Funky and fun New York! The Easter Parade!

My first trip ever to the Easter parade! What fun!

Here are a few of the more extravagant hats and outfits sported by women, men and dogs!

butterfly hat
©Nina Crews 2012
Dogs with easter hats
©Nina Crews 2012
Easter hats
©Nina Crews 2012


easter hat
©Nina Crews 2012
©Nina Crews 2012
easter suit
©Nina Crews 2012

Happy Holidays!

Brooklyn Santa’s ©Nina Crews 2011

Can you ever have too many santas?
May your holiday season be filled with good fun and good cheer!

The Storied City: New York in Picture Book Art

A Was an Apple Pie... From The Neighborhood Mother Goose @Nina Crews 2004

Come join me, Donald Crews, Yumi Heo, Boris Kulikov, Jerry Pinkney, Amy Schwartz, Eric Velasquez, and Neil Waldman for Family Day at the Katonah Musuem of Art!

An illustration from The Neighborhood Mother Goose has been included in this show and I will be there this Sunday along with seven other illustrators participating in the show. The event runs from 12:30 to 5pm and I will be there from about 2 to 4pm.

At 2:30 there will be a half hour panel discussion with me and my father, Donald Crews, which will be followed by a booksigning.

Here’s a review of the show:

For more info on the event:

Saturday events!

This coming weekend is the Brooklyn Book Festival! A perfect time to come to some children’s book events!

On Saturday, September 17, 2011,

11-11:45am – I will be reading and signing Jack and the Beanstalk and The Neighborhood Mother Goose at Greenlight Bookstore, on Fulton Street in Fort Greene.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

12:30 – 1:30pm – Collage with Crews! A Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event. Let’s make some art together! Each child is invited to take a nursery rhyme or song and create their own illustration using magazines, paper, and drawing. Central Branch, Brooklyn Public Library, Youth Wing. Space is limited. First come, first served.

Inspired by Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star…©Nina Crews 2011

And on Sunday, September 18, 2011,
I’ll be just another parent at the readings happening at the Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Stage at Borough Hall. Fun!

Climbing the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

I am so pleased that my retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk will be published next week! I started thinking about the story way back in 2004 and wrote my first drafts in 2006. It’s about time!

The visual possibilities excited me first. I loved the idea of a huge beanstalk curling into the sky past a brick apartment building.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

I then did a little online research and learned that that the story as I knew it was one of many possible versions of a basic sketch – a boy, called Jack, climbs a beanstalk and meets a giant. From there almost anything can happen. In the earliest English versions, Jack is simply a giant slayer, killing giants who terrorize Cornwall. In Victorian versions, Jack is often portrayed as a naughty, lazy, stupid boy in need of redemption. In recent years, the story has continued to undergo big changes – Jack has even become Kate in one notable example. With such a wide range of interpretations, I thought a contemporary Brooklyn take on the tale had possibilities, and then, out of the blue, I found a small article in the local newspaper about a boy who grew a giant beanstalk with some exotic beans that he’d found in a local store. I definitely wanted to explore this idea further.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

As I wrote, I had to resolve how to address two themes that loom large in this story – justice and a restoration of the social order. The giant is a thief and killer. Jack’s own stealing and killing are justified by the fact that the giant has either killed his father or has killed other young boys and threatens him. Was my Jack poor? Fatherless? A thief? Perhaps, I worried too much (after all nobody can truly climb a giant beanstalk), but I felt that if I was going to set this in the present then present day values had to come be considered.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

My Jack is not poor and his story is not a tale of vigilante justice. He is a curious young boy and the giant is a braggart. The giant is living the large caught up in the clouds. Jack gets his magic beans doing chores for his neighbor, and climbs up to the giant’s castle. Curiosity sends Jack up. And through his escape from the giant’s castle, he brings the giant “down to size.”

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

There are risks and rewards in working with familiar material. I love the many versions of this tale and I enjoyed building my version from them. I also had fun making some big changes to the story. My hope is that readers will find this retelling a satisfying twist on well-known material.

A Neighborhood Photo Shoot: Expected and unexpected challenges

A couple of reviewers have commented (very nicely) on the naturalism of my photographs of children. Many of my favorite photographers like Helen Levitt, Andre Kertesz and Roy DeCarava created images that capture the beauty of unexpected and unguarded moments. But this, like all things, does require some effort. In my case I use an extra tool when things don’t quite go my way, Photoshop.

Mega Sashes and Glass photo ©Nina Crews

When I planned the image I wanted for “Do Your Ears Hang Low” I imagined a group of kids hamming it up in front of a shop window filled with mirrors. There is a fantastic glass shop on Fifth Avenue just off of Bergen Street in Park Slope perfect for my needs, I thought. (If you are ever nearby you should go inside – it is beautifully grungy with old wooden shelves holding large pieces of glass.)

I contacted my cast – kids I knew through my nephews, Jack and Gus, and the son of a good friend of mine. We picked a date that worked for everyone – Yom Kippur. Public school was closed and all of the kids could make it. And when I arrived at the location just before four kids, plus accompanying adults and siblings – I found the unexpected. The glass shop was closed. Not for the holiday, it is always closed on Monday. It hadn’t occurred to me to check.

do your ears hang low
"Do Your Ears Hang Low" outtake ©Nina Crews

I scrambled around looking for likely reflective storefronts and had the kids try out one spot. But it wasn’t working. The glass was dark and the kids couldn’t really see themselves. They seemed self-conscious and were having a hard time understanding what I needed. The background looked too busy. I was having a hard time remembering the words to the song.

So we left. I thought that maybe I could pull something together with what we’d done, but I did need to try another idea.

IMG_7471 © Nina Crews

We found a nice wide set of brownstone steps. If I left enough room at the top of the image, I would have a good clean space for the type.  And then we started to shoot.

Most of the kids were upbeat and happily hammed it up. But I have learned to expect that not every child finds it easy or natural to be in front of the camera and also that a child can have a bad day sometimes. So it was expected, though still frustrating, that one kid would sulk in almost every frame I took. Luckily I got one or two nice shots that I could collage into the image above using a bit of Photoshop magic.

Perhaps the glass shop wouldn’t have worked after all. Perhaps if I had used the photo on the stairs with one slightly sad and pensive looking boy, I would have told a different story – a somewhat sadder, softer story. But I wanted upbeat and silly. So here we go!

do your ears hang low
"Do Your Ears Hang Low" , The Neighborhood Sing-Along ©Nina Crews 2011