book fair in December.

Plan a school-wide Literacy Event around CHALK:
In chatting with Angie (parent volunteer, Literacy Café developer), we decided that it would be wonderful to do something school-wide with the book.  (I suggest that you plan this out several months in advance especially if you are doing something on a large scale.)

Mid-Winter ALA, stop by the publisher's booth:
While wandering around the exhibit hall, I passed by the Marshall Cavendish booth. I had that funny feeling like "I know this name".  I looked at the display of books...and then it hit me, CHALK is published by Marshall Cavendish.  Of course, I blurted out to the staffer my shock that he wasn't displaying CHALK but he appeared to forgive my "foot-in-mouth" moment, when I proceeded to gush about the book and tell him about our plans for a school-wide event centered around it.  (Note: I am not advocating that you tell publishers what books to display, but I do know they really love hearing about the books that you really like.)

Plan out the event:
This included picking a date, creating an invite (thank you Karen), sending out invites, putting out a press release, notifying local law enforcement (we held the event right in front of the school), working with volunteers on all the details (thank you to all my volunteers), and working with teachers on ways that the book can be used in class.

It also included ordering 1,000 pieces of chalk (thank you to the PTA for funding this).

And decorating little bags for the chalk so it would look like the book. (Noeleen, Jon, Irene, and any others I owe you big time.)

Sorting out posters, so that every child would have one.  (Thank you Marshall Cavendish for supporting the event by sending posters for the children.)

Notifying the police for possible crowd control.  Always interesting when you have 350 kids in the front and side of the school.  But everyone did wonderful and the police enjoyed watching the children draw.

We also invited local chalk artists to come to the event and we worked with our local Indie bookstore, Vromans, to provide a way for families to order copies of the book.  The Children's Manager even came over to help out. (Yay to Indie Bookstores and supporting local businesses.)

There were also lots of special visitors who stopped by.  A rep from our local Assemblymember's office and heads for various departments in the District including our Chief Academic Officer, our Director of Elementary Education, Director of Special Education, Coordinators of Visual and Performing Arts, and Language Development.  And toward the end a couple of our Board Members popped by for a visit.  Though we didn't see the local paper, our District's TV department also came out and interviewed staff, children and parents.

Of course, this student kind of says it all:

For more information about Bill Thomson and his incredible book CHALK, check out his website here: 

I also need to extend a huge thank you to Bill Thomson for his continued enthusiasm for what we were planning and his support of this event by contributing items for the school to use in a Silent Auction to raise funds for Literacy.

Though I don't have a picture of this, my favorite moment of the day was hours later when nearly everyone was gone.  The Children's Book Manager and I were chatting in her car and we watched one young student bring her father all the way over to the side of the school in order to show him her drawing.  You could tell by the gestures and actions that she was sharing all about the event with him.  Dad was beaming and clicked a few pictures with the camera on his phone.  It was definitely one of those "awww" moments, but one where you realize how significant the event actually was to the children.

Thank you Bill for inspiring all of the children and staff at San Rafael School.  Come visit any time you are in Southern California.  I can promise you that you will be treated like a Rock Star.