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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Children's Illustrators

An illustration from Alice in Wonderland.
Can you name the author and the illustrator?
Most of us are familiar with names such as J.M Barrie, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carrol, Beatrix Potter, and more recently J.K. Rowling. We remember books read to us over and over again when we were growing up. Eventually we came to know the authors. We loved the pictures too. But how many of us can name the illustrator? Very often a great illustrator gets short shrift, especially when teamed up with a famous author. Can you match the illustrators Jim Kay, Clement Hurd, Ernest Shepard, John Tenniel, and Peggy Fortnum to the authors above? Be careful, I threw some wild cards in to make the game interesting. For those who find their knowledge woefully inadequate as to this branch of artistic endeavor, I've created a list of children's storybook illustrators you should know, especially if you have children. Keep in mind, I've chosen this group on the basis of their art, not the story or characters created by their authors.

Born in 1879, died in 1976.
Ernest Howard Shepard--Winnie the Pooh
Shepard was an English artist and book illustrator. He was known especially for illustrations of the anthropomorphic soft toy and animal characters in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne.

Sir John Tenniel

Sir John Tenniel--Alice in Wonderland
Like Shepard, Tenniel was a Punch illustrator who pon-dered Lewis Carroll’s invitation to illustrate Alice’s Advent-ures in Wonderland for three months in 1864 before agreeing, to a fee of £138 for 42 illustrations, which he produced over the course of the following year. So highly did Carroll value Tenniel’s judgement he accepted Tenniel’s objections to the quality of the Clarendon Press’s first printing of his novel, rejecting all 2,000 copies. They switched to a new printer, Richard Clay, who achieved the necessary clarity of detail in reproducing Tenniel’s illustrations as wood-block engravings. After 150 years, Tenniel's White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Red Queen remain instantly recognizable. His vision of Alice encap-sulates mid-Victorian stereotypes of girlish prettiness which remain a feature of girls’ hairdressing.

One of a small group who wrote and illustrated her own work.

Beatrix Potter--Peter Rabbit

Helen Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist best known for her children's books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

There is a definite "Disney" look to Eastman's illustrations.
P.D. Eastman
Philip Dey Eastman is the author and illustrator of numerous classic beginner reader books such as Go, Dog. Go!, Are You My Mother?, and A Fish Out of Water. Before teaming up with Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) to write the early reader series in the late 1950s, Eastman had studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York City and worked as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios. He later helped develop the cartoon character Mr. Magoo at United Productions of America.

Illustrating for children runs in this family.
Clement Hurd--
Goodnight Moon (1947) by Margaret Wise Brown is often one of the first books given to newborn babies. Clement Hurd drew the beautiful, deceptively simple illustrations of the objects in a young rabbit’s room. He didn’t start out illustrating books. In the early 1930s he studied painting in Paris with famed Cubist Fernand Léger. He has illustrated more than 100 books, but Goodnight Moon, and its companion The Runaway Bunny (above) from 1942, remain his most famous. Following in his father's footsteps, Thacher Hurd is a children's author and illustrator of over 25 books including Zoom City, which was chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book.

McCloskey's major paintings and illustrations
compiled by his daughter, Jane.
Robert McCloskey
McCloskey won a Caldecott Medal-winning in 1941 for his book Make Way for Ducklings, which chronicles a family of mallards trying to make a home for themselves in bustling Boston. It has become so central to that city’s identity that in the downtown Public Garden, where much of the action in the book takes place, there is a monument to the story and its creator in the form of 8 bronze duckling statues following a bronze mother mallard. McCloskey studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York City and painted murals in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston before finding success as a book illustrator.

A children's illustrator has two sources, the story, and
his or her own memories as a child growing up with storybooks.
Ezra Jack Keats--
The Snowy Day (1962) is another one of those books many kids have on their shelf before they even know their ABCs. Keats was born Jacob “Jack” Ezra Katz to immigrant parents and was an artist from a young age. He won numerous awards throughout his schooling. Keats became a successful commercial artist in New York City before turning his attention to book illustration. His illustrations show his training in fine arts and the influence of Cubism and Abstraction. The Snowy Day earned him a Caldecott Medal in 1963.

Very often an illustrator work, as with Carle's, is a reflection
of his own personality and love of children.
Eric Carle--
His best known book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar written in 1969. It's the story of a caterpillar who can’t seem to fill up. He eats so much he gets a stomach ache, so he eats a leaf. Soon enough, he’s no longer a caterpillar but a beautiful butterfly. This book, is also a Caldecott winner, having been translated into more than 50 languages. To create his distinctive illustrations, Carle collaged hand-painted papers to form his colorful trademark images. Before he became a book illustrator, Carle studied art in Stuttgart, Germany, and had a career in graphic design and commercial art in New York City. In 2002 he and his wife founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Little boys especially enjoy stories with lots of action.
Virginia Lee Burton--
Burton was the winner of the 1943 Caldecott Medal for The Little House. She also wrote and illustrated classics such as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel in 1939, Katy and the Big Snow in 1943), and Maybelle the Cable Car  in 1952. Her books often touched on how to cope with the onset of technological advances and sociological changes. Burton was also a dancer, a designer, the founder, and director of an arts and crafts artists’ colony, known as the Folly Cove Designers (1938-69), which evolved out of casual art lessons she offered to neighbors in her community on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Burton and her collective were also known for their textile design.

A children's illustrator can often evolve into a whole
line of successful books based upon a single
character such a Madeline.

Ludwig Bemelmans--Madeline
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines…” lived Bemelmans’s beloved character, Madeline. In 2014 she and her friends (the ones in two straight lines) turned 75. Bemelmans published the first Madeline book in 1939, and followed it in 1953 with Madeline’s Rescue, which earned the 1954 Caldecott Medal. Though Bemelmans loved art, he did not intend to become the author of books. In fact he started out in the hotel and restaurant businesses. In the end he published novels, children’s books, and nonfiction works. He also contributed to magazines like The New Yorker and Vogue. In all, the original Madeline series consisted of six titles, but since Bemelmans’s death in 1962, his grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, has picked up with Madeline where the elder Bemelmans left off and has published numerous new titles.

An illustrator must be constantly wary that his or her illustration do not overwhelm the storyline.
Maurice Sendak--
Best-known for his Caldecott-winning book Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970), Sendak is one of the most famous children’s book illustrators. He worked for a time after high school as a window display designer at FAO Schwartz in New York City in the late 1940s while he took night classes at the Art Students League. In 1951 he was hired to illustrate his first book, The Wonderful Farm by Marcel Ayme. Over the course of sixty years, Sendak has illustrated more than sixty books. Beginning in the 1970s he also designed sets and costumes for opera and ballet. Though some of his books were criticized for containing content inappropriate for children (see the very naked Mickey in In the Night Kitchen), Sendak was enormously successful and influential to generations of writers and illustrators. In 2009 a full-length movie was released of Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jones.

Childlike illustrations such as Blake's are not at all uncommon
in children's literature.
Quentin Blake--
The illustrator of more than 250 books, Blake’s fame stems primarily from his fruitful collaboration with Roald Dahl. Blake’s scratchy, cartoonish illustrations of characters with exaggerated features grace the pages of titles like Matilda (1988), The Twits (1980), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and James and the Giant Peach (1961). He is arguably England’s most beloved illustrator and was honored in 1999 by being named that country’s first Children’s Laureate. In 2002 he paved the way to establish House of Illustration, a London-based, non-profit museum dedicated to illustrators.

The key element in a successful children's book is the
working chemistry between the writer and the illustrator.
Barbara Cooney--
Cooney won two Caldecott Medals (1959 for Chanticleer and the Fox, and in 1980 for Ox-Cart Man. Cooney had a very long, prolific, and accomplished career. She illustrated her first book in 1940 (Ake and His World, by Bertil Malmberg), and in 1941 published the first book that she both wrote and illustrated herself, King of Wreck Island. She collaborated with a number of well-known authors, most notably with Margaret Wise Brown (Where Have You Been? and Christmas in the Barn, both 1952, as well as The Little Fir Tree, in 1954. She is probably most-known for Miss Rumphius, published in 1982, Island Boy (1988), and Hattie and the Wild Waves written in 1990. All three were largely autobiographical stories written late in her career. By the time she died in 2000, Cooney had illustrated over 100 books in the course of 60 years.

With children's books, both reading and children are optional.
If you've stuck with me to this point, through thirteen different illustrators, I hope you realize what a chore it has been in choosing or eliminating so many excellent illustrators just to get the number down to a reasonable size. I hope you've encountered favorites from your childhood. Just remember that enjoying children's books such as these, both reading and children are optional.

Never too young to enjoy the


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