Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Caldecott Celebration (Genre: Picture Books)

Bibliographic Data
Author: Leonard Marcus
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1998
ISBN: 978-0802786562

Plot Summary
This book highlights the backgrounds and back stories of six Caldecott award winning illustrators. The books chosen represent a decade of Caldecott award winners and exemplify some trait or aspect of the winning concepts within that decade. Marcus explores the reasoning behind the illustration, artistic types, and historical information while weaving an interesting story that explains how the book came to be.

Critical Analysis
This text would certainly be appropriate for elementary and middle school aged students to use as a resource text in an author or illustrator study. Written in an informal manner, the text identifies anecdotes that may or may not appear in basic character information available on book jackets and the like. However, I found that the book lacked a form of description or formula in characterizing each illustrator. Informational tidbits regarding specific illustrative techniques were described in detail for one individual and missing from others. All in all, I would recommend this text for classroom use and for individual pleasure reading.

Review Excerpts
Publishers Weekly
Filled with witty anecdotes and pithy observations, Marcus's (Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom) approach to examining the works of six Caldecott Medalists will be of as much interest to adults as to picture book readers. He has chosen one book from each decade, "so that viewed together, the six offer an informal cross section through time of the American picture book": Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings, Marcia Brown's Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Chris Van Allsburg's Jumanji and David Wiesner's Tuesday. With a generous sprinkling of the artists' own words and sometimes those of his or her editor, Marcus chronicles the inspiration behind these works, the creative process, the artists' reactions to winning the prestigious award and its effect on their careers. He fills the volume with the kinds of details children relish: McCloskey once shared his Greenwich Village digs with 16 ducks and Steig does black-and-white drawings first, then fills in each color one by one throughout the book. Encouraging readers to see each picture book through the artist's eyes, Marcus shows Brown's compositional studies, explains how Van Allsburg chose from which perspective to view the coiled python in the living room and how Sendak decided "that the illustrations leading up to the rumpus would get larger and larger, as Max's emotions pushed out the words." He traces the evolution of the illustrations for Tuesday from Wiesner's first quick sketches, when the idea occurred to him on a jet plane. With Marcus's sure hand guiding this tour, readers will find cause for celebration. All ages.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Excellent for use as a reference text in an illustrator’s study. Use one illustrator who was nominated for multiple Caldecott awards and received Caldecott Honor Book in preceding or following years from the Caldecott winner and compare the artistic techniques developing a Venn diagram.

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