Thursday, January 9, 2020

Brought to you by the Number NINE -- and children's book illustrator Amy Huntington

Happy January 9! What's special about today? Well, it's the first 9 of the new year... and this year 9 is my favorite favorite number!
Why, you ask? Well... because of the new book I have coming June 9, 2020 from Charlesbridge called NINE: A BOOK OF NONET POEMS with illustrations by Amy Huntington.

Friends: these illustrations are extra-special because they tell a story. Yes, Amy added a whole amazing narrative to my collection of poems! I'm so grateful to Amy and to our ultra-creative editor Karen Boss for turning my collection of poems into a 9-inch x 9-inch (yes, even the book's trim size celebrates the number 9!) Number Nine Extravaganza!

To introduce the book, I've invited Amy Huntington to respond to a few of my favorite prompts. You may know Amy's work from some of her other projects, like one of my favorites: Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers Market (words by Michelle Schaub) Charlesbridge, 2017. Also coming in 2020, Monsters Like Us (Beaming Books). And more books are in the pipeline... Amy is a busy creator! Which makes me especially grateful she's here today. Friends, please welcome children's book illustrator Amy Huntington!

The difficult:

sketch of girl
that became Tisa
in NINE: A Book
of Nonets
AH: Toward the end of 2018, I received a batch of gorgeous poems from Charlesbridge Publishing. Irene’s “nonet” poems. Each one different from the next, but all connected by one thing, a numeral, a digit - the number “nine.” My job as the illustrator was to weave a story through the collection…with pictures. Whaaaat? How was I going to do this? From the poem about a cat’s nine lives, the ninth president, Apollo 9, the Little Rock Nine, to a nine-banded armadillo? Eighteen in all. But ha ha! I love a challenge!

I began as I always do…with some characters. This little girl I had developed for an earlier project but never used. She was pinned above my drawing table, asking to be considered. (It looks like she is holding a loaf of bread here. Nope, it’s supposed to be a rock, but that’s another story.)

The delicious:

AH: My girl needed a friend, and she soon had one. So then it became a game of introducing each poem through the characters day, and fiddling with the chronology of poems to reflect that passage of time. Because I love to use animals, the cat and armadillo are featured characters as well. Who doesn’t love an armadillo!

art by Amy  Huntington

And now that I have a cast of characters, what medium(s) should I use for the final art? In this case I chose gouache, colored pencil and a bit of digital. I love playing around with paints, collage, drawing etc, until I find the perfect combination for the final art. The process is always delicious! This is one of my favorite spreads. Each character was painted separately and plunked onto the field with Photoshop.

art from "Play Ball!" spread

The unexpected:

AH: There are always some spreads that I know will demand a bit more thought/research/planning. I was sort of putting off doing “Beethoven’s Ninth”. It’s not just a simple quartet. There are LOTS of musicians. But I love how this painting turned out!

art from "Beethoven's Ninth" spread

Something else unexpected? I got to do endpapers!!!

endpaper art by Amy Huntington

Thank you Irene for giving me this rich assortment of beautiful nonets to illustrate!

Thank you, Amy, for making this book a beautiful love song to the number 9, and the age 9 and all the many (many!) fun sets of nine found on every spread. Mwah!


  1. Amy's art is so full of fun and energy! I can't wait to see the storyline she created for Tisa and her friends. Thank you for this sneak peek, Irene!

  2. I'm anticipating this book quite a lot now, Irene and Amy. This sneak peek of the art and the few poems inviting Tisa and her friends to do something with the number nine is exciting. Congratulations to both of you!


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