Friday, November 7, 2014

Picture Book Artists Share their Stories

Show Me a Story! is a collection of 21 interviews with renowned children's illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard Marcus. He asked illustrators to share who or what influenced their work; the mediums they prefer and why; and their most famous titles.

In Marcus's 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 become an artist?"

The first artist in this collection is Mitsumasa Anno who created numerous books. His first picture book, Topsy-Turvies: Pictures to Stretch the Imagination, was published in 1970. 

"When I was a child," Anno said, "I pictured the world-is-round concept as a rubber ball turned inside out with the people of the different continents living inside the ball. Of course it was a boy's way of imagining . . . another sort of eye for perceiving what things really are. And it is the source of all (my) books." 

One of my favorite picture book creators is Mo Willems, who wrote and did animation work for Sesame Street. Willems recalls as a child, "All I was being told was, 'No. No, no, no.' " Now Willems says, "I go to a library, and I've got five hundred kids yelling 'No!' to me at the top of their lungs . . . It's a very super-cool thing." 

Willems created the Pigeon books and Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Leonardo stated out as a little bad wolf. Then one day, his three-year-old daughter yelled, "ROAR! I'm a terrible monster!" And really she was his adorable inspiration. 

Rosemary Wells inspired my boys to keep turning the pages of her picture books. It's hard not to love Max and his rabbit sister, Ruby. Wells drew pictures as a toddler and never stopped reading. Her favorite among her books is Voyage to the Bunny Planet (1992). 

I was surprised to read that not all the illustrators in this collection drew pictures as children. Check out or buy a copy of Show Me a Story! And find out for yourself.