Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Drawn to Read: Images of Christmas

It's time to highlight illustrators of picture books, that are creating exemplary work, adding style and life to current children's literature. That is why I will focus on one or two illustrators each Tuesday in a new column I am calling Drawn to Read. I welcome your suggestions for future illustrators and comments on the one's I post. Let's give the illustrator's their due and have a good conversation about their work.

Since Christmas Eve is a couple days away, this week's Drawn to Read features two illustrators who added a little cheer and wonder to my Christmas holidays: Elise Primavera and Jon J. Muth.

Elise Primavera is probably best known for her "Auntie Claus" series, the newest of which was published this year. She also authored "Louise The Big Cheese," was the author and illustrator of "The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls," and illustrated "Raising Dragons."

Primavera's Auntie Claus books have become holiday classics — must-reads. Although the stories are fun and touching, it is the expressive and festive illustrations that drive these wonderful tales. With gouache and pastels Primavera captures the bustle of the city, the silver bells and holly greens of the holidays, and the fun of Christmas in an approachable style that begs children to keep looking. She has a deft ability to add expression with a few well placed highlights and shadows, making it easy to connect to the characters and live the story along with them. 

So I say thank you Elise Primavera for your contribution to children's stories and for enlivening our story times with your illustrations.

Jon J. Muth is probably best know for his Zen books: "Zen Shorts" and "Zen Ties." Both received rave reviews from numerous critics, including Child Magazine,  and the New York Times . 

Muth's watercolor and pastel creations have a very calming and, appropriately enough, Zen-like quality to them. His style blends perfectly with Lauren Thompson's poetic and intimate approach to Santa Claus in "The Christmas Magic." Muth uses gentle muted tones that have a wonderful wintery feel and makes one just want to bundle up in front of a fire and roast marshmallows. The soft edges and touches of rich color added to the toys and sleigh offer a dreamlike vision that is sure to get those sugar plums dancing. 

"The Christmas Magic" is a perfect example of illustration and story working hand-in-hand to create a tale families will want to read each year as they prepare for the Christmas holidays.

Thank you Jon J. Muth for illustrating my favorite Christmas book of the year. I look forward to finding more of your work enhancing the pages of my children's books.