May 3, 2014

Illustration Celebrations: Introspective and Retrospective

Crispin Books, April, 2014
I can't help feeling guilty about neglecting this blog for the past couple of weeks, even though I posted a warning I'd be focusing on my author blog at for a month or two in conjunction with the release of my middle grade historical novel, ODIN'S PROMISE.
Click to the blog above later to find links to giveaways from various blog tour hosts.

I've been busy in the best possible ways, but never too busy to feel guilty when it comes to letting my attention to picture books slide. Let me assure you that I have been working on material for this post and for several future ones, and now the calendar demands I procrastinate no longer.

The reason for my return is to extend my own celebration to two worlds of illustration. The first was triggered by the arrival of the March/April Horn Book Magazine in my mailbox, a special issue on illustration. I particularly loved this quotation from Roger Sutton's editorial on the unique value and function of picture books in literacy development:
"To echo another social media meme, Leave the Kindergarteners Alone! It's our job to read to them; it's their job to look at the pictures; it's the pictures' job to join the story with the imaginations of those who read it and those who hear it. As the many examples in this special issue demonstrate, that job continues to be performed admirably."

A quick glance at the titles and authors of the articles in the Table of Contents (here) should convince you to get to a library or bookstore and read it cover to cover. Where else could you enjoy (over and over) the wisdom and insights of so many masters of the art of illustration in a single sitting. That's what I did, even though it meant I had to let a few important to-do items wait.

If you absolutely, positively can't read it now, it will be there waiting for you when you get to it, but GET TO IT, as a favor to yourself. 

The more important reason for getting back to posting here is that some things won't be there waiting for us if we miss them now.This is an event I will miss out on, but you don't have to.
Wendell Minor, “Heartland (Red Barn Flag),” 1989.
Cover illustration for “Heartland” by Diane Siebert,
Thomas Y. Crowell, New York. ©Wendell 
Make it a point to get to the Wendell Minor retrospective exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum, celebrating 25 Years of Children's Book Art. The exhibit began November 9, 2013, but the clock is ticking. May 26 is the final day to see this incredible collection, entitled Wendell Minor's America. No excuses, folks, take a few minutes to click the link above and view the embedded video in which Minor describes his early years, the forces behind his development as an artist and nature lover. and his professional assignments prior to and related to working on picture books. His reflections on the role of illustrations in picture books is in perfect harmony with Sutton's comments.

Norman Rockwell Museum Composite,
Wendell Minor Retrospective

In the video he says: 
"The unique thing about a picture book is that they aren't just 16 or 20 pictures together, they all have to relate together, to flow together.In a good picture book you should be able to not read the words and still get the message through the pictures, and the words add that extra dimension."

I would add that this is true not only for story picture books for the very young, but for the most sophisticated non-fiction subject matter. Even when the text has demanded huge amounts of research and sophisticated knowledge, illustrations such as Minor's reveal nuance, intricacy, and dynamics that text alone can never fully describe.

Harper Collins, April 2014
Minor recently indulged me with a lengthy phone interview. I'll return in a week or two with another post sharing some of the many things he spoke about in that interview, including spotlights on just a few of the many picture books he has created alone and in partnership with remarkable authors. In my last post I reviewed his latest release, GALAPAGOS GEORGE, written by Jean Craighead George. He has several new works scheduled for release in the coming year which will be previewed in that post. 

In the meantime, if you are anywhere in the vicinity of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, get there before this exhibit ends. Minor's art is impressive enough in the quality pages publishers use to best display his work, but an opportunity to view the original art should not be missed. Sadly, I will not be able to get to the coast during this exhibit. If you've been there, go back and take my virtual eyes. By all means, add comments about your experience there. 
Go ahead, rub it in. At least I have many of his books to console me, and a signed catalogue of the exhibit, which I cherish.


  1. Thank you for the heads-up on the end date for Minor's exhibition. I'd love to see it and Stockbridge is a long but manageable day trip for us. Can't wait to hear about the interview!

    1. Cathy, I'm thrilled to think you'll make it there. This is one instance in which I'd like to have you wear Google-glasses and stream live video to me throughout your visit. I hope you'll feel it is worth the trip. In one piece I read about Minor, Garrison Keillor said something like "I've been his biggest fan for years but didn't know it." A quick look at his website and book images and I immediately find a vast array of my favorite picture books. Hope you'll stop back and add some comments here, if you end up going.
      And thanks for reading and letting me know this post did some good. :D


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