ITCH! A JLG Selection

Itch!, a non-fiction informational book about all the things in nature that can make you itch, is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

How The cookie Crumbled Art

Here is some artwork for How The Cookie Crumbled. It is about the true and not so true stories of how Ruth Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie. Whether you are an inventor, or political (fake news), a history buff, or just love a good chocolate chip cookie, there is something for everyone in this story.

Following Baxter

I illustrated a cover and interior illustrations for an upcoming middle grade book for Harper Collins. Below are some of the sketches leading up to the final for the cover.

Here is the final:

Afer a little back and forth on sketches, the art director thought it would be cool to illustrate a flip book of the main character Baxter to run along the gutter of the book. Here is an animated gif of what it would look like if you were to flip through the book really fast….

Publishers Weekly Review

How The Cookie Crumbled was reviewed for Publishers Weekly. Here is the review below:

HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLED
By Gilbert Ford
(Atheneum, ISBN 978-1-4814-5067-6, 10/24/17, Fall 2017 catalog)

Ford moves from the history of the Slinky (in The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring) to that of another American classic: the chocolate chip cookie, invented by restaurateur Ruth Wakefield. With her Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie a hit, Wakefield sold the recipe to Nestlé, and it remains on chocolate chip bags to this day. Using traditional and digital media, Ford paints a cheery vision of Depression-era America, highlighting Wakefield’s persistence and exacting nature (“Ruth’s staff said she was one tough cookie to work for”). He also taps into the visual language of vintage comics to present three ways Wakefield’s discovery might have come about: as an accident, substitution, or moment of inspiration. Ford casts his vote for the third option; readers will cast theirs for baking cookies from the recipe that’s included.

Booklist review of HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLED

Here is a positive review of How The Cookie Crumbled from Booklist.

How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Ford, Gilbert (Author) , Ford, Gilbert (Illustrator)
Oct 2017. 40 p. Atheneum, hardcover, $17.99. (9781481450683). 641.5092.
It’s hard to imagine life without chocolate chip cookies, but they did need to be invented, and were: by Ruth Wakefield, at her Toll House Inn, during the 1930s. No one disputes these facts, but there are some questions regarding how. Readers are presented with three possible ways the cookies might have come into existence, and encouraged to figure out which version makes the most sense. To help, this picture-book biography documents Wakefield’s evolution, from child chef, to college nutrition major, to teacher, restaurant owner, master baker, and generous entrepreneur happy to share her discovery. As word spread, the Nestlé Corporation was delighted with the sudden increased demand for their chocolate and started producing easy-to-use chips, delivered in the iconic bag with the recipe on the back. The mixed-media illustrations align perfectly with the breezy, pun-filled text, aptly integrating period details, expressive facial expressions, and lots of happy crunching. This will be an enjoyable choice for one-on-one or group storytimes—just be sure to have some chocolate chip cookies handy!
— Kathleen McBroom

School Library Journal Review

Here is a nice review from School Library Journal on How The Cookie Crumbled, coming out in late October of this year.

FORD, Gilbert. How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie. illus. by Gilbert Ford. 40p. bibliog. S. & S./Atheneum. Oct. 2017.

Gr 2-4–Everyone is familiar with the deliciousness of chocolate chip cookies, but did you know some people say they were invented by accident? Ruth Wakefield’s lifelong passion for cooking and baking would eventually lead her to create the beloved chocolate chip cookie recipe. While some parts of her life story are straightforward, the actual invention of the tasty treat is surrounded by lore and legend. Readers will learn all three purported origin accounts, along with a little biography of the inventor herself. Laden with food and cooking puns, the vocabulary might go over the heads of younger readers and make it somewhat difficult for newly independent ones, too. However, the cartoonish flair of the rich and expressive illustrations, in combination with the subject matter, will widen the appeal to younger audiences. The lively, conversational writing style makes the book feel more like a whispered secret being passed down than a standard work of nonfiction. VERDICT Great for more advanced elementary school readers who are ready to appreciate a few tasteful puns. Otherwise, a fine addition to biography collections.–Emily Beasley, Omaha Public Schools

Mississippi Book Festival and School Visits

I was in my hometown Jackson, Mississippi last week for the Mississippi Book Festival and spoke to a variety of audiences, ranging from 3-year-olds to senior citizens. This was quite a contrast from my days in Brooklyn spent in quiet contemplation—either reading, writing, or illustrating. I liken these public events to jumping in the frosty ocean at the start of summer: you know it will be a complete shock to the system, but you get used to it once you jump in.

Still, many sunbathers waver by dipping their toes into the frozen salt water before retreating back to the sand. My advice is to mentally prepare yourself and just dive in.

For writers and illustrators that lead internal lives, diving in can be a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be if you’re prepared. Here is a list of a few simple steps I go through before presenting my work to any audience.

1. Put together a visual presentation. I like to use a combination of still photographs and video with sound. Some people like to write out everything they’ll say, and that is fine if you’re delivering a paper about someone else’s work to scholars. When talking about your own work to kids, the sequence of visuals can serve as reminders for points that you wish to make. You may have to go over some vocabulary with students, depending on their level of comprehension, so it’s best to be flexible.

2. Practice reading your book to your friends- or better yet, your friend’s child. Be sure to do all the voices if there is dialog, and practice reading the narrative so that it holds the child’s attention. Using arm motions and looking up from the text will help. The goal is to “perform” the story to keep the child engaged.

3. Pack something physical for the students to see and touch. If your story is about a favorite doll you had when you were a child, bring the doll for them to see. For The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring, I bring along my Slinky to show the students.

4. Practice from start to finish and time it. You should have an intro, a slide/video presentation, and a reading to begin with. 30 minutes is the typical length of a presentation. Any longer and the young ones will be squirming. If you’re an illustrator, you’ll be expected to draw for the students. Knowing how much time you have left to draw can help you rehearse what you plan to draw on the large pad of paper.

5. IF you finish early, there are always question and answers. I try and leave five minutes for this. Occasionally, the students may be shy, so you may ask them how long they think it takes to create a book and tell them about the processes.

I gave three presentations at McWillie Elementary for different age groups. I hadn’t tried this before, so I prepared different slide shows targeting the age group that was attending. For the youngest ones, I showed an animation as I read my first picture book, Flying Lessons, which is no longer in print. I did some drawing and concluded with a reading from the soon-to-be-released, How The Cookie Crumbled, because EVERYONE loves a chocolate chip cookie. Then I answered questions.

For the older students, I read The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring and showed my process video for creating it, which they seemed to enjoy. Then I gave an art lesson on symbolism using the illustrations from Soldier Song and my book covers to illustrate these concepts. The 5th and 6th graders seemed to really get this presentation, especially with the middle grade book covers, and took to the concepts and tricks of the trade I shared with them.

The next day, I visited my mother’s pre-k class and read Flying Lessons to them. This was the three-year-olds’ first time to sit as a group through a presentation, which pressured me to hold their attention. You can see in the photo that the students’ attention span is a lot shorter while I draw for them.

On Saturday, I attended the Mississippi Book Festival and participated in a panel discussion on picture books, moderated by Ellen Ruffin, curator of de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. I enjoyed discussing and sharing ideas with Margery Cuyler, Peter Reynolds, and Matt Smith on the panel. They all had wonderful insights to contribute and it was a pleasure to meet all of them!

Kirkus Review for Cookie

Below is the first mostly good review for How The Cookie Crumbled, out in October.

HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLED
The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie
Author: Gilbert Ford
Illustrator: Gilbert Ford

A chocolate candy bar cannonballing into a possessed mixer. Baking chocolate suddenly going AWOL. These are just a couple of the persistent myths orbiting the origins of America’s quintessential dessert: the chocolate chip cookie. Thanks to Ford’s kid-friendly exposé, Ruth Wakefield’s smarts and business savvy are revealed to be the true sources of the cookie’s invention. Not only was Wakefield the chef for the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, she also managed the restaurant. Daring to start a business with her husband just as the Great Depression hit, Wakefield’s dedication to quality paid off. In 1938, wanting to change up her popular butterscotch cookie, Wakefield added bits of a Nestle’s chocolate bar to the dough and—voilà! From kitchens across the country to the care packages sent to homesick World War II soldiers, the chocolate chip cookie was soon everywhere. In fact, Nestle created the chocolate chip specifically for Wakefield’s recipe. Ford’s illustrations successfully evoke the 1930s and ’40s, down to the comic-strip half-tone dot effect of the different cookie-genesis scenarios. However, Ford misses the opportunity to depict among the diners the famous personages mentioned in his author’s note, and his pictorial rendition of the cookie queen is strangely unsympathetic—staff grimace behind her back as she critically frowns at their work. Quibbles aside, pastry chefs in the making will be fascinated by this accessible tribute to a true American icon and will be tempted to try the appended cookie recipe. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

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