I picked up A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal a few weeks ago when I was browsing in the juvenile nonfiction shelves at the library. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for children’s book illustrations–I think if I could choose one talent to possess, I would choose that of illustrating children’s books. Good illustrations add so much to the story; sometimes, they’re even better than the story! A Caldecott Celebration focuses on the paths of six children’s book illlustrators and the paths they took to win the Caldecott Medal. The illustrators highlighted are Robert McCloskey (1942), Marcia Brown (1955), Maurice Sendak (1964), William Steig (1970), Chris Van Allsburg (1982), and David Wiesner (1992).
I really enjoyed reading this book for a few reasons: I love getting a peek into an artist’s life and way of thinking. This book contains sketches and work-in-progress examples of the various artists’ illustrations for their respective award winning books. It also provides insight into the printing process. For example, Marcia Brown, who won the Caldecott in 1955 for Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper, mixed the ink herself to achieve the various colors used in her book since illustrations of the day were done using no more than four colors of ink. I also enjoyed learning about how winning the Caldecott changed their lives. Often, it was the success they experienced after winning this prestigious award that ensured their financial stability later. I learned that it was the financial freedom that Make Way for Ducklings earned Robert McCloskey that enabled him, his wife, and their daughter to move to an island off the Maine coast, which, of course, led to his later writing and illustrating such works as Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, etc. (To read how much I love Robert McCloskey’s works, go here.) Likewise, winning the Caldecott gave Marcia Brown the financial freedom to tour Europe for a year and “[take] in her beautiful surroundings.”
I know next to nothing about art myself, but I want to learn. I have no idea if art itself is lucrative nowadays. I understand how the Caldecott Medal (and other awards, I’m sure) is sort of a ticket to monetary success that enables this artists to pursue their dreams. To think that if McCloskey hadn’t won the award, he might never have created his later stories brings tears to my eyes. I want my children to find value in this sort of experience themselves (that of creating art, not necessarily making money from it). I want our home education experience to foster this, but I’m not exactly sure how. I’m working on it by having art lessons on Thursday afternoons. At least this is a start.
A Caldecott Celebration is written in a style that would make it perfect for a read-aloud. While it doesn’t “talk down” to its readers, it would definitely be accessible to all but the very youngest. (I would have no hesitation sharing it with my six and four year olds, but I just haven’t had the opportunity. Yet. 🙂 ) If you’re interested in art or children’s books at all, you would no doubt enjoy this book.
(I have reviewed countless Caldecott Medal and honor books here at Hope Is the Word. My categories got a little messed up when I switched over to this self-hosted blog, but this link should pull up most of my reviews.)