WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement, Nov. 2023
A decided chill has settled across the Midwest, but at least where Sarah is, some fall colors are still glowing. Thanks to a recent Slack discussion with her WRB colleagues, Sarah has some (very) half-baked thoughts on art—specifically children’s book art. As regular CLS readers may have noticed, good art is a common theme here, but why is that? And what constitutes “good art”? What techniques go into making picture book art? Have those methods changed over the years? Perhaps most importantly: Why should we care? One of Sarah’s favorite writers, Denise Trull, covered parts of this topic over on the Theology of Home blog a few weeks ago. Though Trull was focused on homeschooling, these are ideas which can be used by anyone. As Trull said:
Art must be a part of the very fabric of your home—not introduced from without as something foreign or cerebral. Art deals with feelings, emotional responses, a desire for beauty. It is not math, grammar, or spelling. Art needs atmosphere in which to land and plant itself. Our role as parents and teachers is to provide it. Conjuring up that atmosphere need not be an esoteric mystery.
In this post, Trull gives philosophical and practical thoughts on art, and name-drops a few children’s lit illustrators CLS readers might wish to see. Sarah has listed those below, along with her favorite of their work, and she’s included a few other suggestions. Happy reading!
Illustrators Denise Trull mentioned:
Arthur Rackham (Fairy Tales: Brothers Grimm, 1909)
Jan Brett (Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury, 2018)
Michael Hague (The Children’s Book of Virtues, by William J. Bennett) (1995)
Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, 1908)
Jessie Willcox Smith (A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1905)
Tomie dePaola (The Moon’s Almost Here, by Patricia MacLachlan, 2016)
Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich (Bembo’s Zoo, 2000) [Thank you, Grace, for giving me this idea! —Sarah]
Kinuko Y. Craft (Cupid and Psyche, by Charlotte M. Craft, 1996)
P. J. Lynch (East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, 1991) [This may be my favorite illustrated fairytale of all time. —Sarah]
Anita Lobel (My Grandmother’s Stories by Adele Geras, 1990)
Picture books about art
The Sailor Who Captured the Sea by Deborah Nourse Lattimore (1991)
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson (1999)
Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew (1997)
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola (1988)
The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola (1989)
Art books for kids
The Usborne Introduction to Art by Rosie Dickins (2009)
Draw 50 Horses by Lee J. Ames (1984)
Art Auction Mystery by Anna Nilsen (2005)
Ed Emberley’s Big Purple Drawing Book by Ed Emberley (1972)
Mouseton Abbey by Nick Page (2013)
I Spy by Jean Marzollo, photographs by Walter Wick (1992)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert (1989)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, illustrated by Eric Carle (1967)
With my little eye . . .
If you’ve never wondered how the I Spy books were created, now is the time to be intrigued. The Insider Art channel put out a little video (four years ago, but we all knew Sarah is behind the times), and it’s a fun look at this clever series.
What we’re reading
After much delaying, Sarah finally read Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (1986). She had quite a few thoughts after finishing it, and she put some of them on paper:
As gripping as this story is, though, it’s also a profoundly sad one. The whole novel is set in motion by his parents’ divorce, and we could interpret Brian’s presence in the Canadian wilderness as a dramatic manifestation of the effects of divorce. In a divorce, the adults have many issues they’re dealing with, leaving little time to focus on their children. The children are often left to fend for themselves as best they can, just as Brian must fend for himself in the wild.
“Children are resilient” is a common response to this observation, and there certainly is some truth to that statement. We watch Brian slowly, steadily figure out how to survive and adapt. But survival isn’t living, and it isn’t thriving. Often, survival stories will give the protagonist a time of reflection, a way to work through traumas and figure out what to do with them. For Brian, though, there is no time to think. He’s too busy fishing, hunting, chopping wood, building, and rebuilding, rarely resting except at night—and even these hours are uneasy.
There certainly was some pushback from readers (and other writers) on this piece, showing that there’s plenty of themes to be considered and discussed.
What the kids are reading
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