Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Illustrated children's books; edited by Duncan McCorquodale, Sophie Hallam and Libby Waite

The strength of this book is the illustrations. Uff-da, who woodah thunk? Sorry, I can't think of a better lead. This book is a bit confusing in spots and there is no index. I plowed through the dizzying lists of who's who in children's illustration history with an occassional crossed eye ready to give up only to get reigned in by an interesting section thinking (or thunking), " 'kay this isn't so bad..." Many of the early 1900s illustrators are unbeknownst to me and it was fun recognizing the illustrations and being able to put names with them. I didn't know who the blazes Thomas Bewick and Kate Greenaway were but have read other illustrators refer to them. Greenaway is the English equivalent to the American Caldecott, so I'm a bit embarrassed for not knowing who in tarnation she was in the literary world. I forgot all about Edward Ardizzone and seeing his illustrations resurrected all sorts of memories of perusing his books as a tot. If you want an overview of illustrators with not much depth and terrific illustrations then this book won't disappoint.

Leonard Marcus interviewed a bunch of illustrators who kept talking about the book, "Struwwelpeter," by Henrich Hoffmann that is reportedly violent and grotesque. Lo and behold, this book had the illustrations of "Struwwelpeter," (how do you pronounce a double "w") and they are fascinating in a bizarre way. The boy who sucked his thumb is getting one his thumbs cut off by the traveling tailor, with an intent look and creepy oversized scissors. Maybe the blood squirting in all directions is a wee offensive - not that it is realistic like video games kids use today. On the opposite page is an Edward Scissorhands-looking character with fingers that look like roots of a tree and porcupine-like hair. Weird and memorable characters to say the least. I can see why so many illustrators refer to it.

I wished the sections had dates for the authors, especially the chapter titled, "Author's and Illustrators 1659-1945." I assumed the authors listed are in chronological order but I'm a ninny with numbers and really have no clue if Lewis Carroll was born before or after L. Frank Baum. Plus, if I did know if would never stay upstairs in my gray matter so I would have liked birth and death dates of the authors. No index is a shame too. I can see grabbing this book for reference and wondering where the heck I read about such-and-such author.

The editors do highlight some famous authors and give quotes and information that I really enjoyed such as Maurice Sendak and Anthony Browne. Sendak was influenced by Mozart, Randolph Caldecott, and George Cruikshank. The latter was a British caricaturist who did illustrations for some of Charles Dickens works. Browne was influenced by Salvador Dali and René Magritte in "Through the Magic Mirror" and "Willy the Dreamer." He was influenced by Walter Crane in "The Tunnel." I like to pull out books and then look at the famous artists who influenced the illustrators and incorporating it into my read alouds. I think this visual literacy gets lost as we become adults and we don't notice the pictures like we did as kiddos. Of course it helps if you pick up a book a bazillion times like kids do.

The section "Illustrators and Authors 1945-Now" was the most interesting and helpful for me. I thought of some ways I can incorporate the information into my library lessons, as well as, some insight into writing reviews and analyzing art in picture books. I ordered many books for my library next year from the references and illustrations. If you are looking for picture books, then you will find this book useful. Tidbits such as "The Gruffalo" comes from a Chinese folktale, that Julia Donaldson wrote this story in two weeks, and Quentin Blake uses a light box (my architect father does the same thing) fed my artistic-starved knowledge base regarding picture books. I also learned that Brian Wildsmith's books are about children connecting and caring for nature. Our school is going to teach students how to care for the environment and I was just wondering what would be good for kindergarteners. This sounds like it might work for teachers.

Grace Lin is coming to visit our school and she talks about illustrators she loved such as Richard Scarry and Arthur Rackham. I quick flipped through the illustrators of the 1800s and found one photo of Rackham's work. It is much quicker to do a Google image search and I'm afraid I might not use this book that much because of the missing index. And yet, I know I'll pull it out as a reference book when I study other authors so all-in-all it is a good addition to my children's reference books.  Uff-da, that's a roundabout way of saying I liked it.

3 Smileys

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