Welcome to my site!
Greetings from myself and my alter egos. In my books I sometimes appear as a green cat. More often as a blue elephant.
My first book – Polkabats and Octopus Slacks was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1998. Since then I’ve written and illustrated a dozen more,, including Dutch Sneakers and Fleakeepers, Tippintown, Soup for Breakfast, Hallowillloween, We Go Together!, Boy Wonders, Pirateria, and Flamingos on the Roof – winner of the Myra Cohn Livingston poetry award, and a New York Times bestseller. Hypnotize a Tiger – Poems About Just About Everything, which was published by Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt in 2015, is my first aimed at middle-grade readers, and recently won a Lee Bennett Hopkins honor award and The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Children’s Poetry. My latest book, The Ghostly Carousel, was published by Lerner in August of 2018, and my next one – UP VERSES DOWN is coming in June of 2019 from Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt.
If you’d like, check out the individual book galleries . There are sample pages and reviews for each title. Towards the bottom there are some galleries of other illustration work.
I love visiting with students and have have done presentations, readings and workshops at schools, book festivals, and museums across the country and Internationally. See the school visit section for more information.
I love visiting elementary schools. The creativity and enthusiasm of the kids I meet is always amazing. I am also inspired by all the wonderful dedicated teachers, librarians and principals making poetry and art a priority for their students.
I have visited schools all over the country, from California to Oregon, Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.
I am also available for conferences and other events. In addition to schools, I have read my work and done workshops at The National Book Festival, The Walker Art Center, The Kohler Art Center, The Getty Museum, The Boston Children’s Museum, SCBWI New England, American Librarians Association and Texas Librarians Association Conferences.
My presentations are lively and fun, and can be done for large groups or smaller classroom visits. The presentation lasts forty-five minutes, with another ten to fifteen minutes for live drawing and questions. Since at elementary schools, I present to a variety of grades in different groups – from kindergarten to fifth grade, I have three distinct but related presentations tailored to the various ages of the students – one for Pre-K, kindergartners and first graders, one for second and third graders, and one for forth and fifth.
I use keynote (powerpoint for mac) for the slideshow and start with examples of art and books that inspired me when I was young, some of my drawings from my elementary school years, and go from my first attempts at putting stories and pictures together, to the books I create today. I talk about where the ideas for the poems come from, why I love language and the things I find funny, and go through the process of writing and illustrating a book, from ideas to sketches to the printed page.
I show a big variety of artwork, read lots of my favorite poems from the books, and include some simple and creative drawing and poetry exercises.
Contact me at calef at calefbrown dot com about scheduling a visit, fees and other details.
A few testimonials:
Calef Brown captured his audience with his art work and writing. The children loved his poems and were captivated by his ability to recite each from memory. His commentary on his journey into art instilled in the children the lesson of never giving up on your dream to do what you love. In the days following Calef’s visit his books flew off the shelves. I highly recommend hosting an author visit with author/illustrator Calef Brown.
Judy Hummel – Woodland Elementary School Librarian.
I think that one of our first graders said it best: “We have never in a billion years had such a cool guest as Calef Brown at our school. When will he be back?” You have made a huge and lasting impression on the students, teachers and families at Forest Park Elementary School. The kids have not stopped talking about your visit. My email and voicemail boxes were filled with messages from Forest Park families. Everyone was blown away by your presentations and your kindness with the book signing. Your work and words made a major impact- the kids are all writing poetry, illustrating their work and sharing with each other. Your presentations led the kids through your process- from inspiration to concept to sketches to final copy. The kids loved the stories behind the stories – you shared your real life experiences and the kids were able to see how those experiences made their way into your work. You spoke to the kids – not at them. Students have been bringing their “book dummies” into the library to share and are ready to send them off to a publisher! Since your visit the poetry section in our library has been wiped out. Thanks 1,000,000 times for visiting our school. I don’t think we will ever top it. You are a rock star around here!
Mirka Jablonski – Librarian, Forest Park Elementary School
The students were fascinated by Calef Brown and the work he shared with them. He captured the attention of both the students and teachers, creating a warm and comfortable atmosphere as he shared his love of drawing and writing. The way in which Calef personalized his “lessons” to the students, shared stories about his childhood, family, and pets really drew the students in. They enjoyed his humor and candor, and loved it when he created images before their eyes. Days after he left, his drawings were still in the classroom and students were attempting to replicate them. We would welcome Calef back again and again.
Lynda Clark – 4th Grade Teacher, Woodland Elementary
“Thank you, Calef Brown!”
I was thrilled to host your recent visit to Worcester Elementary School. Students and teachers alike enjoyed the experience. We were already captivated by the unique blend of art and poetry in your books. Your presentation and slide shows gave us insight as to your inspiration and the breadth of your work.
Debra Cherry – Library Media Specialist, Worcester Elementary
Dear Calef Brown,
For Christmas I received Flamingos on the Roof. It is so good. Now, for April I have a poetry report where I have to find five poems from different authors. My topic was weather. I knew I wanted to choose a poem from your books so I chose Weatherbee’s Diner. That is also the poem I have to memorize for school as part of my report. I also brought that book in and most people are using poems from your book. Everyone who saw it found a favorite poem. I just wanted to say thank you for writing such great poems.
Jack K. – 4th Grader
Dear Mr. Brown,
This is one of those stories on how you positively impacted a young child.
My 5 year old daughter, Rose and I attended your Poetry reading in Portland earlier this spring. Rose has delighted in reading the 2 books of yours she currently owns (She reads above her grade level). Her collection will grow, I am sure. You further opened her eyes and mind to poetry.
When Rose’s school announced they would have an end of year talent show, Rose knew immediately she would read Oilcloth Tablecloth by Calef Brown. She memorized it, put together her props (small oilcloth covered table, baby doll in doll highchair, play coffee pot, soda bottle and “fake” spill). She did a great job and introduced more children to your vibrant and wonderful works.Thank you for sharing your talents.
Laura B. – Portland OR
On Friday, March 13th, 2009, author/illustrator/artist Calef Brown visited Arrowhead Library. Students were expecting a blue elephant but were not disappointed that Calef Brown was more human than pachyderm. His message to students was not to give up! If you like to do something, do it! He said he was not the best artist in school, but he loved to draw. So, he kept on doing it until he became an author, illustrator, and artist! Calef explained that elephants have been his favorite animals since he took a trip to India- the reason why the dust jackets on his books frequently depict him as a blue elephant. Calef Brown answered many questions about his work, his life, and the inspiration for his unique poetry.After the presentation Calef Brown took time to meet and take pictures with students who were inspired by his work. Mrs. Markle’s first grade class created artwork based on a Calef Brown poem entitled “Painting on Toast.”
Janice Conger – Librarian, Arrowhead Elementary
Calef Brown’s presence at our school was sublime, his influence far -reaching. The students were enchanted and have filed away another possibility for their future livelihoods by his example and the message he exudes.
Geralyn Leannah – Teacher, Sheboygan Wisconsin
Coming in June 2019 from Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt.
More information from the publisher here.
Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt 2015
Winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor Award
Winner of the Lion & Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry
An NEA Educator Recommended Book
“Full of absurdity and off-kilter musings, Brown's collection offers a zingy introduction to the silly side of poetry.”
“The best books can take you to places you never knew existed. Hypnotize a Tiger will blast you there on a Skyscraper Rocket with imaginary companions, herds of wordplay, and a giant smile. Calef Brown is the surreal deal.”
― Kenn Nesbit, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate
“Brown is a superb craftsman, with jazzy rhythms that get your whole body moving and a gift for embedded rhymes”
― The Horn Book
“Brown makes great use of wordplay, and the staccato syllables make the poems fun to read aloud. Little ones who enjoy funny verse will be tickled by this title.”
“There were certain books that fascinated and excited me as a child. I read them over and over, and they changed my perceptions forever. This is a book like that. It makes a delightful playground of language and concept. Calef Brown is a hero. He is a bulwark against mediocrity. He is my hero too.”
― Daniel Pinkwater
“With witty poems combined with his amazing paintings, Calef Brown has made his distinct mark in the history of American culture as a true literary treasure.”
― Dan Santat, Caldicott award-winning author and illustrator
“In your hands you hold a very special book. Get ready to meet a spectacular and hilarious cast of delightfully goofy and whimsical characters that live in each of these delicious poems. Calef Brown has made me feel like a mustached baby tasting sugar for the first time!”
―Jorge R. Gutierrez, director of "The Book of Life" and creator (with wife Sandra Equihua) of "El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera"
This collection delivers a smorgasbord of Brown's trademark nonsensical poems. Broken into sections by theme such as "The Critterverse," "Schoolishness," and "Word Crashes," the selections depict an offbeat world where dinosaurs barbecue "titanic taters" and ghoulish gym teachers make kids play "dodgebull… with actual cattle." The poems bounce and jump from one topic to the next with sometimes satirical, always silly, word play running along the page bottoms. Brown's stylized, folk artsy illustrations evoke just the right mood for the zany verse. Though there is more than one line that does not roll easily off the tongue and awkward rhymes abound, it is easy to see this clumsiness as part of the spirit of the collection. From the poems themselves to the illustrations to the tongue-in-cheek interview with Brown at the book's close, it's clear that this is a collection that doesn't take itself too seriously. For libraries seeking something silly, especially where Brown's poems are already a hit.
– School Library Journal
Fun knows no bounds in this collection of over 80 zany poems and accompanying mixed-media illustrations, topped off by the author’s Q-and-A written almost entirely in verse. Younger children will enjoy poring over Brown’s detailed, silly drawings of animals, insects and imagined objects and hearing the tight, surprising end rhymes that bind many of the poems (a delightful pairing of “speedometer” with “vomiter” in the poem “Carsick” comes to mind). Middle-grade readers will likely revel in the sophisticated wordplay Brown employs to depict the humorous perspectives offered throughout, particularly those of less-savory creatures. A vulture laments, “This is my diet? / If it died, I try it?” Soon-to-be butterflies complain, “Just because we’re pupae, / people give us the poop-eye.” And then there’s the ho-hum fate of lice: “I would hate to be a louse— / always feeling lousy, / even when overjoyed / or pleasantly drowsy.” Successful, too, are moments where poem and illustration work hand in hand to pun, as in the poem “Hugh”—“Meet my Belgian friend. / He lives near Bruges, on a farm. / His name is Hugh Jarm”—illustrated with farmer Hugh waving one giant arm in greeting. With verse and illustrations running the gamut from creative to kooky and occasionally gross, kids should devour this entertaining collection in one sitting.
– Kirkus Reviews
Carolrhoda Books 2018
"An offbeat menagerie of spooky light-verse poems. Brown's 17 tightly rhymed poems, presented in mostly double-page spreads, feature all kinds of otherworldly creatures and things. Witches and warlocks, the 'Creeping Crud' and a cannibal's fingery fondue, fictional characters such as Dr. Jekyll and Medusa, Brown's boldly illustrated subjects--all are painted with his signature childlike detail in rich, earthy oranges, purples, greens, and black, and they engage in some icky escapades to which children might yet relate. For instance, a 'zombie named Joel' attempts to dig himself deep into a literal hole, desperately trying to 'escape / from the family reunion, ' where his 'zombified aunts, / lost in a trance, ' and laden with 'scorpions, / leeches, / and slugs' are 'lurching / and searching / for hugs.' Another 'big, big fan / of the dark and dank' is Hank. 'A deep thinker, / Hank the spelunker / is entranced by caves' and summed up as being a 'funny little dude' who thinks 'grubs and larvae / make marvelous food'; the page turn then reveals Hank's stomach-churning recipe for 'Insect Pie.' Employing clever puns and unexpected end rhyme, Brown creates as engaging an aural experience as a visual one. Brimming with macabre portraits and gross humor, Brown's carousel emboldens young readers to find fun in things that go bump in the night." – Kirkus Reviews
"Brown (Hallowilloween) produces another humorous collection of nightmarish verse that introduces readers to such playful and lurid figures as Joel the zombie, Dublin's notorious goblins, Fritz the undertaker, and Medusa's hairstyling team. 'The Jekyll Lantern' cleverly alludes to Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with discerning wordplay. Deliciously rich words like repugnant and fiend sparkle in this poem and others, incorporating rhyme and a steady meter perfect for reading aloud. Each poem uses literary devices such as alliteration and puns to enhance and balance the creepiness with comedic twists. Brown's acrylic illustrations are slyly sinister and satisfyingly gross. Readers will delight in cannibals dipping toes into fondue and Hank's insect pie recipe filled with plenty of creepy-crawlies. Although most of Brown's spooky poems lean toward the fantastic, it's his last poem that is most relatable: 'I'm not afraid/of bats or bee stings, /but late at night/I think I see things--/spooky silhouettes.' For in spite of all his wild imaginings, it's the fear of the ordinary becoming the extraordinary that truly terrifies. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for Brown fans and those who relish poems that go bump in the night." – School Library Journal
Author-illustrator Brown (Polkabats) offers 17 poems that are wickedly humorous and gently eerie. Topics of focus include a zombie family reunion, a canoe commandeered by vengeful canaries, a mysterious 'creeping crud' that invades a house ('arriving precisely/ at midnight on Fridays'), and unruly trick-or-treating leprechauns. Narrative drives many of the verses: 'The village of Glumm/ is gloomy and grim/ for miles in all directions./ A grisly, ghastly, ghostly place/ except for these exceptions.' Other poems address more relatable childhood frights, such as when a child gazes fearfully at the darkened shapes of shelved toys: 'I'm not afraid/ of bats or bee stings, / but late at night/ I think I see things--/ spooky silhouettes.' In acrylic and gouache paintings, Brown brings his distinctive ghoulishness-meets-folk-art sensibility to his monstrous menagerie, and again captures the fun to be found in things sinister and strange. – Publishers Weekly
Brown (Soup for Breakfast, rev. 3/09; Hypnotize a Tiger, rev. 3/15) gives his quirky, funny verse and art a spooky twist here with seventeen poems celebrating ghosts, witches, demons, and even fondue-eating cannibals (who love to dip 'fingers in cheese'; cheese comes up again in 'Insect Pie, ' where 'tasty fleas are stuffed with cheese / until they nearly bust'). The rhythm in some of the poems takes getting used to, beginning with the first poem ('the children of the coven, / being far too young / to use the cauldron or the oven...'), but the successes outweigh the flaws. 'Canary Canoe' is one stronger example, a poem about vengeful super-natural canaries, depicted in Brown's acrylic and gouache illustrations with red eyes and angry expressions--it's silly, and genuinely creepy. The poems will make most sense to children old enough to recognize such references as Medusa, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a ghost who gambles with 'bones.' In the atmospheric title poem, Brown's 'Ghostly Carousel' is decorated with skulls, and it features (instead of horses) an angry-looking unicorn, a grizzly bear, and a barracuda, among others, leaving room for kids to wonder what they might see on a ghostly carousel of their own creation--an imaginative exercise perfect for the Halloween season." – Horn Book
Houghton Mifflin 2006
You can listen to me read the book here.
New York Times #1 Best Seller In Children’s Picture Books
Featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition
Winner of the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry
A 2007 Children’s Book Council Choice
This quirky picture book moves from poem to poem with a great deal of colorful detail and over-the-top humor. From poems about “biscuits in the wind” and “the crystal bowling ball,” to ones about tiny baby sphinxes and Poseidon’s hair, these one-page free-verse poems will engage budding poets who want poems they can understand.
– Children’s Literature
Brown’s lively nonsense rhymes blend the mythic and the contemporary, as do his acrylic illustrations, part folk art, part postmodern. The wry mockery of the haikus will appeal to older readers, but even preschoolers will enjoy acting out poems such as “Combo Tango” (“Stomp like a buffalo. / Drop like a yo-yo. / Swing like a golf pro. / Flip like a hairdo . . . “). Words and pictures manage to be both clear and weird, an enjoyable mix.
Brown’s imaginative wordplay is matched by his acrylic paintings depicting people and places in unusual hues. . . . Silly it may be, but all the best kind, prompting the reader to see the world (slightly) askew and to delight in it.
Twenty-eight more flights of fancy from a rapidly improving nabob of nonsense. . . . Composed with a fine ear for consistent rhythms and silly wordplay, these verses will tempt readers into repeat visits.
– Kirkus Reviews
This is poetry to convert the unpoetic. This is a book that begs to be read aloud by kids of all ages. There’s something for everyone here. A marvelous addition to any poetry section.
– Betsy Bird, A Fuse#8 Production
Houghton Mifflin 1998
Publisher’s Weekly and USA Today Bestseller
Featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition
Winner of the Marion Vannett Ridgeway Award for Poetry
A wacky, postmodern array of characters. . . . Brown’s illustrations (are) a perfect choice of style for the poetry’s quirky logic. An exuberant debut, equally enjoyable read silently or aloud.
The deadpan tone and weird words, worthy of a carnival barker, inject a step-right-up sensibility into the humorous rhymes.
– Publisher’s Weekly
Calef Brown has fashioned fourteen nonsense poems so zany that both young and old will be unable to suppress their laughter. Brown’s invented words and sounds and their visual counterparts create both an audible and a visual feast. This is the kind of silliness children relish.
– The Publisher
Houghton Mifflin 2010
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A modern master of nonsense verse reaches new heights of giddiness with this Halloween-themed collection. . . . Nefariously silly indeed.
– Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Brown’s acrylic illustrations add to the creepy silliness: an artful mix of naive and stylized, whimsical details and vibrant color. Young readers will relish the wordplay and find themselves torn to choose a favorite among this wacky menagerie.
– School Library Journal, starred review
A proven master of the tongue-twister (“Polkabats and Octopus Slacks,” “Flamingos on the Roof”), Calef Brown is at his best in this tour de force of autumnal perambulations that will have kids and adults giggling at his word play.
– Literary Features Syndicate
Author-illustrator Brown returns here with a new collection of verse, this time with a spooky, Halloween-friendly flavor. The fourteen poems feature subjects ranging from witches and mummies to portmanteau horrors such as the “vumpire” and the “poltergeyser” to more elaborate creepouts such as “The Portrait of Gory René.” The strong acrylic hues, fanciful shades, and antic energy provide imaginative support for the poems. Kids will relish
the spooky browsability and tongue-rolling horror, while readers-aloud will find year-round as well as seasonal opportunities to slip in a poem or two.
– The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books
Houghton Mifflin 2000
Amazon Children’s Book Top Ten
Parents Choice Recommended Winner
Brown follows his bestselling Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks with another traveling circus of poems… If Jack Prelutsky collaborated with Howard Finster, the result might look something like this.
– Publishers Weekly
…Brown introduces readers to a strange world where moons have reunions, waffles run away, people raise fleas to make money, and a magical electric guitar-playing grandma entertains crowds all over the planet. Vibrant, quirky illustrations jump off the page and perfectly match wits with the hilarious rhymes.
– Children’s Literature
Each story is told in verse that begs to be read aloud and chanted. The illustrations are in a comic folk-art style that is thoroughly hip. The far-out “plots” and silly pictures will interest younger children but older readers especially will revel in the fanciful possibilities.
– School Library Journal
Brown presents an irresistible roundup of eccentrics: the Fleakeepers, who train fleas for cash; Sir Dance-a-Lot, a knight who has traded dragon fighting for dancing; the Mysterious Fish, “Green like asparagus / Flat like a dish”; a rockin’ grandma and her “magic electric guitar”; and the wooden Dutch Sneakers of the title–“the grooviest shoes on the block . . . I don’t care if it hurts when I walk.” Brown’s paintings combine elements of folk art with swirling, energetic designs and ultrahip colors and details that match the text’s irreverent wit and fantastic scenarios. Professed poetry fans or not, young readers will choose this for reading alone or sharing with a group.
Houghton Mifflin 2003
An amiable blue man with an elephant’s trunk welcomes visitors to Tippintown, where folks dine on delicacies like ‘carrot tulip pie.’ This effervescent tour includes a hike up Tippinoggin Mountain, the site of seven giant sculpted heads, and a triple-decker ‘trip in a triple canoe’…Tippintown is well worth a visit.
– Publisher’s Weekly
A blue man with an elephant nose takes readers on a nickel guided tour through Tippintown, “food included.” Each spread’s rhyme, presented on the left, is followed by a one-line, droll coda on the right: “We begin at the famous Amelia statue,/here in Tippin Square./As most of you know,/Miss Amelia Tippin/invented the folding chair./Then she became an astronaut,/now she’s a millionaire”-“I think that’s her over there.” The lilt and tone of this nonsense verse can’t help but recall Edward Lear. Brown’s distinctive watercolors, in the same hip palette as his Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers (Houghton, 2000), adopt a flat folk-art form but then tickle it under the chin with insane details, characters defined by ultramodern styles, and fantasy elements. The wackiness and offbeat sophistication push the art from just plain goofy to meaningfully eccentric. A gleeful book for solo or shared reading.
– School Library Journal
Houghton Mifflin 2012
"In a collection that celebrates loving friendship, Brown artfully captures the comforting, sometimes odd moments of true affection."
"[Brown] pairs a heaping spoonful of nonsense with unexpected yet genuine observations about the joy of companionship."
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The cheerful, rhythmic rhymes help make this book perfect for reading aloud, and it would be an ideal choice for two friends to share."
— School Library Journal
"This small book, not much bigger than a greeting card, celebrates friendship in short poems and imaginative drawings. . . . Use this as a jumping off place for creating Valentine's Day cards."
This book, comprised of 18 first-person poems that are all about 10 lines each, emphasizes the importance of friendship and the little ways in which people can express their gratitude for one another. Each spread has a snappy poem and a colorful picture. The illustrations range from subtle to celebratory, and the characters depicted give deeper meaning to the selections. Different ethnicities and even species are represented (including green space aliens!), but they are not specifically addressed in the text (nor do they really need to be). The poems quietly celebrate all types of friendships, and the narrator(s) show appreciation for the small things that bring friends together, like how one bird encouraged his dog pal to become a braver roller skater, or how one friend has memorized the other's preferences when it comes to a cup of tea, "Noticing things about me, especially, seems to be your specialty." The cheerful, rhythmic rhymes help make this book perfect for reading aloud, and it would be an ideal choice for two friends to share.
– School Library Journal
This small book, not much bigger than a greeting card, celebrates friendship in short poems and imaginative drawings. Whether one pal is asking another to start a band, or both are realizing they’re scallywags (Let’s plan a caper! / We can build a UFO / and fool the local paper), or the friends are simply celebrating how well they go together (Basses and drums. / Pastries and crumbs), these vignettes will make readers smile. That’s also true of the pictures, painted in acrylics, which have a Maira Kalman feel. Some of the sturdy art is whimsically surreal—for instance, an alligator in cowboy clothes gives his beaked lady love a bike ride on his handlebars. And while a few of the poems have a sophistication that might get past the intended audience—like the one in which a beret-wearing dog discusses how he enjoys the way a lady cat completes his sentences—most are on target. Use this as a jumping off place for creating Valentine’s Day cards.
Houghton Mifflin 2008
Have you ever eaten soup for breakfast? In this delicious book young readers will enjoy sifting through the poems and pictures of Calef Brown’s imagination…Children and parents will enjoy this humorous, fun book of poetry, and the illustrations capture these fun scenes perfectly.
– Children’s Literature
In Brown’s latest poetry collection, food is the subject in much of the nonsense verse. Bright acrylic illustrations extend the silliness with images of noodles tucked into haystacks and a spread of wildly colored donuts. As in Flamingos on the Roof (2006) and Brown’s other titles, the words’ playful sounds are a big part of the fun for young readers, and the lines are filled with the weird puns and unexpected rhymes. There are also contemplative poems, which are illustrated with delicate images, as in a selection about a young moth “with wings so soft” that it is a wonder it can “lift up and stay aloft.” One of the best selections, “Painting on Toast,” is about an artist who uses bread for a canvas and finds poetry in breakfast: “the primer is butter . . . honey is handy for mountains and hills.” A good choice for energizing poetry units.
The combination of stylized illustrations and offbeat verse makes this collection both adventurous and fun. Brown’s poems rhyme and roll easily off the tongue except for a tongue twister that playfully makes readers falter a bit. Brown’s varied topics and deft touch coupled with his distinctive art make this title a must-have for both school and public libraries.
– School Library Journal
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2013
This boy doesn't just wonder, he throws readers a forceful invitation: “May I ask you something? / Are you ever perplexed? / Completely vexed? / Do you have questions? / Queries? / Odd theories?” He does.
Brown’s book is in the grip of an effervescent momentum. Not that it really has anything to do with asking questions—of curiosity, of inquiry—though the boy sure does ask lots of questions. It is what, and especially how, he asks that spins the wheel. The story is shuttled along on Brown’s fine artwork: slightly jittery, slightly sinister, with blasts of color alternating with pages in shadow and clever interpretations of the boy’s increasingly loopy questions. His mind is a tinderbox to which Brown applies a match. “Do onions cry?” “Is water scared of waterfalls?” He adds some subversive wordplay as kindling: “Do clouds get jealous during storms, and steal each other’s thunder?” And “[i]f I’m too tired, am I a bike?” Soon thereafter, great logs are thrown on the fire. “Would a happy toucan / from the Yucatan / become cantankerous / up in Anchorage / or the Yukon? / What about Tucson?” In the end, the questions and words are whole lotta fun, but it is the music the book makes that is the most arresting entertainment.
– Kirkus Reviews
Runaway punnery and nonstop questions drive this rhyming book, which calls attention to similar-sounding words and figures of speech. Brown's (Hallowilloween) title refers to a pensive boy who asks, "Are you ever perplexed? Completely vexed?" and unleashes his ruminations. The text, illustrated in surreal acrylics that convey an imagination in overdrive, opens in a high-energy yet manageable way: "Do bees get hives?/ Do onions cry?/ Is pepper apt to sneeze?/ Do paper plates/ and two-by-fours/ remember being trees?" As pages turn, absurd tongue-twisters and weird images accumulate, as in a portrait of a frowning blue-violet bird in an icy landscape: "Would a happy toucan/ from the Yucatan/ become cantankerous/ up in Anchorage/ or the Yukon?/ How about in Tucson?" Enjoyment depends on a pleasure in assonance and consonance, and a capacity to deconstruct skewed metaphors ("Do clouds get jealous during storms,/ and steal each other's thunder?"); more than anything, this one seems likely to spur discussions about the idioms, animals, and vocabulary that appear within.
– Publishers Weekly
Parents need to know that the main character in this book has a lot of funny questions. This book's poetic language makes it great to read aloud -- and fun for new readers, too. Be prepared for some discussions about the questions -- and also to help your kids learn the definitions for some of the more challenging vocabulary words. This delightful book is a must for curious kids with a thousand questions. The questions are often silly and nonsensical -- "Would a happy toucan from the Yucatan become cantankerous up in Anchorage or the Yukon? -- but the puns, rhymes, tongue twisters, and frequent use of words that sound alike make the book fun to read aloud. Beginning readers especially will be tickled as they sound out the rhythmic passages slowly, and then more quickly. Wild, animated illustrations done in acrylics bring the text to life.
– Common Sense Media
Chronicle Books 2013
Published in a print edition and as an e-book in the states, and also as a print edition – Drago, Robot, Cocco Leprotto – in Italy.
From the publisher:
A book for doodling, drawing, and laughing! Featuring the inimitably humorous art of Calef Brown and a wonderful menagerie to stretch and inspire your artistic talent and imagination alike! The multi-touch format allows users to draw directly onto and alongside the designs included. Create over and over again and enjoy wildly inventive fun for artists aged 5 to 105.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2012
"Avast! This combination of nonsense verse and everything pirate is a guaranteed winner." – Kirkus Reviews
"With the pep and flair of a slick sales pitch, this festive, fun read by best-selling author-illustrator Brown (Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks, 1999) features plentiful and playful takes on iconic pirate trappings and accoutrements. Colorful, animated, cartoonish art captures the busy chaos, and varying illustrative scenarios convey everything from items’ uses to snazzy ruffle- and eye-patch-wearing pirate shoppers and staff....
This one is a buccaneer-buffs’ delight." – Booklist
"An entertaining romp, even for landlubbers." – The Horn Book
Cover and interior black and white drawings – one per chapter.
Chronicle Books 2011
"Seasoned collaborators provide an assuring nudge for readers to embrace Lear's sumptuously silly verse." - Publishers Weekly
"This book of poetry will undoubtedly hold the interest of young readers scouring the shelves for something out of the ordinary. " - Library Media Connection
Pinkwater and Brown honor a fellow champion of absurdity, Edward Lear, in this frisky collection. Even before readers get to the poems, a cartoon self-portrait of Lear in the introduction (he looks a bit like a bearded balloon) hints at the revelry that's to follow. Brown's elegantly quirky collages convey the gentle lunacy of the Owl and the Pussycat (who gaze at each other adoringly, dressed in debonair threads), and lesser-known characters like the Quangle Wangle, whose gigantic hat becomes home to the toe-less Pobble (who appears separately in his own poem) and other creatures. These seasoned collaborators provide an assuring nudge for readers to embrace Lear's sumptuously silly verse. Publishers Weekly
Cover and interior black and white drawings – one per chapter.
I created the art for the cover and did interior spot illustrations – one per chapter.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2009
"Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude puts the fun front and center, both in the lives of the artists it describes, and in its emulation of its titular writer's style." -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"'Thank you for this cow' the story ends but it is really just beginning because readers will want to go back to the words and the colors and the tea and Alice and Gertrude and having bright, sparkling fun with words and colors and tea." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Taking his title from Gertrude Stein's famous saying about a rose, Winter (Frida) crafts a Steinesque 'word portrait' of the modernist author." -- Publisher's Weekly
Gertrude is Gertrude and a rose is a rose and Jonah and Calef are writer and artist. If Gertrude were alive then Gertrude would love this. Children, too? They probably will because the colors are colors and rich in their colors and surprising, too, whoever saw a blue man drinking tea? And artists and writers that children have heard of like Picasso and Matisse and Hemingway come to have tea with Gertrude and Alice whose job is to keep Gertrude happy. And the words are dancing and singing and having tea and being the words they want to be and so are the pictures and there is a cow. “Thank you for this cow” the story ends but it is really just beginning because readers will want to go back to the words and the colors and the tea and Alice and Gertrude and having bright, sparkling fun with words and colors and tea. Publishers Weekly
What is The Exquisite Corpse Adventure?
by Mary Brigid Barrett
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is a buoyant, spontaneous experiment; a progressive story game just like the one many families play on road trips, at camps, at parties, at home when there is a power outage. And just like in those games, characters spontaneously erupt out of one’s imagination; plots lines tumble forth, some realized, some lost; and we are often poised at the edge of a cliff with no logical solution in sight!
Progressive story games, like The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, can be played as an oral storytelling tradition, or in a written form, or even in a visual form as a drawing game. However the game is played out, its trademark elements are spontaneity, humor, bigger-than-life characters, and wild and wily plot threads, some of which inevitably remain unresolved!
Members of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure “motley crew” are, in reality, some of the most gifted artists and storytellers in our nation, award-winners all—M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate Di Camillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Lemony Snicket, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome, Jon Scieszka, and Chris Van Dusen.
In order to try and retain the spontaneity of the original game, The Exquisite Corpse Adventure contributing authors had only a couple of days to brainstorm and then write their individual episodes. Each episode was then lightly edited and sent back to the author for a quick rewrite.
Even more fascinating, the illustrators operated in something of a blind, just like the Surrealists did when playing the visual version of The Exquisite Corpse! Each illustrator read the current episode, as well as the previous episodes, but they did not see the illustration that their colleagues have created for the previous episodes!
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough introduces Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, a creative tour de force published by Candlewick Press , in which 110 renowned authors and illustrators have donated their poetry, prose, and art to help advance the cause of young people’s literacy and historical literacy. The book’s content—illustrations, essays, short stories, presidential letters, personal reflections, and historical accounts—inform and entertain, offering a window on more than two hundred years of American history.
For my contribution I was given the assignment to illustrate one of The Four Freedoms, Freedom of Speech. More about the book here, and an interview in which I talk about how this piece inspired another work related to peaceful protest here.
Getty Publications 2003
Written by John Harris
Published by Magikon Forlag, Oslo, Norway 2014
Knust is a story about a small child who breaks their arm. It deals with pain, loneliness, and ultimately healing and joy. The illustrations were created with ink and photoshop.
A series of paintings with seasonal themes, originally commissioned by The Land of Nod for their quarterly catalog covers.
Cover and interior illustrations for HOW NOW, a special insert in issues of Martha Stewart Kids magazine.
A commissioned set of two paintings for a child’s bedroom.
Illustration created for a card to promote my children’s book work. Commissioned by my agent Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary.
Commissioned painting for a birth announcement card.
Short Read-aloud story for young kids published in the Nick Jr. magazine Noodle.
Poems selected by US Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt and Illustrated by Christoph Niemann. Little Brown 2016
I was thrilled to see one of my poems illustrated by the incomparable Christoph Niemann.
My Poem Coastal Bats is included in this colection of Animal Poems published by National Geographic.