Over the years, I’ve found Valeri Gorbachev’s picture books (both ones he’s written and illustrated, as well as those written by others that he’s illustrated) to be a breath of fresh air. To be sure, I think he has a contemporary Richard-Scarry vibe—more than any other illustrator working today—but his artwork still possesses, at the same time, a style that is all his own. (Pictured left is his self-portrait, which won me over right away.) As I’ve written previously here at 7-Imp, when Valeri, who immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine in 1991, illustrates a new children’s title, I always go running to get a copy. (If you do the same, you stay busy, huh? He’s illustrated over fifty books in his career. Well over that number, I would bet. And I should have clarified this, but let’s carry on.) What do I love about his work? His pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are terrifically kid-friendly — without being condescending to child readers. His colors are always cozy and warm. His expressive, detailed character work—always anthropomorphized animals who are endearing, yet never saccharine—always wins me over, and there’s a subtle humor in his work as well. There’s also usually a real sense of community that pervades his titles, and he creates original cumulative tales that really work. With the recent release of a new title he both penned and illustrated, Catty Jane Who Hated the Rain (Boyds Mill Press, April 2012), I invited Valeri over for a 7-Imp cyber-breakfast. I’ve wanted to do this for years, and I’m pleased he’s here. “I’m not very creative in my breakfast,” he told me. “Usually, I like sausage. In my life, I’ve probably eaten enough sausages at breakfast that they can be looped around the world a few times. And, of course, I have to have my cup of coffee. Or two. Or three.” Three cups of coffee always works in my kitchen, so let’s get right to it. I thank Valeri for stopping by.