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May 21, 2012

Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter

Last Sunday, I had a the rare pleasure of walking into a bookshop, browsing awhile, and buying a book I had only just discovered. That book was Leonard Marcus’s Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter, 21 Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, which I bought not just for its cover art (a Mo Willems book for me!), but because the illustrators interviewed included Quentin Blake, John Burningham, Eric Carle, James Marshall, Robert McCloskey, Lois Ehlert, Helen Oxenbury, Maurice Sendak, Peter Sis, Rosemary Well, William Steig, and Willems himself, among others. The book was wonderful. I was amazed to learn that Oxenbury and Burningham are married, that Tana Hoban and Russell were siblings, Steig was incredibly grumpy, Blake said he could only draw automobiles that were falling apart, that George and Martha were inspired by Frog and Toad (but of course!). That Sendak was a mentor to so many others, and that picture book illustration was such an old boys’ network. I loved learning about how many illustrators had a background in graphic design, reading their ideas about fonts in picture books, how much of  a role technology had– being able to do books in full colour changed everything. And now it’s a big deal when an illustrator wants to hold back a bit, do some pages in black and white. I also love that as I’m still a picture book novice, I can read a book like this and discover so many new authors and illustrators– the book is in alphabetical order, and first up was Mitsumasa Anno with whom I fell in love as soon as I hit the library.

“One of the most important things is to laugh with your children and to let them see you think they’re being funny when they’re trying to be. It gives children enormous pleasure to think they’ve made you laugh. They feel they’ve reached one of the nicest parts of you.” –Helen Oxenbury

2 thoughts on “Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter”

  1. m says:

    Oh, that quote! So good. I think I need to write that out and put it somewhere that I can see daily. A good reminder on the power and joy of being a parent.

    I haven’t read many Mutsumasa Anno books, but those that I have are great. The drawings are amazing. Must add some to our collection. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. patricia says:

    Even though this book is ready for pick-up at TPL, I broke down & bought it. The George & Martha and Frog & Toad connection makes complete sense.

    Not surprising at all that the pic book world was an old boys’ network – it’s sadly still like that in the cartooning world.

    Can’t wait to read this book!!

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