Book Trailer Premiere and 4 Questions & 3 Sentence Starters with Tina & Carson Kügler

I'm excited for you to watch the book trailer for Tina & Carson Kügler's In Mary's Garden. We're all going to be talking about this special picture book in March. Go ahead and press play! 

Hi, Tina and Carson! It was an excellent day when I found a copy of In Mary’s Garden in my mailbox. I’m looking forward to buying and sharing finished copies on March 17, 2015.

Tina and Carson: Thank you so much! We are so happy that you enjoyed our book.

When did you first learn about Wisconsin artist Mary Nohl? What motivated you to write a picture-book biography about her life?

Tina and Carson: Both of us grew up in Milwaukee, and have memories of peeking through her fence as children. It was this amazing wonderland of gentle creatures peering out from behind trees, fantastical and a little spooky, but real. There was nothing like it. Locally, it was (and still is) known as "the Witch's house," it was years before we knew the artist's actual name.

After college, we moved to Los Angeles, worked in animation, and then moved back to Wisconsin in 2002 when our first son was born. We loved picture books, and one day we drove out to see Mary's yard and thought, my goodness-- THIS should be a book! Who was she? How did she do this? Why did she do this? But we couldn't find a hook for the story. We did tons of research, but our manuscript was boring, all facts, no real story. (In fact, most of our original manuscript ended up as the author's note!)  We worked on the book off and on for years, then moved back to Los Angeles in 2011. Tina attended an SCBWI conference, and while listening to a talk about nonfiction picture books, she had a revelation: What if we made the story from the point of view of Mary's dogs? And it took off from there, we rewrote the entire manuscript and our agent, Teresa Kietlinski, loved it. She sold it to Kate O'Sullivan at Houghton Mifflin. We were so delighted to work with Kate, and our designer Susanna Vagt, they really understood Mary's story and our vision for the book.

Illustration Credit: Tina and Carson

Tina, you once shared on Twitter that you owned a children’s bookshop and have a background in animation. Carson, I read that you are a storyboard artist. How did these experiences help (or not help) you when you started collaborating on In Mary’s Garden?

Tina and Carson: Our shared experience in storyboarding animation was the main thing that really helped us. Storyboards are typically done as a team, so the collaboration in drawing and revising our rough sketches felt totally natural. We also speak the same language, in storyboarding, so using filmmaking and animation terms (such as pan, cut, montage, multi-plane, overlay) helped us communicate our visual ideas to each other. The major snag we hit was how to combine our personal styles to create a cohesive look, since I work completely digitally and Carson paints with watercolors. Through experimentation we created sort of a digital collage technique that worked out very well, and in the process we used vintage papers, in a nod to Mary's art using found objects. If you look closely, you can see old dictionary pages and bits of postcards and envelopes and other things layered in the illustrations. We even scanned in coffee-stained watercolor paper for the beach sand.

After moving back to Wisconsin in 2002, we opened our children's bookshop (Tweedle Bros.), because we both really loved picture books and great illustration, that was our main focus. We closed the shop in 2007 after the birth of our third son (and two completely amazing Harry Potter release parties), and from there I ended up working in the youth department of the public library. It was there that I realized I truly loved giving good books away rather than selling them!

Photograph Credit: Tina and Carson
What resources do you recommend for readers who want to learn more about Mary Nohl? 

Tina and Carson: There is a wonderful coffee table book called MARY NOHL: INSIDE AND OUTSIDE by Barbara Manger and Janine Smith that we used as part of our research. It has loads of photographs and is a very fascinating and extensive insight into Mary's life and personality. The same authors did a version for younger readers, MARY NOHL: A LIFETIME IN ART, which is a chapter book biography for grades 2-4.

 How will you celebrate the release of In Mary’s Garden?

Tina and Carson: We are so excited to have our book launch party in Milwaukee! Our event will be at the Milwaukee Public Museum on Saturday, March 21st, 2015. We told the museum we wanted to do an event to honor and celebrate Mary Nohl's life and work, instead of just about our book. They have an entire day of activities planned in all three floors of exhibits. For example, Mary traveled around the world with her sketchbook. They will offer kids the opportunity to sketch artifacts, just like Mary did, from the places and cultures she visited on her travels-- including their 6-foot replica Moai head from Rapa Nui!

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are the very best kind of books.

Reading is a lovely way to get through the winter, even if it's just the southern California rain.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked us about the current situation with Mary Nohl's home and artwork! Mary's property is on the shore of Lake Michigan, and the art environment she built there is deeply connected to her land. Not only because the materials she used came directly from her beach, but also because of the way her work is integrated into the landscape. Unfortunately, the neighborhood around it has grown quite affluent and a handful of vocal residents are opposed to the occasional traffic generated by onlookers, including one particular opponent who actually sought to have the site's National Register of Historic Place's status revoked.

Mary willed her art and property to the nonprofit John Michael Kohler Art Center, and they were planning to propose a modest zoning overlay to turn her home into a very limited-access museum. For years, this handful of opponents fought the Art Center, until the Art Center gave up, never formally submitted their proposal, and declared last year they would remove all of Mary's art and transport it to another location outside of Milwaukee. We, and the Milwaukee art community, are deeply upset by this, because to move Mary's art is completely contrary to her vision and would create an appropriation, or replica, of her life's work-- it would no longer be hers, it would no longer be real. To come upon her yard for the first time is magical, you drive down a windy road, along the shore of Lake Michigan, then come around a bend and encounter something completely unexpected. The setting is as much part of the experience as her art itself, it belongs there and should be cherished and preserved in place as part of Milwaukee history.
Our hope for our book is that it shows the world that Mary Nohl's legacy is important, her work is worth saving and protecting. We hope it leads to both the John Michael Kohler Art Center and the village board of Fox Point working together and finding a solution that preserves Mary's work where it belongs. Mary's garden is one of very few art environments built by a female artist, in the entire world!

Here are some articles we suggest for more information:

Mary Nohl vs. Nimby 

About the trailer music:

Nineteen Thirteen generously allowed us to use their song "The Ballroom" for the trailer, which fit just perfectly. This music choice was especially meaningful for us because they are a Milwaukee-based trio, and one of their members, Victor DeLorenzo, was a founding member of the Violent Femmes, another Milwaukee band that actually did a photo shoot in Mary's yard. We listened to a lot of Nineteen Thirteen while working on the book, you can find them on iTunes. Here is a link of them performing: 

Thank you, Tina and Carson! 

Look for In Mary's Garden on March 17, 2015. 


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