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Feature Articles - Arts

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 2:57pm

Alvin Schwartz, writer of many books for children that collected and shared traditions from times past, first became interested in folklore as a child, although at the time he did not think of it as something to study.  Folklore was just something that was part of his childhood: the games, riddles, rhymes, superstitions and scary stories. He grew up to become a journalist and also worked as an adjunct English professor. Later, his writing and research skills would play an important part in the job he eventually took on to make many types of folklore familiar to young readers.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 2:37pm

Fast Facts:

Born: New York City, June 27, 1928
Education: Graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, in 1950
Military service: Korean War, infantry, discharged in 1951
Family: married Carol Burrows in 1952. They had two children: Geoffrey and Andrew. Divorced his first wife and married Ida Karen Potash.
Work: worked as a magazine editor from 1952 to 1958 in New York City; also part-time trombonist at jazz clubs in Greenwich Village during the 1950s. He gave up the editing work and became a freelance writer full-time in 1958 and continues to work occasionally as a jazz musician.
Currently  Lives in: New York City
First Books: Cheers, an adult book, in 1961; Battleground: The United States Army in World War II, a non-fiction children’s book, in 1965; The Teddy Bear Habit; or, How I Became a Winner, a children’s novel, in 1967.
Selected Awards: My Brother Sam Is Dead, Newbery Honor book, ALA Notable Book, Jane Addams Honor Book Award, National Book Award Finalist, Phoenix Award; War Comes to Willy Freeman, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People; Chipper, Notable Studies Trade Book for Young People; Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787, Christopher Award; Jump Ship to Freedom, Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People; The Making of Jazz, American Book Award Finalist.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 2:12pm

“...it makes me uncomfortable to know that my story Tuck Everlasting is required reading in some classrooms. My sympathies are entirely with the children, for many will react to Tuck as I well might have--with a shudder. Many will find its language too ‘fancy,’ its pace too slow, its topic unsettling, the behavior of its hero incomprehensible.”--Natalie Babbitt in "Saying What You Think." The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress*

It is perhaps surprising that an author would almost prefer her books were not required reading.  But it is less surprising in Natalie Babbitt’s case. Her best-beloved books are sweet and strong and true in spirit while containing enough wonder and marvel to lend a sparkle to a reader’s otherwise mundane childhood. This children’s author, like many of the best, remembers what it is like to be a child. What she liked to read--and what she didn’t. She understands that children have strong opinions on their favorite books, even if they may not be comfortable in expressing them.  She certainly remembers what she liked:

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:10am

Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop grew up in a rambling house, surrounded by woods, and with a stream nearby for catching crayfish.  With no television until she was twelve, she and her five brothers would make up all sorts of imaginative games. Their home was filled with books to feed that imagination.  Among her favorites were C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, as well as books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Charles Dickens. Both her parents loved to read, and her father was a journalist.

A Writer in the Wings

“My father read aloud from Shakespeare—he made us take parts and read from plays in the evenings sometimes… Reading was like breathing.”*

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:01am

“I have always thought my best stuff was in my sketchbooks.  I have hundreds and hundreds of sketchbooks.  I like to work at night, I suppose because that’s when my defenses are sort of low.  I have my most creative ideas at night.  I’m less inhibited, and I really let it rip.”

From: Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. p. 96; pp. 82-106 are on James Marshall

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, James Marshall’s whimsical drawings added humor to dozens of children’s picture books.  While many were made for other writers’ works, including classics such as Mother Goose, Edward Lear, and Ogden Nash, he was also a talented writer on his own.  Indeed,  he became one of the most popular and prolific illustrators in children’s publishing.  In high school, however, he wasn’t so much about the art--though he did doodle, as he called it--as about the music which he saw as a way to get a scholarship to college far away from swampy Texas town where his family lived.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:46am

Children’s author and illustrator Margot Zemach was born into a show business family--her father was a theater director, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she drew imaginatively costumed characters to retell her favorite fairy stories and folktales, something she continued to do as an adult that would lead her to worldwide fame.

As she wrote in her autobiography, Self-Portrait: Margot Zemach: "I can create my own theater and be in charge of everything. When there is a story I want to tell in pictures, I find my actors, build the sets, design the costumes and light the stage. . . . If I can get it all together and moving, it will come to life. The actors will work with each other, and the dancers will hear the music and dance. When the book closes, the curtain comes down."

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:38am
Waiting on Android "O"

For years, I preferred Android over iPhone, usually citing its customizability and availability from a large number of manufacturers. This stands in stark contrast to iPhone, which has notably fewer customization options than Android and is only made by Apple. IPhone has no homescreen widgets; non-App Store apps are very difficult to install; it has no centralized storage; and the list goes on. There is one area in which iPhone continues to outshine Android though: security.

Because Apple makes their own devices and designs their own bespoke operating system (iOS) to work more or less seamlessly with their hardware, they have total control over critical security and system updates. When they detect or are informed of a serious flaw in their software, they can push out an update to all Apple devices at once.

This stands in stark contrast to Android. When the iPhone was released and took the world by storm, Google knew the only way they could compete was to adopt the opposite strategy from Apple, namely, making Android's operating system free, open source, and completely customizable by the various manufacturers. That's why iPhones are always iPhones, but Android phones vary wildly in design, features, internals, and software. A phone manufactured by Samsung looks and acts very differently from a phone designed by Lenovo, even though they are both running Android.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:37am

When Mercer Mayer was a young artist looking for book illustration work, a potential employer suggested he give up and throw away his portfolio.  Fortunately for the thousands of children who have enjoyed his many books, he did not give up. Indeed, he went on to create one of the first widely-published wordless books for children, A Boy, A Frog, and a Dog. That book and its successors were hugely popular.

Soon after that, Mayer tackled one of the biggest problems facing young children—how to cope with fears of the unknown. Rather than write pedantic, matter-of-fact, non-fiction children’s books, he turned the process of dealing with those fears into engaging stories from a child’s point of view: There’s a Nightmare in My Closet; There’s an Alligator under My Bed; and There’s Something in My Attic.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:28am

Rosemary Wells is one of our best-loved writers and illustrators for very young people.  Her “Max and Ruby” books capture the relationship between a bossy big sister and her inquisitive (and stubborn!) little brother.  That they happen to look rather a lot like rabbits makes no difference to the stories. Rosemary Wells’ wry humor turns these brief books into rather perfect treasures for the preschool set.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 9:19am

When he was two, Paul Zelinsky’s family moved from an apartment near Chicago to a house in Kyoto, Japan.  Most of the Japanese houses had walls made of paper. Though his was an exception, he does wonder if all that paper might have influenced him to become an artist. While in Kyoto, he drew the stylish and elegant geisha ladies.  When they came back to Chicago, their family home overlooked a construction site, so he took to drawing tractors and steam shovels being driven by geishas!*

He kept on drawing and kept on getting better and found a market for his work after college.  Through the years, he has illustrated many, many books and written some himself.  Today, his life, as chronicled on Facebook, is a happy blend of family, visiting schools, and, of course, drawing!

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