I came to children’s literature through reading to my two daughters. The Oxcart Man, In the Night Kitchen, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Owl Moon, among others, thrilled me. But it was the difficulty of finding compelling books about real people who accomplished real things that set me to the task of creating a biographical picture book myself.
I loved history, had read endless volumes of it, and was a professional cartoon illustrator with oodles of experience. Still, I worried that my light illustration style was inappropriate, and that only realistic art could be the handmaiden to non-fiction.
Then I found 3 non-fiction books that simply brushed the problem aside:
The Glorious Flight, Alice and Martin Provensen’s lighter-than-air tale of Louis Bleriot and the first flight across the English Channel in1909, employed cartoon-like illustrations and won the Caldicott.
War Boy by Michael Foreman and October ’45 by Jean Louis Besson. Both are memoirs of growing up during World War Two. Each is illustrated in light cartoon styles, yet the images of Foreman under the German’s bombs in England, and Besson under the German’s thumb in France, are as compelling and poignant as any photograph.
To them, I owe inspiration and a career.