All posts in Cozy Classics

We want Candy!

Holman was thrilled to be on The Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio today! He talked about Cozy Classics, reading, and his daughter’s new favorite picture book. Check out the audio and the CBC blog post here!

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The Nutcracker – Sneak Peek Images

Our version of The Nutcracker will be out in September 2016, well in time for the holiday season! Here is the new cover:


This is the first page. Like all Cozy Classics titles, the first page honors the famous first lines of the book by integrating them into the image. The accompanying word is GIFT.

Cozy Classics The Nutcracker GIFT Jack and Holman Wang

Here’s MOUSE, with an image of the nasty ol’ Mouse King.

Cozy Classics The Nutcracker MOUSE Jack and Holman Wang

And here are our heroes walking down a jelly bean road surrounded by SNOW, on their way to the Land of Sweets.

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We hope you’ll put Cozy Classics: The Nutcracker on your holiday wish list!

Artist in Residence – Queen Mary School

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Last week, Holman had the great pleasure of completing a full week as Artist in Residence at Queen Mary Elementary School on the west side of Vancouver. He gave presentations about his work on Monday, and then spent the next four days teaching hundreds of students to felt.

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Students in grades 3 to 7 needle felted, while the K to 2s learned to wet felt. The little ones made felt by wet felting in a Ziploc bag. Not only were the final results beautiful, it was pretty much mess proof!

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There were hundreds of needle felted pieces made by the older students. Here are just a few examples, starting with three students who honoured Star Wars Epic Yarns by felting stormtroopers. Ambitious and mazing work for first timers!

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And here are some of other needle-felted pieces. The subtle yet beautiful detailing on the stem of the pumpkin is terrific, and shows real artistry.

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And this octopus is just too cute!

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The students were really proud of their work, and rightly so. Here is staff at Queen Mary getting ready for the big felt show at the end of the week. There were literally hundreds of student projects on display. At the right front of the picture, you can see wet felted pieces turned into bow ties for Father’s Day cards!

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And here are some students checking out the exhibition.

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By the way, Queen Mary is a school with a view! Check out these photos shot from classrooms and school hallways.

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The students really enjoyed Holman’s visit, as can be seen from these journal entries by some of the grade 1 students.

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Holman enjoyed his week at Queen Mary immensely, and he would like to thank the enthusiastic teachers, staff, volunteers and students for making the week so successful. Finally, a big thanks to the teacher-librarian who invited Holman to her school. Aren’t librarians the best?

Odds & Ends

Lots of fun stuff has been happening in recent weeks! Here’s a roundup!

Holman has been doing lots of school visits around the Lower Mainland, inspiring kids and teachers alike to tap into their creative side. A warm welcome is always appreciated!

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On Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, Holman had the privilege of presenting at a Curiosity Collider event on Commercial Drive. Here’s Holman’s presentation in full:

On May 11, Holman presented to hundreds of grade 2 kids in West Vancouver at the West Vancouver Public Library’s Booktopia event. Before his presentation started, he even had movie-theatre style trivia questions come up on screen about him and his work! The kids loved it.

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Holman also recently gave presentations and workshops at Southridge Junior School in Surrey, BC. Look at the amazing things first-time felters can make in 90 minutes!

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Jack and Holman have just sent oversized posters off to the BookPeople of Moscow for their Art Walk event starting in June. Here’s an image of the Oz poster we’ve sent. There will be four Cozy Classics and four Star Wars Epic Yarn prints in store for several months, so check them out if you’re in Idaho!

Cozy Classics Star Wars Epic Yarns Book People of Moscow

Recently, Holman walked through Vancouver’s premiere children’s bookstore, Kidsbooks, only to find that no copies of Star Wars Epic Yarns were in the Star Wars section of the store. He was a little disappointed, until he walked by the bestsellers shelf right by the cashiers!

Cozy Classics Star Wars Epic Yarns Kidsbooks

Finally, it’s great to see that Star Wars Epic Yarns is having its own little life out in the world. A blogger for the School Library Journal reports that at a Michigan elementary school library, Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strike Back was one of the top 10 circulated picture books of 2016! See the whole list here.Cozy Classics Star Wars Epic Yarns Library

Great Expectations: Behind the scenes

We’re thrilled to be re-launching the Cozy Classics series with Chronicle Books! For each of the next three publishing seasons, we’ll be releasing a brand new Cozy Classics title, as well as re-issuing three of our backlist titles. Our first brand new Chronicle offering for spring 2016 is Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. How apropos!PrideAndPrejudice_COV_FnCrx.indd

Cozy Classics was born when two ideas were brought together: Jack’s idea to shake up the word primer genre by abridging classic novels into narrative board books with just 12 words and 12 illustrations, and Holman’s idea to create illustrations by photographing needle-felted figures, either in studio or on location. Needle felting is the process of entangling wool fibers by repeatedly stabbing the wool with a specialized barbed needle. As the wool fibers entangle, they get firmer and firmer, and you can begin to sculpt the wool. We usually make figures one at a time to completion, but for some reason, we decided to make all the generic bodies (which look like aliens!) for Great Expectations before adding facial features and clothing. Can you guess who the characters will be in the picture below? Hint: there are younger and older versions of both Pip and Estella.02 -  - Cozy Classics - Great Expectations - Felt Aliens
Creating younger and older versions of Pip and Estella was interesting. Here you can see “mugshots” of younger and older Pip. The trick was to change up the facial proportions to evoke the proper age, but also to maintain some character continuity with unifying features.
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Here’s the first spread from Great Expectations, featuring the younger version of Pip. The first image in each Cozy Classics title is always an homage to the famous first line of the novel, which we integrate into the image.GreatExpectations_INT_FnCrx.indd
At the beginning of Great Expectations, Pip helps out an escaped convict by bringing him some food and a file so he can remove his leg irons. They meet in a graveyard, so we decided to shoot our image in an actual graveyard as well. Here’s an image that wound up on the cutting room floor. No grave sites were disturbed or disrespected in the making of this image!
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One day Pip is taken to play at the home of the wealthy but eccentric Miss Havisham. There he meets a beautiful young girl named Estella, who treats him coldly and contemptuously. We tried to capture both Estella’s beauty and cruelty in this scene at Satis House, which was largely recreated through the use of dollhouse miniatures.
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The image below was ultimately cut from the book in favor of a similar scene which also included Ms. Havisham. Sometimes good isn’t good enough for us!
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Pip falls in love with Estella and dreams of becoming a wealthy gentleman so that he might be worthy of her. One day, he receives notice that he is to inherit some money from a secret benefactor. We recreated Pip’s humble home by first setting up a number of bricks on end for the floor. Then we created walls with foamcore coated with plastic filler, and hand built other architectural details in wood.
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Then we added further architectural details, such as model bricks, a hand-made table and stool, and some dollhouse props.
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A hand-made ceiling was added and the entire scene was lit by candlelight to create warm tones.
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Here’s the final image for MONEY. In the novel, Pip doesn’t actually receive any money at his home (he’s to receive it later in London), but we put bags of money on the table in the scene to better illustrate the concept of money for young children. We also debated whether we should use a dollar sign instead of a pound sign on the bags, but decided that a dollar sign would be too egregious a departure from the novel.
Fast forward to near the end of the novel, and Ms. Havisham feels badly that she has mistreated Pip in earlier years. Here’s the set-up for SORRY. The wall, fireplace and picture frame were hand-made from specialized pieces of wood and mouldings. The scene was supplemented with dollhouse props. The painting is “Portrait of the Copley Family” by John Singleton Copley, 1776.
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Of course, Ms. Havisham’s dress famously catches fire while she bends over the fireplace. Here’s our depiction of the iconic moment.GreatExpectations_INT_FnCrx.indd
And yes, that’s real fire in the image! Such is our commitment to realism (and our desire to stay away from digital illustration) that we actually set our painstakingly-made felt figure on fire. Here’s the proof. Early testing proved that wool doesn’t actually burn very well (it only smolders and creates a stink), so we tucked paper into the dress to create a proper fire.
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At the end of the novel, Pip and Estella reconnect again, although under somewhat ambiguous circumstances. But they meet in a garden, and the final image in our version of Great Expectations was shot on location at Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver, British Columbia. Milk crates are our friends–they’re a simple way to set up an elevated foreground to a scene.15 - Cozy Classics - Great Expectations - GARDEN set-up
​We hope you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the making of Cozy Classics: Great Expectations. Keep your eyes open for new titles The Nutcracker in fall 2016 and The Wizard of Oz in spring 2017!

Cozy Classics re-launch!

New Covers

Happy book birthday to us!

Cozy Classics officially re-launches with Chronicle Books today, including our brand new title Great Expectations! Available everywhere books are sold, including the online booksellers below. Buy now!


Video of Holman’s talk at IV15!

Interesting Vancouver is a fascinating gathering of the curious and unexpected. More than another “sage on the stage” lecture series, Interesting Vancouver is an event that celebrates the uncelebrated, expands the collective vision of what is uniquely possible, and gives people an opportunity to discover interesting new creative pursuits they can apply in their own lives.

Holman had the very special opportunity to participate in Interesting Vancouver 2015. With no further ado, here’s his talk!

Many thanks to United Nathan Productions for putting together such a slick little video!

Jack’s Fall 2015 Roundup

Jack had a busy travel schedule this fall. In addition to The Original Art exhibit in New York City and a First Book event at PS82 in Queens, he participated in four other events throughout the state.

New York ComicCon

His adventures began in October when he traveled to the Javits Center in the Big Apple for New York ComicCom. His first stop was the Chronicle booth, where he signed copies of Star Wars Epic Yarns for fans of all ages, including the Joker and Harley Quinn!

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Next he participated on a panel entitled “Geek-constructing Fandoms” with Erik Didrikson, creator of Pop Sonnets; Ryan Britt, author of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read; Caseen Gains, expert on Back to the Future; Colleen Gleason, author of the Stoker & Holmes series, among others; and David J. Peterson, creator of languages for Game of Thrones. That’s David appearing to look grumpy—but he says he was just listening attentively!

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Here’s David and Jack happily signing books afterward—proof that they were fast friends!

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Medaille College

The following week, Jack traveled to Medaille College in Buffalo, NY at the invitation of Assistant Professor Alice Villaseñor, a Jane Austen scholar, and Associate Professor Mary Louise Hill, director of The Write Thing Reading Series. There he took listeners behind the scenes of Cozy Classics and Star Wars Epic Yarns and signed books afterward.

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The National Museum of Play

In November, Jack ventured to Rochester, NY for In Another Galaxy Weekend at The National Museum of Play, where figures, spaceships, and sets from Star Wars Epic Yarns are currently on display (link to our other blog). Jack spent the weekend greeting fans, signing books, and watching the public delight in our lit images and felted figures.

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Our display was so enthralling that even the Dark Side couldn’t resist!

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We’re not exactly sure what these Jedis were thinking, but hopefully that the Force was strong with our Star Wars Epic Yarns display!

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That weekend, Jack also met Dave Pollot, creator of Star Wars/thrift store parodies!

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Many thanks to Corrie Kraai of the National Museum of Play for making it all happen!

JASNA – New York Metropolitan Region

Jack capped off his busy semester with a visit to the General Society Library in New York City, where he gave a presentation to The Jane Austen Society of North America – New York Metropolitan Region. The audience oohed and aahed as he gave an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the making of Cozy Classics.

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Janeites also got a special treat—a visit from Lizzy, Darcy, Frank, and Harriet!

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Thanks to Kerri Spennicchia and all the members of JASNA-NYC for a delightful afternoon!

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That’s a wrap! Here’s to more adventures in 2016!

A galaxy far, far away… Haida Gwaii!

Holman had the privilege of going up to Haida Gwaii last week to give artists talks and felting workshops. He was invited by Beng Favreau of Literacy Haida Gwaii and Kiki van der Heiden of Sun Studio. Kiki is an incredible visual and fiber artist who created the felt artwork for the picture book Taan’s Moons in collaboration with children from Haida Gwaii. Holman gives a quick visual tour of his trip.


Haida Gwaii was named one of National Geographic Traveler’s 20 must-see places in the world for 2015, and I was lucky enough to be invited there! The natural landscape is simply stunning, as evidenced by this sunrise right outside the home I was staying in:

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The first stop was the local high school in Queen Charlotte, where I gave a talk about my work to an art class. It was a chance to share my artistic process with students, hopefully inspire them, and plug the youth felting workshop I was giving the same night!

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The afternoon turned into a “crafternoon”, as I visited Sun Studio and tried my hand at wet felting for the first time. Kiki taught me some wet felting techniques that I will try and incorporate into the next Cozy Classics!

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The youth felting workshop in Queen Charlotte was held in the evening, and the keen gathering of young people tried their hand at making Jawas.

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The next day, the adults of Queen Charlotte got their opportunity to needle felt.

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We brought along other colours of wool in case any participant wanted to make a figure other than a Jawa, and Kiki took full advantage by making a figure of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mum!

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Afterwards, I gave another talk about my work:

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The next day, I set off with Beng for the long drive to Masset, where I gave two workshops back-to-back. First it was the adults’ turn:

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And here are some happy Jawa-makers!

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Again, some participants took full advantage of the opportunity to create non-Jawa figures, like this beautiful ballerina:

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Then it was time for the youth of Masset to take their turn. I was completely blown away by the skill and determination of the some of the young participants!

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I also managed to get some sightseeing and tourist-y activities in while I was in Haida Gwaii, including visiting this carving center were the carvers had been working full-time on this totem pole since June. Apparently, it can take up to 10,000 hours of labour to complete a single pole!

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Here are some of the breathtaking views around Queen Charlotte:

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Here I am relaxing with a book on my final night in Haida Gwaii, in the home generously offered to me by local Fran Fowler (doesn’t it look cozy?):

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It was an incredible trip that I won’t soon forget. Haawa (thank you in Haida) to Beng, Kiki and their families for their kindness and hospitality. The epilogue to the story is that my mother-in-law has already promised to fly the family up to Haida Gwaii for her 70th birthday in two years. So with any luck, it won’t be long before I’m up in Haida Gwaii again!

Featured in Ricepaper!

We’re featured in the latest issue of Ricepaper – The magazine of Asian literary arts. The profile was written by Taylor Brown Evans, who not only conducts thoughtful interviews, but also does amazing illustrations! Here’s the illustration accompanying our profile, with Jack as Luke and Holman as Han in the Creature Cantina. What could be cooler than to be drawn into the Star Wars universe? Thanks Taylor and Ricepaper!

Star Wars Epic Yarn Cozy Classics Ricepaper

Be sure to pick up a copy of Ricepaper 20.2, or order it online. It’s chock-a-block full of great fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and illustrations by incredibly talented Asian-Canadians. We’re humbled and honoured to be sharing an issue with them.