Saturday, January 24, 2009

Celebrate the Author: Brian Wildsmith

Author: Brian Wildsmith

Birthday: Jan 22, 1930

Biography (from his website):
Brian Wildsmith was raised in a small mining village in Yorkshire, England, where, he says, "Everything was grey. There wasn't any colour. It was all up to my imagination. I had to draw in my head..."

He won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art where he studied for three years. For a while he taught music at the Royal Military School of Music, but then gave it up so that he could paint full time.

He has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the greatest living children's illustrators. In 1962, he published his first children's book, ABC, for which he was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal, Britain's equivalent to the Caldecott Medal. He was also a runner up for this medal for The Owl and the Woodpecker.

Wildsmith has said: "I believe that beautiful picture books are vitally important in subconsciously forming a child's visual appreciation, which will bear fruit in later life." . . .

Brian is married, has four children, and currently lives in the south of France.

Why I'm celebrating him: I admit, he was a late entry onto my list when I discovered that I still had to read almost all of the books for the Daring Book Challenge in a month and I wasn't going to get through The Boleyn Inheritance. But I was glad to find out he was a January birthday - I've always had a soft spot for Wildsmith's work, as I clearly remember studying him with the children's librarian at my elementary school, a wonderful old-school teacher-librarian who gave me a very solid foundation in loving books and libraries. I can remember her teaching us about his illustrations and I think we even had to do an art project using his paint-splatter technique. His distinct style and wonderful use of colours have stayed with me.

Brian Wildsmith's Amazing World of Words

Description: "A young space traveler tours all the wonders of Earth, learning the names of a host of objects, in a colorful illustrated dictionary that includes hidden picture puzzles and locator tabs."

My thoughts: This was one Wildsmith book I knew I hadn't read as either a child or an adult. School Library Journal describes the format well: "The "I Spy" format features detailed double-page spreads devoted to such environments as a desert, jungle, market, wildlife park, playground, and farm. Small labeled drawings of objects that can be found on that page appear around each spread." The bright red spaceship is in each picture, for extra fun (I always loved books that had a recurring thing on every page). The first spread of the spaceship landing is the most Wildsmithian to me, with lots of paint splatters. His brightly-coloured dinosaurs are sure to please kids and the Mountains page has hangliders, animals, a rainbow and a pair of climbers risking their lives in a lightning storm. On the last page, the spaceship flies away on a watercolour background with a banner that says "goodbye" in many lanaguages trailing behind it. Even the endpapers are beautifully painted.

Verdict: While it's not a traditional picture story book, I think sharp-eyed smart kids would really enjoy exploring Wildsmith's world.

No comments: