Monday, June 01, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - A Caldecott Celebration

To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, Leonard Marcus wrote a book that profiled six artists who won the medal from each decade since the award's inception. That book was updated in 2008 and expanded to include a seventh artist. A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Path to the Caldecott Medal features Robert McCloskey (1942), Marcia Brown, (1955) Maurice Sendak (1964), William Steig (1970), Chris Van Allsburg (1982), David Wiesner, (1992) and Mordicai Gerstein (2004).

I picked this one up at the library last week because five of the seven titles highlighted made Fuse #8's Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results and Betsy's thoughtfully written reviews made me want to know more about their creation. Here's where they landed on her list.
#1: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)
#6: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941)
#29: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (1969)
#43: Tuesday by David Wiesner (1991)
#51: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1981)
I also picked this up because my 8-year old is completely fascinated by the process of creating a book. While we didn't read this one cover-to-cover together, we spent a lot of time looking at sketches and reading excerpts about how each title came to fruition. Since we own six of the seven books, we also reread them after we learned about how they were made.

In writing this book, Marcus interviewed the seven winners. Each chapter provides background information about the artist and describes the evolution of the book, complete with sketches, book dummies and more. In the introduction he writes:
Books bearing medals have the look of things that have been with us forever. But the truth, of course, is that someone, sometime, had to draw (and probably redraw) the pictures and write (and revise) the words. Certainly none of the seven Caldecott books described in the pages that follow just happened. None started out polished and complete. You are about to meet the people who made them. And you are about to see seven works of art as ideas in the making: sketches and scribbles on the way to becoming books that readers prize.
It is the stories behind the stories that makes this book such a gem. One of my favorites is the story of how McCloskey came to draw ducks.
... McCloskey studied mallard specimens at the American Museum of Natural History and discussed duck anatomy with an expert on birds. Still not satisfied, he bought some live ducks at the city market to serve as models. Sixteen ducks eventually came to live with him.

Also sharing McCloskey's Greenwich Village apartment at the time was fellow artist Marc Simont. Simont (who went on to win the 1957 Caldecott Medal for A Tree is Nice, by Janice May Udry, Harper & Brothers) recalls, [Ducks] wake up at the break of day and don't want you to sleep anymore either. They raised a terrible racket." The ducks ate a kind of feed called mash, which the artist brought home in big sacks. Because there would be duck droppings wherever the birds went, a good supply of tissues became another necessity.
This excerpt reminded me of something Nic Bishop described in the notes to his book Frogs.
I also had fun looking after some of the frogs in this book at home. I reared them from babies, until there were big enough to photograph. A few, like my gliding frogs, are now favorite pets. They wake me some nights with their gentle singing.
Not having any artistic talent for drawing or painting, I find I'm especially impressed by the dedication of picture book artists and often astounded by the lengths to which they go to for their work.

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories Marcus shares and the insights gained about these talented folks. For anyone interested in the making of a book, this title is quiet gem that inspires, entertains, and will have you rushing headlong to reread not only these medal winners, but other books created by the artists. Recommended with enthusiasm.

I recommend pairing this one with Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art.

Book: A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Path to the Caldecott Medal
Author: Leonard Marcus
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February, 2008
Pages: 64 pages
Grades: 4-9
ISBN: 978-0802797032
Source of Book: Henrico County Public Library.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Jennifer at Jean Little Library. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a great idea for a book. I can't wait to pick it up.