Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Vacation

I am taking a much-needed blog vacation this week. Enjoy your 4th (if you're in the U.S.)!

Look for a post next week on a couple of new picture books and a poetry collection. Unless I come up with something completely different. It happens.

Meanwhile, may you have fireworks, watermelon, and maybe even a trip to the beach in your life...

Things that make you go BOOM!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Review of Hapenny Magick by Jennifer Carson

Awhile back I taught children's book writing classes for Online University for two summers in a row. The first year, I tried covering everything from picture book to YA, but the second year I narrowed it down to middle grade fiction. Jennifer Carson was one of my students that year, so I was pleased to hear from her when she wrote asking me to review her second book, Hapenny Magick. (Her first book was To Find a Wonder.)

Jennifer is creative in more than one way. She also happens to be a dragon charmer. Here's her bio from Amazon:
Jennifer Carson lives in New Hampshire with her husband, four sons and three four legged friends. She grew up on a steady diet of Muppet movies and renaissance faires and would occasionally be caught reading under the blankets with a flashlight. Besides telling tales, and being an editor for Faerie Magazine, Jennifer likes to create fantasy creatures and characters and publishes her own sewing patterns. Her artwork and patterns can be seen online at Hapenny Magick is her second published work of fiction.

Jennifer's work has been featured in national magazines like Faerie Magazine, Soft Dolls and Animals, Teddy Bear and Friends and Dolls United. In the spring of 2008, Jennifer was featured on the ABC affiliate, WMUR tv show, New Hampshire Chronicle. Her sewing patterns have recently been translated in Dutch and in April 2009, she received the NE-SCBWI Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship for her writing.

Jennifer's fabric fantasy creatures are stories in and of themselves, so it's easy to see the roots of a book like Hapenny Magick. I'll confess that I'm not usually into cute, but wow—Jennifer's creations are cute! Her book is also cute, despite the troll peril. I think 2nd through 4th grade would be about the right reading age for this story about a Hapenny girl named Maewyn who lives with a mean slob named Gelbane after her mother goes away on a journey. Soon Maewyn meets up with a talking pig and a wizard and discovers she has magical powers of her own. And she begins to wonder—is her village really safe from the Hapenny-eating trolls, after all? The magic on the bridge pillars may not be working quite the way it should...

Maewyn's magic and her determination to help Hapenny friends like Leif, who has gone missing, assist her with her mission, as do new friends like a giant named River Weed Starr. The tale ends with an epic battle and a new future for Maewyn. Here's a sample from the book that shows Mae playing her flute as she rounds up some runaway pigs:
Skipping to the tune she played, Mae made her way to the edge of the hayfield. One by one the piglets came, trotting in a line like a gaggle of newly hatched goslings. A sow at the rear kept the piglets in rank. The boar took the lead. Mae's skirt swayed against her knees as she led the swine parade. They trotted around the hill the barn was built into, through the damp and dewy grass, and to the pigpen. Kicking the gate open, Mae danced into the sty.

All the pigs were safe once more—except the one still nipping the heads off the flowers. Her head nodded to the beat; she even let out a happy oink, but she didn't join the march through the farmyard. That pig was always hard to catch. Sometimes she would even go missing for weeks and then show up one morning like she'd never been gone.
Jennifer Carson's book is full of whimsy and a gentle humor, but it also includes peril and a satisfying adventure. Hapenny Magick is a fitting tribute to the world Carson first created in cloth. (See fabric Maewyn, right.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Join the Audio/Video Club

After the first two came along, I thought I'd share and add a few more clips and picks...

Someone singing to one of my poems in a bookstore. No, really!

Here's her soundcloud melody and arrangement in case you have my book and want to sing along. Looks like her name is Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus. Arrangement by Paul Raiman. Kind of pretty, huh? Apparently this is a thing she does. (See her blog here and the specific entry for Water Sings Blue here.) Thanks, Emily!

"More Than a Number," lyrics by Poem Farm poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater with music and performance by Barry Lane. Great thoughts about real kids vs. standardized test subjects.

Everybody Dies book trailer by Ken Tanaka. A strangely compelling book trailer. Though the art struggles in comparison to the illustrations in, say, Everybody Poops.

—Not like iPad needs any help from me, but I am about to buy a Mac and this is a great little parody (also out in actual picture book form): Goodnight iPad. Nice reference to Angry Birds, too.

How to Write a Children's Book—Not. Two so-so ideas plus eight things I completely disagree with, e.g., the suggestion to add a message of some kind. (Yikes!) Plus the whole formulaic approach in general. But the artwork is kind of cute!

—And last but not least, John Green's Crash Course World History #17. After all those teasers about "The Mongols: The Exception," we finally get an entire crash course (11 minutes plus) about the Mongols! Called, naturally, "Wait for It... The Mongols." (Warning: Starts with an ad. When I watched, it was a Duracell ad in Spanish. Random.) Watch the entire series if you like your history mixed with John Green's brand of humor.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

YA Beach Reads

In which I give you the bikini-clad skinny about four sequels as well as three brand-spanking-new books. Let the waves wash in, let the sunscreen shimmer, let sand get between the pages and your toes!

Note: If you haven't read the previous books for the ones that are sequels, watch out for spoilers below.

Underworld by Meg Cabot

Paranormal romance, continued. Underworld is one of those Hades-Persephone variations. At this point, in Book 2, Pierce Oliviera has already been to hell, and hunky, brooding John Hayden—AKA Death—wants her to stay there. But her malevolent nemesis is after her hapless cousin now, and she really wants to help him. John reluctantly takes her back on an inter-dimensional road trip to her hometown of Isla Huesos, with a few of his colorful shipmate dead buddies as backup. Everyone in Isla Huesos thinks Pierce is dead, plus she is unclear on the whole "Don't eat the food in hell" concept. Then again, she is clearly pretty happy to be in John's clutches, though he worries what she will think of his scarred past (from his human days). It's kind of like the Scooby Gang, only their home base is the underworld and everyone wears black or gray. Whatever Cabot writes, even death-based paranormal, there's a cheeriness and good humor that I find rather charming. Read Abandon first, though.

First line: "Pierce keeps having the most terrible nightmares." My mom used to say this to all the doctors we saw right after the accident.

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

In The Gathering, Book 1 of the Darkness Rising trilogy, Maya Delaney found out the meaning of her paw-print birthmark: she's a skin-walker. And she's just one of several unusual teens who's been raised deliberately in the same small town under the auspices of a mysterious corporation. After a forest fire, they are evacuated, but it soon becomes clear they're being kidnapped. They manage to escape, and then the book is all about them being chased through the forest while finding out each other's secrets. Oh, and of course we need to know who the mole is. There's nothing particularly amazing here, but Armstrong knows her stuff, and The Gathering is a well-told tale. These books, like Armstrong's previous YA trilogy, Darkest Powers, are loosely linked to Armstrong's paranormal series for adults. And by the way, I like this line from the book jacket bio about Kelley's childhood writing: "If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers' dismay." Oh, and we do have the requisite bad boy love interest, just in case you were wondering!

First line: I don't know who was more anxious—Daniel or Kenjii—but they weren't making this emergency helicopter evacuation any easier.

Flora's Fury by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Ysabeau Wilce is one of the finest world builders working in YA fantasy fiction today. I was intrigued by Book 1, Flora Segunda, which felt pretty MG to me and was just off the wall in a lot of great ways. I liked Book 2, Flora's Dare, though I realized at that point that Wilce is actually writing YA. Now Book 3 introduces a new journey companion and sort of love interest for our girl Flora: a werebear named Tharyn. Meanwhile, childhood friend and previous sort of love interest, Udo, is in the doghouse as far as Flora is concerned. So is Buck, especially when Flora figures out the other secret she's been keeping from her adopted daughter/stepdaughter. But then, Flora is on a quest to find her birthmother, Tiny Doom, who may not be dead, after all. And always Flora must be on the lookout for treachery from the Birdies, whose cute nickname doesn't even to begin to touch on how scary these Aztec conquerors are with their death magic. I mentioned love interests, but there's only a touch of romance in the book, and it turns out to be based on false premises for reasons too complicated to explain here. Mostly, this is just weird-cool, darkly swashbuckling fantasy adventure. I recommend you read all three books and catch up with Flora Fyrdraaca. Flora is occasionally irritating (pig-headed and selfish!), but she's also such a fresh character compared to the same old same old in children's fantasy that I think you'll enjoy these books very much.

First line: [Statement of Intent; Magickal Working No. 9] Dear Mamma/Butcher/Brakespeare/Azota/Tiny Doom: Everyone thinks the Birdies killed you, sacrificed you to one of their gods, whose priests ate your body while he ate your soul. [Ed. note: Not sure how to do cross-outs, which is what is really in the address line above.]

Invisible Sun by David MacInnis Gill

Young mercenary Durango survived some pretty wild stuff in Book 1, Black Hole Sun. Now he's going to learn some hard life lessons when he counts on his youthful invincibility to save him and his kinda girlfriend/loyal lieutenant Vienne from a whole new kind of enemy: humans. Corrupt, warlord/mafioso-type humans, naturally. Sure, Durango has his AI, Mimi, to help him, and Vienne is the ultimate warrior, but even that might not be enough in the decaying Mars colonies. Durango does get taken home to meet the equivalent of Vienne's family (think Buddhist shrine with martial arts), saves some refugees, and tries to find out the truth about his late father's experiments. But everything blows up in his face (often literally), and Durango mishandles things right and left. I really like Gill's ruthless take on Book 2. It reminds me a little of what Megan Whalen Turner puts supposedly invincible thief Gen through in her own Book 2. Not very many writers have the guts to go this far in making life hard for their heroes, frankly.

Like Black Hole Sun, Invisible Sun has a lot of violence. It's pretty dark stuff with high guy appeal. Durango's adventures make Mad Max look like a Sunday drive through the Australian desert. if you want gut-wrenching sci-fi dystopian with a real dose of testosterone, read both these books and join me in waiting breathlessly for Book 3.

First line: Vienne points the gun, squeezes the trigger, and fires a live round square into my chest.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Go back to the lake again after all these years? It would have been hard for Taylor Edwards because of the friends she left behind even if it weren't for the real reason she's going now: her father is dying of cancer, and he wants to spend one last summer with his family in the place he was happiest. Some people might see Taylor's angst about her previous relationships with a best girlfriend and best boy friend as shallow compared to what's going on with her dad, but even her father makes it clear that he doesn't want his kids to just sit around the lake house staring tragically at him all summer. He wants to see them, sure, but he also wants them to have fun, get jobs, take tennis lessons, have sleepovers—ordinary things. Which would be fine if Taylor weren't trying so hard to avoid Henry and Lucy. The truth about what she did to them, when it comes out, isn't as bad as readers might expect. Kid stuff. But it feels that bad to all three of them, which is what it's like when things go wrong at age 12 or 13. No magic here, just good character development a la Sarah Dessen. The beachiest beach read of this batch, with an actual beach included! (Well, a lake beach, which I'm pretty sure counts.)

First line: I eased open my bedroom door to check that the hallway was empty.... It was nine a.m., we were leaving for the lake house in three hours, and I was running away.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

High concept with a capital H-C: Kali D'Angelo has superpowers, but she only has them every other day. Which means, of course, that if she makes enemies on her strong, demon and monster hunting days, they're likely to catch up with her on her wimpy, all-too-human days. This makes things worse when she learns that a girl at school has been targeted. She also happens to be a mean girl who has been out to get Kali. But Kali doesn't care. She has a mission to fulfill. If that means putting her own life on the line, whatever. When Kali is in power mode, she is ruthless and determined, fierce and risk taking to the point of foolhardiness. She's also significantly less human and practically indestructible. But now there's a conspiracy afoot, and Kali has leaped right into the middle of it. Protecting Bethany is only the beginning. We're definitely talking mad scientists and supernatural beings here. But we're also talking a nice little crew of Kali and her new friends, Skylar, Elliott, and (kind of) Bethany. Not to mention Zev, the voice that's now in Kali's head. Oh, and Kali's mother may not be dead after all. Which isn't nearly as nice as it sounds. I thought this book was quite good—it stood out from the paranormal pack because of its unusual premise, solid execution, a dimensional heroine, and nice little plot twists. If you're a fan of paranormal fiction with a hint of romance, try Every Other Day.

First line: The decision to make hellhounds an endangered species was beyond asinine, but I expected nothing less from a government that had bankrolled not one, but two, endowed chairs in preternatural biology (one of them my father's) at the University That Shall Not Be Named.

Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley

WHAT a fun book! Thanks to Charlotte of Charlotte's Library for recommending this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cat (Natalie) lives in an ordinary world like ours except that some people are Talented, which means they have special powers. Her older sisters and parents have cool, important powers, but Cat's gift of talking to cats is so pointless she hides it from everyone at school, except her best friends Melly and Oscar. The three of them are pretty excited because a movie is going to be filmed at their school and they're signing up to be extras. Victoria Welling and Ty McKenzie are starring in the film, which has all three drooling. Well, Cat's less into this than the other two, but she goes along for the ride. Then she finds out from a video clip that something's wrong when a celebrity blogger's cat begs for help, accusing Easton West of being an imposter. The book gets increasingly madcap after this funky inciting incident: Cat and her two friends go after the blogger's cat so they can find out what's really going on. Other cats get involved. Easton West says she's going to eat a hot dog—and she's a vegetarian. Then there's Cat's crush on a boy named Ian. Slapstick and cat scratches abound in this goofy, adventurous, and thoroughly satisfying read. It's the kind of book that you want to see as a movie, but you're just so afraid Disney will get their hands on the rights and ruin things by making the cat voices sound stupid. By the way, this one's from Tu Books, so not only is Cat half Chinese, but the cover actually shows that. If you're only going to track down one of these YA reads, I'd say pick this one!

First line: [Easton West's Blog] Wednesday, September 2, 6:02 A.M.: La, la! You read that right, little poppets! Six frickin' o'clock in the morning!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Review of Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans

Quest books based on puzzles and clues really only work if you get caught up in the main character's desire to find the answers. Fortunately, that's what happens in Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Myster & a Very Strange Adventure. In this book originally published in Great Britain, Stuart's parents move him to Beeton, the town his father's family is from. Stuart's initial dismay and boredom are not relieved by the girls next door, triplets who spy on him and publish his activities in a neighborhood newspaper. They are, however, relieved by the discovery of a mystery involving Stuart's great-uncle Tony.

Tony was a magician and, being short (like Stuart), his stage name was Teeny-Tiny Tony Horten. The magician disappeared unexpectedly after being accused of being responsible for his fiance's death in a fire. He left his nephew, Tony's father, a message hidden in a puzzle box along with eight threepenny bits.
I have to go away, and I may not be able to get back. If I don't return, then my workshop and all it contains is yours if you can find it—and if you can find it, then you're the right sort of boy to have it.

Affectionately, Your uncle Tony

P.S. Start in the telephone booth on Main Street.

As it turns out, Stuart's father didn't even find the message because he was not the right sort of boy to have it. But Stuart is. He finds the message and begins following a treasure trail of old mechanisms, inserting a threepenny bit in each one when he can and getting further clues. Then April, one of the girls next door, starts following him, as does a greedy woman connected with his uncle's magician past. Stuart also meets a kindly elderly woman with another sort of connection to Teeny-Tiny Tony.

The other piece of Stuart's heritage is that there used to be a factory where the Hortens made mechanisms. Some of the machines are kept in the Beeton city museum, but Stuart runs into trouble when he tries to get at them. Oh, and Uncle Tony's house, which contains clues and possibly the missing workshop, is about to be demolished. It all comes to a head during Beeton's summer festival. Meet Stuart and April in the park by the bandstand and see what happens...

Stuart is your basic nice Everykid, while the secondary characters are a good bunch. About the only flat character is the villainess, and since you'll find yourself wanting to flatten her with a cartoon steamroller, that's not too terrible, after all.

At first this book seems to be about mechanisms, not magic, but as Stuart learns, there is magic associated with the mechanisms, the threepenny bits, and the long-ago disappearance of the magician. (The combination of magic and mechanicals is what I wish we'd seen a bit more of in Hugo Cabret, actually.) This is a small book, even in trim size, but it's a perfectly satisfying read even as it opens the door to a sequel. The codes and puzzles Stuart must solve may appeal to a different sort of reader than the usual fantasy fan, giving the story a broader, more unusual appeal. Touches of steampunk, Oz, and Edward Eager: I think you'll like this one!

Note: If you enjoy Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms, try The Inventions of Hugo Cabret, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, and R.L. LaFevers' Theodosia series.

A Review of Look into My Eyes (Ruby Redfort) by Lauren Child

I'll warn you that Ruby Redfort might get on your last nerve. I wasn't sure I liked her at first, but I kind of got over it. Put it this way: the kind of stylized characters and dialogue you've seen in Child's Clarice Bean picture books is a little harder to swallow in a full-length MG novel.

Ruby Redfort actually started out as Clarice Bean's favorite schoolgirl detective, a modern Nancy Drew. Ruby is a cross between Harriet the Spy and maybe Artemis Fowl. Without the evil, though Ruby is a little ruthless and doesn't seem particularly fond of her parents. (No fairies, either. Sorry.) Throw in some Alex Rider and a bit of Sherlock Holmes and you're there. Ruby was born to be a spy, or a P.I at the very least. She would have solved her first case as a two-year-old if she could have talked a bit better. Here young Ruby has just watched what appears to be a dognapping take place out the front window.
The little girl attempted to grab her parents' attention, but since her use of language was still limited she could not get them to understand. She watched as the woman pushed her feet back into her black shoes, walked to the rear of the truck, and disappeared out of view.... The girl jumped up and down, pointing at the window. Her parents, sensing she might be eager for a walk, went to put on their coats.

The child drew a truck on her chalkboard.

Her father smiled and patted her on the head.

Meanwhile, the driver folded his map, thanked Mr. Pinkerton, and returned to his vehicle, waving to him as he drove off.... The woman, now minus the picnic basket, walked on by. She had a fresh scarlet scratch on her left cheek.

The child spelled out the truck's license plate with her alphabet blocks.

Her mother put them away and dressed her in a red woolen pom-pom hat and matching mittens.

When Ruby is a little older, she keeps her findings in a series of notebooks hidden in her room. She also becomes a talented code breaker. This attracts the attention of a CIA-like group that recruits her—which sounds like a lot more fun than it is. Oh, and her house is robbed. Everything disappears except Ruby's stash of notebooks. Even the housekeeper is missing. Then a new butler shows up a little too quickly and takes things in hand.

A shipment of gold is coming to the city bank, and a legendary Buddha statue is coming to the city museum. Ruby's parents are on the board of directors. The secret association, Spectrum, is sure the gold is going to be stolen. They want Ruby to decipher the notes of the agent who last worked on the case, a woman who died in an avalanche while mountain climbing in Europe. Ruby meets a bevy of other agents—the helpful Hitch, the sourpuss she nicknames Frogface, donut-supplying Blacker, and boss woman LB. None of them seem very respectful or appreciative of Ruby, who just happens to swipe a few gadgets from the agency's hidden lair. Oh, and they swear her to secrecy, which puts her friendship with best buddy Clancy on the rocks.

I wish Ruby's t-shirt sayings were more off the wall, but her adventures really grew on me. The spy action has a solid Saturday-morning cartoon vibe. The moments of humor are especially nice—like the way Mrs. Digby handles being kidnapped or the various villains' monikers and looks. Not sure how I feel about Ruby's overly vacuous, inept parents, though. Still, there's an energy to Child's storytelling that I like very much, and Hitch and Clancy make good secondary characters. I think I'll stick around to see what happens in Book 2.

Note: If you like Ruby Redfort, try Harriet the Spy, the Artemis Fowl series, and Georgia Byng's Molly Moon books.

A Review of Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

A geeky boy goes to spy school, thinking his dreams are coming true, only to find out he got in for all the wrong reasons. And his insta-crush? Well, picture James Bond having a daughter who's just as kick-butt as he is, or more. In this case, James Bond is Alexander Hale, who recruits 12-year-old Ben Ripley to go to spy school, basically sweeping him off his feet with weapons and swashbuckliness.

Then Ben gets to the Academy of Espionage and is stunned to find himself in the middle of an attack. An older girl named Erica helps him make his way into the building and upstairs, with Ben fumbling every step of the way. Turns out this was all a test, and he didn't do so well.
Which meant I was now flanked by six heavily armed me in total darkness.

So I did the only other thing I could think of: I prepared to surrender.

I raised my hands over my head and backed against the principal's door, accidentally bumping the handle.

It lowered with a click.

Apparently, I'd unlocked it.

All six flashlight beams swung toward the sound.

I slipped into the darkened office, slammed the door shut, and promptly ran right into a coffee table. It cut me off at the knees, and I face-planted on the carpet.

The lights snapped on again.

I reflexively tucked myself into a ball and yelled, "Please don't kill me! I don't know anything! I just started here today!"

"Begging for mercy?" said a disappointed voice. "That's D-quality performance for sure."

There were murmurs of assent.

I slowly lifted my eyes from the deep-pile carpet. Instead of a horde of assassins facing me, I found myself facing a conference table.

Ben continues to bumble his way through being a student at the academy, where everyone else seems to be equal parts super-athlete and genius. So why is he the target of a real assassin? Why does his file say he has mad skills and is working on a special project?

To Ben's surprise, Erica continues to help him out, as does his new friend, the cynical Murray Hill. Erica is the best spy student in the school. Her attention to Ben makes the other kids believe he must be secretly superior, which leads to some funny assumptions and situations. The humor really makes this book a kick to read—particularly the satire about fictional spies and extra-special, gifted students in books like this one.

Ben is a pleasantly flawed and determined main character. As he plays detective with Erica's assistance, he starts catching glimpses of what might really be going on. Ben may not have the makings of a cinematic superspy, but he's a pretty smart kid, especially when it comes to math.

I do wish Gibbs had found a few more ways of using Ben's math abilities, although I understand Ben is simply trying to survive for most of the book. But eventually the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. Ben is both disillusioned and heartened to find out the truth about spy school, his own role there, and the villainous plot he's determined to stop. A cool summer read for upper middle grade and middle schoolers with both boy and girl appeal. Also—I'm guessing—the start of a very fun new series.

Note: If you like Spy School, try Chris Rylander's The Fourth Stall, Trenton Lee Stuart's Mysterious Benedict Society series, and Pseudonymous Bosch's Secret series.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Remembering Leo Dillon

I fell in love with the art of Leo and Diane Dillon many years ago and have been reading and collecting their books ever since. After the heyday of Martin and Alice Provensen, the Dillons have been the husband-and-wife team that dominated, not only children's book art, but the world of sci-fi fantasy, particularly book jackets. They are also the only illustrators to ever receive back-to-back Caldecott awards—in 1976 for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (Verna Aardema) and in 1977 for From Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Margaret Musgrove). They have since won at least three lifetime achievement awards for their body of work, along with many other honors.

It was a shock for me to learn that Leo Dillon died of lung cancer last week, and so soon after the death of Maurice Sendak.

The Dillons staked their claim with those two Caldecott awards years ago, and they continued to work in the field of children's books, most recently illustrating Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Secret River last January and Patricia McKissack's Never Forgotten in October. They are also well known for their book jackets, especially for Harlan Ellison's work. They have done cover art for some famous children's series, too, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time and sequels, and the Earthsea books. Their son Lee is a sculptor and art jeweler who has sometimes collaborated with his parents.

Leo and Diane first met as rivals at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. According to Margalit Fox of The New York Times (May 30, 2012):
Viewing an exhibition of student work there one day, Mr. Dillon was captivated by a still life of an Eames chair.

“I knew it had to be by a new student because nobody in our class at the time could paint like that,” he told The Horn Book, a magazine about children’s literature. “This artist was a whole lot better than I. I figured I’d better find out who he was.”

“He” turned out to be Diane Claire Sorber, and a crackling competition ensued. “If one got a better place in a show, we wouldn’t speak for three weeks,” Ms. Dillon told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1990.

In the end, the only thing for it was marriage, which, she said, “was a survival mechanism to keep us from killing each other.”

As Fox and others note, the Dillons describe their work together as a third artist, sometimes referred to as "It." In Deborah Kovacs and James Preller's book, Meet the Authors and Illustrators, we read Leo's explanations of the process:
Together we are able to create art we would not be able to do individually.

...Each illustration is passed back and forth between us several times before it is completed, and since we both work on every piece of art, the finished painting looks as if one artist has done it.

...After years and years of collaboration we have reached a point where our work is done by an agent we call the third artist.

The couple originally shared a studio, but later set up studios on separate floors—partly because Leo liked playing the music louder than Diane did.

Leo and Diane Dillon's distinctive style has an airbrushed look, with clean lines and stylized figures. However, they have been known to adapt their style depending on the project. One of the most beautiful books they've ever created is To Every Thing There Is a Season, in which they use art styles from different cultures and time periods for each couplet from the famous passage in Ecclesiastes.

Other books I amespecially fond of are Wind Child (story by Shirley Rousseau Murphy)—which includes sculptures by Lee Dillon, The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (Virginia Hamilton), Pish Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch (Nancy Willard) and Switch on the Night (Ray Bradbury). There are many more, of course. The artists have done some particularly beautiful books based on black culture and folktales. In addition to books already mentioned, they illustrated Leontyne Price's Aida, Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali (Khephra Burns), Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom (also by Virginia Hamilton), and their own Jazz on a Saturday Night as well as Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles—Think of That! The Dillons' Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose and The Goblin and the Empty Chair by Mem Fox are two more books I like very much.

Alice Provensen created books on her own after losing her husband Martin, and I expect that Diane Dillon will do likewise. But without Leo, it won't be the same. The second artist is gone, and with him the third artist. Even so, because of the rich legacy of his book illustration and the personal legacy he has left his friends and family, Leo Dillon, as his book title from last fall puts it, will be Never Forgotten.