We're skewing a bit younger than Y.A. in this special edition of Y.A. for Grownups. This month Random House Children's Books released The Mighty Lalouche, a picture book by Matthew Olshan illustrated by Sophie Blackall. It gets my vote for cutest picture book of the year so far. In it, Olshan weaves the tale of the humble postman Lalouche, who loses his mail delivery job when the postal service purchases a fleet of electric cars. Jobless and with no way to care for his pet finch, Geneviève, Lalouche takes to the boxing ring, where he has previously unforeseen talents. Olshan wrote the story for Blackall after he found out she collects old pictures of boxers, especially "extremely skinny ones with big billowing boxing trunks." Blackall, in turn, used a nearly forgotten Japanese paper diorama style called tatebanko to provide the illustrations for the book.
Her technique is different, but the style may seem somehow a little bit familiar. That's because you've surely seen the work of Brooklyn-based Australian artist Blackall before now. Her award-winning illustrations appear in more than 20 children's books, including the totally adorable Ivy and Bean series. She's the artist behind that poster you've probably seen on the New York City subway. She's collaborated with Aldous Huxley, Judith Viorst, Jane Yolen, Meg Rosoff, and others. But the work most adults probably recognize best are her illustrations of Craigslist Missed Connections. Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found was Blackall's first book for adults, published in 2011, a collection of illustrated love stories told in "missed connection" style, done in ink and watercolor.