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Review:'Show me a story! Why Children's Books Matter'

Artists from the world of children's books are interviewed about their vision.
Artists from the world of children's books are interviewed about their vision.
Cover art by Kevin Henkes

I’ve previously written about the exhibit “The ABC of it: Why Children’s Books Matter” at the flagship location of the New York Public Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street. Since then, the closing date has been extended several times due to its great popularity, but currently it is expected to run only until September 7th 2014. Highly recommended for families, and lovers of books!

This article will focus on a timely new book by the curator of the exhibit – Leonard S. Marcus, “Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter.” in case you can’t get to 5th Avenue to purchase it from the bookshop.

From the NYPL website: Leonard S. Marcus has curated exhibitions on children's books and their illustration at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where he is also a founding trustee; New School for Social Research; Vassar College Library; the Boston Athenaeum; Enoch Pratt Free Library; Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha); Katonah Museum of Art; and the Meridian International Center (Washington, DC). He has written numerous books about children's literature and the authors and artists who create them, and his incisive book reviews appeared in every issue of Parenting magazine for 21 years.

Featuring 21 accomplished illustrators, Marcus has interviewed each of the artists, and in his own words, “I am on a kind of mad quest for the vital thread that links an artist’s life story to the stories and images for which he or she is known. How does a young person grow up to be an artist?” If these are the questions that fascinate you too, there is no better place to explore. He continues: ”. . . . . . I hope as well that teachers, librarians, parents, book collectors and others who care about children and their books will find in these pages new insights into the process of artistic creation, and a fuller appreciation of an art form that is almost never as simple as it seems.”

The foreword to the book is written by David Wiesner, one of my own favorite author/illustrators, who arguably should have been included in the chapters! But no doubt others will have personal favorites they would love to see interviewed too. Hearing personal reflections from such major artists as Mitsumasa Anno, Vera B. Williams, and Maurice Sendak, to name but a few, is reward enough!

Another great resource for intriguing exhibits, for readers in Brooklyn – the Brooklyn Public Library, located at 10, Grand Army Plaza. The most fascinating online resource there is this link to a 2010 exhibit called: ”Drawn in Brooklyn”, - a comprehensive survey of author/illustrators who lived and worked in the Borough then. I saw this show twice, and couldn't believe the variety and complexity of the work and the installation itself, with video interviews and commentaries, demonstrations of the various techniques, and literally hundreds of published examples, beautifully displayed. An astonishing list of artists made Brooklyn their home, (Betsey and Ted Lewin, Kevin Henkes, Bemelmans-Marciano, Paul O. Zelinsky, Sean Qualls, et al) and the work of the famous and the lesser known are included. Book lovers, click on . . . !

For an archive of current and earlier shows, here is the website for the BPL, where you will find features and interviews with many more writers and artists:

Clearly, libraries are doing great things in the digital era!

Examiners are also providing great resources as you will find in the suggested links below. From links to information and interviews, to a Smithsonian Museum online exhibit still available from 2009, these articles are well worth a look.

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