Time And Relative Dimensions in _____________ [word that starts with “s”]? Sandwiches, no question. When embarking upon intergallactic travel, bringing food is key. And for the longer trips, you’ll need some entertainment: enter Doctor Who Mad Libs! They’re perfect for terrestrial travel, too, and they’re available starting next Thursday! 

Today we welcome Jill Weber to our new feature, Penguin Teen Meet The Illustrator! We loved THE CHRISTMAS TREE, and Jill brought her talents back to the Big Apple in CAT IN THE CITY, where she beautifully illustrates a glamorous cat’s big city life! The warm story about a vain cat who realizes the value of friendship really touched our hearts, and the illustrations gave us a bit of nostalgia for the lovely city we call home. Read on to find out what (and who) inspires Jill!

Name: Jill Weber

Book: CAT IN THE CITY

Date Available: September 4, 2014

What media and materials do you use to create your illustrations?

I primarily used gouache, but then I added everything but the kitchen sink. I love the discolored pages of old books which can be found every so often at our town dump. So I painted and collaged with them. I mixed the gouache with gesso and it provided a wonderful base for backgrounds. For texture, sometimes I ran over the paper with a printmaker’s brayer. Finally for detail, I used pencil and maybe even a little crayon.

What’s your favorite color and why?

Okay the short answer is I have two favorite colors, green and orange. I think I love green because I am a gardener and there are as many shades of green as there are plants. My favorite green is the color of the trees in the early spring—green with lots of yellow as if the sun had something to do with that. And I love pistachios! Orange is my favorite accent color and it happens to look great next to green!

Who’s your favorite artist or illustrator, living or dead and why?

This is definitely the most difficult question. I can’t pick just one so here’s a short list of old and new illustrators. No longer with us is the amazing team of Alice and Martin Provensen whose style was unique to each story they illustrated. I am crazy about everything Maira Kalman does. I love her color, her freedom and her point of view. And right now I am very taken with Isabelle Arsenault, Carson Ellis and Laura Carlin. Each brings an original approach without the boundaries of tradition.

Where do you do your work? 

If I leave my bedroom and take a left, I am in my studio. It is a lovely little room, small enough to navigate by rolling around in my chair and crammed from floor to ceiling with all the things I love—art supplies, art and books. I have northern light from skylights which also means I can always see the sky. Outside my window right now is a garden full of sunflowers. My walls are like giant scrapbooks with my art, my family’s art and things I have the need to look at everyday. Best part is I get to work in my pajamas.

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Aside from the text of Cat in the City, where did you find inspiration for your illustrations?

First, there were our pets. Sadie was the model for Roxie and Maggie, Julie’s dog, really is Maggie! But the heart of my inspiration came from New York. When I first moved to the city, I lived below Washington Square Park and every day I passed through the arch to go to and from work. And for all the wonderful years I have lived on my small farm, I still come back to New York to get refueled. I do love New York.  

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Thank you, Jill! We look forward to more cat adventures in the big city.

Visit Jill’s website and tumblr to keep up with her work.

Order CAT IN THE CITY today!

Welcome back to the Penguin Teen Author Spotlight, and a special welcome to the wonderful Jandy Nelson, who took a little break from her book tour to chat with us. We know it’s only been two days since I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN went on sale, but we’re betting many of you have already torn through it (go ahead, try to put it down once you’ve started, we dare you). So whether you haven’t yet started or you’re already done, stick around for a few to get to know the mastermind behind one of the most affecting books you’ll read this year! 

Name: Jandy Nelson

Novel: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN

Available: September 16, 2014

Who’s your favorite author, living or dead?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Virginia Woolf. Tie for first.

What’s your favorite thing about your book?

It’s done finally! And also: Noah’s invisible paintings.

If you could spend one year on a deserted island with one character from literature, who would you choose?

Heathcliff, for obvious reasons.

Where do you write?

I work in complete darkness like a lunatic mole so unfortunately I can’t take a picture. It’s a pitch-black room with sound machine blasting and I also wear earplugs. The computer screen provides the only light and it’s like a portal into the story. It’s fantastic!

Who is your favorite hero or heroine of history?

The guy who hid a family of Jews for all of World War II and no one ever knew he did it. He/she is my favorite hero/heroine all across history. The secret unheralded ones who perform heroic acts of charity/bravery/compassion/kindness without acknowledgement.

Do you tweet? What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever tweeted?

I am SO not a funny tweeter! I’m way too slow for twitter! It’s like being in a room with billions of crazy birds.

What is your favorite season?

I love melting, sweltering heat, but summer in San Francisco, where I’ve lived for 27 years, is pretty much of a tundra experience. I think I’d be a good candidate to live on Venus where I hear the daytime temperature is around 900 degrees.

If you could teleport anywhere in the known universe right now, where would you go?

I’m quite happy in my house at the moment! I just painted all my walls the coolest shades of coral. Oh, I know! Changed my mind! I’ll go here:

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Do you have any writing rituals?

See question #4. And I also abide by John Dufresne’s First Commandment of Writing Fiction, which is: “Sit Your Ass in the Chair. And sit it there daily. Slap on a seatbelt if you must, but sit.” Here’s a photo of my lucky writing chair to prove my devotion to the ritual of sitting the butt down! (Because of its extraordinary luckiness I can never replace it! No matter what.)

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What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Being on a roll with the writing. But after that great writing day I want to go on a picnic with everyone I love, (both living and dead if possible), where we will all eat crusty bread with this amazing cheese I just discovered called Bonne Bouche and drink Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the sunshine by a river, trees swaying, birds chirping, the whole marvelous shebang.

What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?

I used to live in Paris and I hung out at a bar called Le Mazet. It’s changed now, but then it was the only place in Paris where buskers could exchange the coins they made playing music on the streets into bills—so there were these amazing nights when all these blues/punk/flamenco/rock/folk/classical/gospel/every-kind-on-earth musicians would be there at the same time, all playing together. It was some of the best live music I’ve ever heard, night after night—but there was this one night I remember that just had a sublime, synergistic combination of musicians playing and singing together and I swear the whole place rocketed straight into the stratosphere. That was the one!

What are you currently working on?

My new novel, THE FALL BOYS & DIZZY IN PARADISE, is about two brothers and a sister living in a hot, dusty Northern California vineyard town called Paradise. Their father mysteriously disappeared sixteen years earlier and the story begins when this strange, enigmatic girl shows up and sends all their lives into tumult. Like I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, it’s a love(s) story (many different kinds of love), but this one has some serious trumpet playing, food making, grape crushing, break ins and outs, dreams shattered and pieced back together, time lost, love lost and found, and a band called Hell Hyena and the Furniture. I’m really excited about it!

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So are we, Jandy! 

Keep up with Jandy on Twitter or by visiting her website!

Add I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN to your 'to read' shelf on Goodreads.

Or, even better, go ahead and buy it here!