Lisa Kopelke (1963-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1963, in San Diego, CA; Education: Attended California College of Arts and Crafts. Hobbies and other interests: Volunteering for local community arts programs.
Agent—Steven Malk, Writers House, 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
Children's book writer and illustrator.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Book Artists, Yellapalooza.
Exceptional book pick, Parents magazine, 2003, for Excuse Me!
Excuse Me!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Tissue, Please!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
The Younger Brother's Survival Guide, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), in press.
Work in Progress
A story about a little girl with big ideas; a humorous picture book, tentatively titled Scarletta: The Not-So-Famous Spanish Pig Opera; a book about the Viet Nam immigration of the 1970s, for young adults.
Author and illustrator Lisa Kopelke published her first book, Excuse Me!, in 2003. The book is about a young frog named Frog, who, in Kopelke's illustrations, has "the lumpy silhouette of an overfull trash bag, with heavy-lidded eyes suggesting a decadent contentment," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Frog enjoys eating the best froggy foods, including cricket tacos, centipede soufflés, worm burgers, and mosquito pies. Just like people, when frogs eat too much they often must burp, and Frog prides himself on being a champion burper, the loudest in town. His burps are visible in Kopelke's illustrations—huge gray clouds, surrounding giant-type "Buhrrraaap!"s—and are sometimes so powerful that they send furniture flying. Refusing to stifle his belches as he grows up, Frog is exiled, but re-thinks his decision after spending time with a new community of frogs where everyone burps as much as they want to and they never have to excuse themselves.
"A lesson in proper manners is never amiss," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor in reference to Excuse Me! and added that Kopelke's "premise will set off fits of giggles." The book's illustrations were also praised for their amusing quality by several reviewers. A Kirkus Reviews critic described the book's green, orange, and brown acrylic paintings "postmodern [and] Lane Smith-like," while Booklist contributor Todd Morning termed them "expansive" and noted that they "are loaded with energy and exaggerated humor." "Kids are sure to enjoy" the book, Morning concluded.
Kopelke's Tissue, Please! also concerns amphibians and their manners. Frog has tamed his belching, but now he has a cold. He—as well as all his froggy friends—sniffle constantly and wipe their noses on their arms. Their dance teacher, Miss Tutu, is appalled by her students' lack of manners and introduces them to tissues. Frog discovers that he actually likes blowing his nose on a tissue better than sniffling and wiping it on his arm … but what will he do when his nose starts to run in the middle of a dance recital, when he is out on stage without any tissues?
Kopelke told Something about the Author: "My writing and illustrating career really started when I moved to Las Vegas in 2000. Although I had been working up to it for many years, it took a personal tragedy and a hurried move to a new state that shocked me to finally commit to it.
"Writing and painting (illustrating) are an ingrained part of me, like breathing. Without them, I would shrivel away to nothing. All my life I had been seeking a reason, a purpose to my art. Putting it all together in the format of picture books for children was a monumental discovery and turning point for me. I can't imagine my life without it now.
"It's important for me to share with children, … and now book ideas just pour out of my head on a regular basis. Finding the worthwhile ones is my daily challenge. I want to teach kids how to be kids, in the here and now. How to lighten up on themselves and be responsible at the same time. I have met many children … who struggle with family dynamics and personal issues. I want them to have moments of unrestrained silliness and laughter, and to think about nothing but the moment they're in. There is always time for real life, but often, moments of fun have to be snatched up where ever you can find them. Good books are an excellent resource.
"I grew up in the TV generation of the 1960s, before there was such a thing as too much TV. The cartoons I watched are probably what influenced my humor. Shows like The Galloping Gourmet, Bewitched, and Dark Shadows, the last two developing my taste for great authors like Stephen King at a very young age.
"I'm also a big fan of fifteenth century art. It's had a big influence on my art style today. Literary classics and modern-day children's writers have influenced my writing. Books like Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea emote such a strong sense of mood that I can remember the smells, tastes, emotions, and the setting of the story, without ever having to re-read it (although I do anyhow). They just stick with you.
"I love modern-day artist/illustrators too, such as Lane Smith, Henrik Drescher, and David Shannon; it's artists like these who have helped change the direction of children's-book art and writing to make them a 'whole' experience—intelligent art complimenting great stories.
"Children will continue to get more and more sophisticated, and it's the responsibility of writers and illustrators to provide a broad variety to fulfill their senses—everything from the simple and sweet to wild thought-provoking humor, and most importantly, sensitive biographies of terrific people. It's my hope to be an important part of it.
"My advice for aspiring and young writers/artists: Observe everything. Store some of it in your brain, write down what's convenient. Collect, collect, and collect some more. Practice. Be sincere in everything you write or draw (or do for that matter!) and all the best parts will shine right through … naturally."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Kopelke, Lisa, Excuse Me!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Todd Morning, review of Excuse Me!, p. 1074.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Excuse Me!, p. 1851.
Publishers Weekly, January 13, 2003, review of Excuse Me!, p. 59.
School Library Journal, April, 2003, Leslie Barban, review of Excuse Me!, p. 129.
Lisa Kopelke Home Page, http://www.lisakopelke.com/ (June 1, 2004).*
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