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Collage of Children's Books

Already in 2021, the world of children’s book publishing has lost some iconic authors and illustrators. Through the stories they wrote and the illustrations they created, our lives have been enriched beyond measure. Here’s a short statement about each of these imaginative people and some book covers to illustrate their work.

Eric Carle: Both an author and an illustrator, his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold more than 50 million copies in 66 languages. His illustrations were primarily collage, featuring hand-painted papers. He also founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to ensure that picture-book illustrations, as an art form, would be celebrated around the world.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Beverly Cleary: Millions of kids have romped through the pages of Cleary’s books with Henry, Beezus, and Ramona. Cleary drew the inspiration for her chapters books from the kids in her neighborhood and the kids she served during her years as a librarian.

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

Floyd Cooper: Cooper illustrated for some of the best-known children’s authors including Nikki Grimes, Walter Myers, and Carole Boston Weatherford, mostly in books that portrayed the African-American experience. His distinctive painting style created luminous illustrations in earthy tones as he helped to bridge the racial gap in children’s literature.

The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds and Floyd Cooper

  • Lois Ehlert: Author and illustrator, Ehlert was inspired by the beauty of the natural world. Her artwork featured brightly colored snips of paper as well as “found” objects such as buttons or feathers. She related how her parents encouraged her to be creative in her autobiographical picture book The Scraps Book. Her  book Rrralph is not her most beautiful, but it always makes me laugh! Some of Ehlert’s artwork reminds me of the work of Cincinnati graphic artist Charley Harper.

Pie in the Sky by Lois Ehlert Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Patricia Giff: Giff was a long-time favorite with children making the leap to chapter books. She also won critical acclaim with her historical fiction for older children.

Zebra at the Zoo by Patricia Giff Water Street by Patricia Giff Lily's Crossing by Patricia Giff

Norton Juster: Please don’t ask “Who is Norton Juster?” His book The Phantom Tollbooth has been a favorite of elementary students and teachers for many years. Filled with puns and other wordplay, it’s been compared to a modern Alice in Wonderland. Juster’s picture book The Hello, Goodbye Window earned a Caldecott Medal for illustrator Chris Raschka.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster

Kathleen Krull: Krull was the queen of the juvenile biography. I liked to select books for the library by Krull, because I always knew they would be accurate and highly readable. Her books cover people from a wide span of history and popular culture.

Charles Darwin by Kathleen Krull No Truth Without Ruth by Kathleen Krull  The Brothers Kennedy by Kathleen Krull

Ted Lewin: Both an author and an illustrator, Lewin paid for his art studies at the Pratt Institute with a side gig as a professional wrestler. Ted and his wife Betsy Lewin, also an illustrator, took much of their inspiration from their travels to exotic locations. When writing this blog, I was surprised to find that Ted Lewin did the illustrations for The Island of the Blue Dolphins, work reminiscent of the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth.

Look! by Ted Lewin Horse Song by Ted and Betsy Lewin Balarama by Ted and Betsy Lewin

Ann Rinaldi: Rinaldi is well-known for her historical fiction written for upper elementary school students. Although she didn’t publish any new books in the last years of her life, she remained popular with students. In addition to many stand-alone titles, she also contributed two books to the Dear America series.

The Second Bend in the River by Ann Rinaldi The Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi Girl in Blue by Ann Rinaldi

It’s never too late to discover these fantastic authors and illustrators!

Children’s Author Patricia Polacco

One of the best-loved authors of children’s books, Patricia Polacco finds inspiration in family stories and in historical events. Although some of her books are written for a very young audience, other books are most suitable for older children and actually are wonderful to share with people of all ages. To locate her books at the library, you may need to consult the online catalog or ask for help, because her books can be found in the Board Book area, the Picture Book collection, or the Juvenile Fiction area.

Polacco’s latest book, The Bravest Man in the World is an account of Wallace Hartley, a fiddle player who continued to play as the Titanic was sinking.

The Bravest Man in the World by Patricia Polacco

Polacco often draws on her family’s Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry. This heritage is highlighted in books like Chicken Sunday, Rechenka’s Eggs, and The Keeping Quilt.

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco  Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

As a child, Polacco experienced difficulty reading due to dyslexia. She honors the teachers who encouraged her in The Art of Miss Chew, Thank You, Mr. Falker, and Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece.

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco   Thank You, Mr. Falker

Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece