Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: Show Me a Story! Compiled and Edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Show Me a Story, as promised, has interviews with twenty-one different, prominent picture book illustrators. Leonard S. Marcus interviewed them over a long period of time, and the questions vary from author to author, though the interviews almost all contain variants of "When did you start drawing picture books and why?" Each interview also includes a short introduction about the author and his or her work.

The full title of (takes a deep breath) Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter, Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators is slightly misleading. It is a series of interviews with twenty-one illustrators. It is not a defense of the storybook or an analysis of what books-with-pictures offer that books-without-images do not. There's plenty going on in here without any need for an additional essay or set of questions in which the varied artists defend the importance of picture books as such, but the title did initially lead me to expect a rather different book, and the second phrase could be lopped of and still leave a perfectly respectable, long title.

As I only sometimes read picture books, I did not recognize all of the artists interviewed (in fact, I know only a few by name, though I recognized another few by their work). I paid more attention when the interview was with someone whose work I recognized rather than with someone whose work I didn't. Someone who works with preschoolers or has preschoolers at home is likely to recognize more of the artists and therefore pay closer attention to the interviews. Marcus has picked a range of talented artists from different countries and backgrounds, giving a wide-angle view of the picture-book world, which I appreciated. I may not recognize all of the artists, but there are some I am now going to seek out.

Show Me a Story! also includes a good-sized section featuring works-in-progress. This features multiple one-page layouts showing images in different stages. It's fascinating stuff, though I was disappointed that the final image often is not included (Copyright reasons?), so Marcus has instead shown three or four images of in-progress work and added a note to the effect that "The final image differed in this way."

One suggestion: read this with some method for note-taking on hand. The artists all mention different books and artists they have admired, and the curious reader may want to look at some of those books as well.

Favorite interview: Mitsumasa Anno's discussion of the difficulties and rewards of cross-cultural illustration (Now I have to go read some of his books) A close second: The Eric Carle interview (His books, I have read!)

Authors Interviewed:
Mitsumasa Anno
Quentin Blake
Ashley Bryan
John Burningham
Eric Carle
Lois Ehlert
Kevin Henkes
Yumi Heo
Tana Hoban
James Marshall
Robert McCloskey
Helen Oxenbury
Jerry Pinkney
Chris Raschka
Maurice Sendak
Peter Sis
William Steig
Rosemary Wells
Mo Willems
Vera B. Williams
Lisbeth Zwerger

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