Arts and Artists
Mr. Taback grew up in the East Bronx of New York City in 1930s and 40s. His family was Jewish, and they had strong ties to Eastern Europe. Their neighborhood was made up of many such families who together created a community rich in the traditions of the Old Country. When he was a young boy, he spoke the Yiddish language. Although he remembers little of it today, the old songs, stories, and ways of life have made a tremendous impact on the work of this Caldecott Award-winner. In old Poland, a village such as the one he grew up in would be called a shtetl.
2006 Caldecott Medal-winning artist Chris Raschka took a roundabout road to fame. His travels around the world and varied jobs give him a different perspective from most American artists. And, if fate hadn't taken a hand, this beloved artist might instead be knee-deep in muck as a crocodile farmer!
Buffalo, New York. It's cold up there near the Canadian line, the kind of place where houses often have sun porches to catch what heat they can get in the blustery winters. In the 1940s, most families would content themselves filling it with a couch, some houseplants, and a radio. In the Lewin household, the sun porch was filled with gym mats and weights.
"One of the most important things is to laugh with your children and to let them see you think they're being funny when they're trying to be. It gives children enormous pleasure to think they've made you laugh. They feel they've reached one of the nicest parts in you.... As a picture book artist, I don't think one can be too much on the side of the child."
Helen Oxenbury understands babies. She knows that they are messy, cranky, and wonderful. She knows that few things fascinate a baby like, well, another baby. In the world of board books, those sturdy first books that are impervious to drool and can survive a few tasty chews, Helen Oxenbury reigns supreme.
Pick up a handful of David Wiesner's books, and you'll get a glimpse of the kid who knew in third grade that he wanted to be an artist. But not just any artist--an artist full of fun and imagination. He remembers that there were lots of kinds of paintings he'd like to try:
"I'd have turtles with paintbrushes tied to their backs walking around on a big sheet of paper (I got chuckles from the class and the teacher). Or I'd fill squirt guns with different colored paints at shoot at the canvas. I actually tried this with friends. Well it sounded like a good idea."
He drew pirates and knights, fair ladies and fairy tales. His illustrated books on Robin Hood and King Arthur are still treasured by children today.
At the Start
Howard Pyle grew up in Wilmington, Delaware surrounded by family and friends. His mother read to him all sorts of marvelous stories, and they had illustrations from the magazines pinned to the walls of their home.
Provensen and Provensen. Alice and Martin. Martin and Alice. Two illustrators and writers working so closely together that their styles were indistinguishable. It was the same style really, gentle drawings so delightful in their clarity that they subtly underscored the text of the dozens of children's books that they illustrated.
Readers who enjoy Paul Goble's many stories of traditional Native American lives and legends are sometimes surprised to discover that the author/illustrator was born in England and not in the American West.
When he was a young boy, he liked to spend time at a lake near his home. He studied all the plants, birds, animals, and insects he saw there throughout the year, and he began to collect arrowheads and wildflowers. Soon he started to draw and paint from nature and from the specimens he would find in books and museums.
When David Shannon was five-years-old, he wrote a book about himself. On each page, there were different pictures of that showed the story of how he was so very good at getting into trouble. Each page had the words, "No, David!"
Born on November 28, 1947, in Macon, Georgia, Mary Evelyn Lyons came from a family where reading was a part of everyday life. Her family moved around a lot, and Mary found a way to stay centered was by keeping her nose in a book or even a comic book. She liked to read different kinds of things. She read all the time, but she especially enjoyed "Katy Keene" fashion comics, and the Newbery-winner Hitty, Her First Hundred Years was definitely a favorite. This story of a beloved doll being passed down and loved by generations of girls had much history woven into it—something Mary would learn a lot about as she got older.