Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Review – creators of children’s picture books

Talking With Artists by Pat Cummings

1. Bibliographic information: Cummings, Pat. 1992. TALKING WITH ARTISTS. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0027242455.

2. Plot: Cummings interviews 14 children's book artists. Following a "My Story" written by each artist, she then asks each artist the same 8 questions. Each artist presents him or herself in a totally unique style, just like their artwork. There are samples of childhood works and illustrations from their adult careers. At the end of the book is a glossary of art and publishing terms and a list of books by the artists.

3. Critical analysis: As an illustrator of children’s books herself, Pat Cummings understands the lifestyle of creating picture book illustrations. In her introduction she mentions that she visits elementary schools. She knows what kind of questions children ask, and these are the questions she poses to the artists interviewed. Readers of this book learn that it’s possible to enjoy your adult career, and make a living off a hobby (even obsession) to these artists since their childhood.

Each chapter is organized the same – first the artist speaks, in a 2 page article titled “My Story.” There are photos of the artist as both child and adult, then Cummings asks each artist 8 questions:

Where do you get your ideas from?
What is a normal day like for you?
Where do you work?
Do you have any children? Any pets?
What do you enjoy drawing the most?
Do you ever put people you know in your pictures?
What do you use to make your pictures?
How did you get to do your first book?

Interspersed throughout the 8 questions and their answers are childhood artistic creations and adult artistic creations.

Since each artist has his or her own style, each chapter is a different style. The artists' persoanlities come though, especialy Lane Smith, whose very tongue-in-cheek answers and illustrations drawn especialy for his "My Story" section are hilariously funny. Check out the drawing of 'this thing' that Smith says all children go through as a stage in their drawing, on page 73.

4. Awards and Review Excerpts:

ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award 1993 - Winner Non-Fiction United States.

Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. 1993 Honor Book United States

Horn Book (The Horn Book Guide, 1992)

Fourteen well-known children's book illustrators respond to questions about their lives and work in a lively interchange of ideas.... An inspired concept, executed with class.

Betsy Hearne (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 1992 (Vol. 45, No. 8))

As inspiration for building artists or information for reports, this will make a natural companion to picture books by the award-winning subjects...

5. Connections: Any of this series would make a perfect gift to an art teacher or budding young artist. Give a set of paints, brushes, pastels, and paper along with the book.

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