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juvenile fiction

Little Boy Soup by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillmann
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Artist Interview: Amalia Hillmann, Little Boy Soup

Balcony 7 is proud to present Little Boy Soup, a delightful new bath time book by Joshua Russell, illustrated with a contemporary approach by Amalia Hillmann. The following Q&A with Ms. Hillmann expands on her process and is accompanied by numerous images provided by her as she completed the project.

B7: Balcony 7 | AH: Amalia Hillmann

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B7: When Joshua Russell first approached you to illustrate Little Boy Soup, what ideas crossed your mind about the illustration style, and how did you determine this process?

AH: Once Joshua and I sat down to discuss how we wanted this book to look, I illustrated three sample images in three different media: cut paper illustration, acrylic paint, and a mix media of graphite pencil and digital coloring. At the time, I had just completed a large cut-paper illustration series. The style, texture, and character of cut paper seemed a perfect match for our book. Joshua was not familiar with the medium but was open to the concept. Once he saw the sample illustrations, we both agreed our book was meant to be illustrated with cut paper.



Little Boy Soup, Illustrations by Amalia Hillman, Image 1-2Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillman, Image 2







B7: Take us through the steps as you begin the concept of an illustration and then proceed with building it to the final version submitted for print.

AH: Each illustration begins as a quick black-and-white pencil sketch and grows into a colorful paper design. After reading the book’s text, I spend some time brainstorming ideas and sketching concepts. Once I have the final design approved, the illustration transforms from pencil sketch to cut paper as I begin cutting colored papers and cardstocks into seemingly random piles of shapes. I assemble all the unique elements of the illustration—such as a toy or the little boy—separately. Once all the characters and environments are finished, I glue everything down together on a piece of illustration board. The final illustration is then photographed to bring it into a digital format, edited, and sent to the publishing house.



Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillmann, in progress 1Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillmann, in progress 2Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillmann, in progress 3Little Boy Soup, illustrated by Amalia Hillman, in progress 4









B7: It’s a very unique approach that lends particularly well for this early reader niche of bath time books, especially with the clean lines and the depth of shadows from your cut-paper art. How did this process evolve over the course of your creative endeavors?

AH: Even before working on Little Boy Soup, I had already refined the main aspects of creating cut-paper illustrations, during both my creative work at university and earlier projects. However, each new project offers its own learning experience—from color choices to the order in which I glue down elements of a single image. I think the greatest evolution in my illustration process during Little Boy Soup was finally taking control of pacing the work.

B7: And now that this book is complete, what was the stand-out take-away from this experience?

AH: For me the most challenging part of the book-crafting process is working with the author, the editor, and the publisher—all the cooks in the kitchen. It’s a unique experience. Everyone involved with making a book wants it to be the very best it can be. We all come from various backgrounds with vastly different perspectives. Most of the time, this is a wonderful thing—I have learned more than I could have imagined from the people I have collaborated with on Little Boy Soup. As a layout designer and illustrator, I have strong opinions on the visual aspects of the book, but the author, editor, and publisher may have completely different thoughts. Finding the space where all our visions align is challenging, but when we do so, it makes the book even stronger and more beautiful.



Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, interior 1Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, 8









B7: In conclusion, please share your own background of influence from children’s books; is there an artist of note that inspired you long ago, and perhaps fed the creative energy we see from you today?

AH: As a child, I grew up reading and loving books by authors such as Eric Carle, who creates gorgeous, vibrant illustrations with painted tissue paper. At university, I was introduced to cut paper as an art form in a color illustration course. Although I fell in love with the process that semester, it wasn’t often requested by my freelance clients, so I didn’t often illustrate in this medium for several years. Recently though, I missed working in cut paper and began creating cut-paper illustrations again for my personal projects. As I work with cut paper, my process continues to evolve. I love experimenting with new ideas of how to use paper in my images! When Joshua agreed that Little Boy Soup should be designed this way, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to illustrate a book in one of my favorite media.



Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, interior 10Little Boy Soup, by Joshua Russell and Amalia Hillman, interior 9









B7: Thank you, Amalia Hillmann. Best of luck with Little Boy Soup!

About The Artist

Amalia Hillmann, The Eclectic Illustrator, Little Boy SoupAmalia Hillmann earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design/Illustration from Concordia University, Nebraska. Now a resident of Silicon Valley and a full-time artist, she innovates through a variety of mediums and art forms for numerous creative endeavors, including designs for sale on, and uniquely layered techniques mixing pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, and cut-paper illustration for contemporary children’s books.

Little Boy Soup is available for pre-order wherever books are sold, in print and digital formats. Here are convenient links to popular sites: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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Channel Blue by JZ Bingham, 5 Stars Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction
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Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction: 5 Stars For Channel Blue


Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction
Channel Blue: Riders of the Storm
by JZ Bingham | Jason Buhagiar, Illustrator
Balcony 7 Media and Publishing
Pub Date: April 30, 2014



Pulled in by standout illustrations, kids are introduced to life lessons such as perseverance, sportsmanship, and overcoming adversity.

For once, judging a book by its cover will serve teachers, students, and parents well.

Illustrated by Jason Buhagiar, JZ Bingham’s Channel Blue is as riveting in its text as it is in its animation-style visuals. The fourth in the award-winning Salty Splashes Collection, Bingham uses clever rhyming couplets to create a picture book about an alluring cast of surf-loving animals and the sea creatures under the waves.

The adventure story is superbly packaged in hardcover with a sleek front-cover design and truly beautiful illustrations, with layouts reminiscent of Disney storyboards.

On the morning of Heat Wave, a surf contest, cartoon animals Stump and Crump attempt to thwart the feline Beardsley so that their boss, Diggy, has a better shot at winning the Golden Fin trophy. The duo enlists the aid of dolphins and sharks as furry beach babes Oola and Kat look on to see which surfer will come out on top. Through Bingham’s metered verse, Beardsley overcomes a broken surfboard, rocks outside his cave, and sinister sharks to not only win the contest but also to exercise supreme sportsmanship in befriending his rival in the end.

“In spite of all his scheming and in spite of all his tricks,” Bingham writes, “the mighty Diggy hit a wall with quite a lot of bricks. ‘We made it, man. Here, take my hand.’ The bobcat took a stand. This humbled Diggy mightily. He grinned and took his hand.”

Pulled in by Buhagiar’s standout illustrations, kids are introduced to life lessons such as perseverance, sportsmanship, and overcoming adversity. Rhymes make the narrative fun to read aloud and will also benefit new readers as they work through Bingham’s mix of easy and slightly advanced vocabulary.

Bingham also packs in the action: the furry cartoon cast has a beachside dance party, snorkels through reefs, rides sting rays, conspires with sharks by moonlight, and surfs the white- crested swells. Meanwhile, Buhagiar adds intensity through highly expressive characters drawn to capture the drama and excitement of the Heat Wave competition.

Channel Blue will undoubtedly stand out on any bookshelf, and once cracked open, it will likely become a favorite at group story times or in the hands of a young beginner reader.

Amanda McCorquodale



channel-blue-book-review 5 Stars Foreword Reviews Juvenile FictionAvailable wherever books are sold and in select libraries. AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE 

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Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction: 5 Stars for Dreamy Drums

Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction
Dreamy Drums: Trouble in Paradise
JZ Bingham
Balcony 7 Media and Publishing
Pub Date: November 1, 2013



Fun illustrations and animal characters, combined with a pleasing rhyming scheme, make this a book that parents and children will want to read over and over again.

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Dreamy Drums, Trouble in Paradise, is a high-quality, eye-catching, colorful picture book with a cast of animal characters that children will enjoy. The first book in the Salty Splashes Collection™, this book introduces a cast of animal pals and the hijinks they get themselves into. From Sammy, the young puppy learning the family rules, to a day spent at the beach with his sister Kat and friends, the group manages to fall asleep on a small boat and drift off in a storm until they beach at an island.

JZ Bingham’s rhyming text excels at using both prose and spoken words to define the characters’ personalities, such as when Kat dreams of being back to the only child, thinking, “She imagined ‘Prisoner Sammy’/ and she grinned from ear to ear.” The rhyme is simple to moderate, good for lower elementary school students.

There is an abundance of text in Dreamy Drums, some pages having five stanzas—quite a bit for a thirty-two-page picture book. There is one logic error: when Sammy learns the rules, he discovers that he has some ‘no-nos’ hidden in his room that he needs to put in a bag and hide, but in the list of his rules, there is nothing noted that would make sense to bag, hide, or keep. The book gets part of its title from a picturesque stanza: “The thunder claps were distant, dreamy drums in their heads.”

Dreamy Drums, Trouble in Paradise, of the Salty Splashes Collection, has an ensemble of fun animal characters written in a rhyming scheme that parents and children will want to read over and over again.

Illustrator Curt Walstead has drawn cartoon characters that fit the personalities Bingham created for them. According to the book’s introduction, Walstead hand-drew the illustrations onto Balcony 7 Studios storyboard designs. His illustrations are fun and colorfully bright, with movement, direction, and appropriate amount of details. Walstead has an impressive resume, including Dragon Tales, Men in Black, Dora the Explorer, and Go Diego Go, just to name a few.

The cover illustration is eye-catching, with emotion on the characters’ faces during the storm. The title is printed large and bold at the top, with the author’s and illustrator’s names at the bottom. The book is a durable hardcover with dust jacket with quality paper inside. There are one or two pages where part of the illustration and storyboard seem slightly fuzzy, but it doesn’t affect the overall feel of the book.

Beth VanHouten




Learn more about the entire cartoon eBook and book collection

Available in print, eBook, audiobook and Read-To-Me Audio Ebook formats wherever books, eBooks and audiobooks are sold.
Salty Splashes Cartoons Books, Audio eBooks for Kids
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Enhanced Audio eBooks for Kids: Salty Splashes Cartoons

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Enhanced Audio eBooks for Kids

With Word Light-Up, Continuous Sound Effects and Voiceovers
SALTY SPLASHES CARTOONS, with Voiceovers by: Author JZ Bingham and Voice Actor Shawn Willms


Kids and adults love adventure, humor, sound effects and great visuals. We’ve got that. During the inception of Salty Splashes books and ebooks, the elements of fiction and art began to take shape in a balanced way, each component complementing the other. We didn’t want to restrict this creative growth by commanding a set, traditional format. We let the format develop organically. The result was a combination of words, voice over, sound effects and pictures that captivates kids and adults alike. We don’t know many people who don’t like cartoons or books; but we also didn’t realize just how many people would be so enamored by this very natural concept.

It seems the simplest things, done well, can be very powerful, indeed.

This natural concept is: Movies On Paper. The best of both worlds. Entertainment and education. ( Edutainment) Screenplays with storyboards. They grab the attention of children and adults, and they compel them to read. What can be better than that? This: When adults like the concept, they’re more willing to engage with their children in the powerful act of reading together.

If ever there was a good time to use an over-used cliche, this would be it: It’s A Win-Win Situation.



Find Salty Splashes Audio eBooks on iTunes

Find the Salty Splashes Trilogy Audiobook on AMAZON | Downpour and wherever audiobooks are sold.

Learn more about the cartoon characters, licensing rights, heirloom hardcovers and more on