Monday, February 18, 2008

3 Books

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.


Donna McDine said...

Hi...found out about you through the SCBWI boards...great blog! I have added you to my blog and website.

Donna McDine

Anna M. Lewis said...

Wow, Don, great post!
I love the books you chose. The illustration style of each book is wonderful. It seems to me that each style matches the tone of the book's story/history and makes the material more relatable to the age of the reader. Interesting.

(BTW I am also working on a I.N.K. post about the book that had a profound influence on my career! Not my post for tomorrow but in the near future.)

Linda Salzman said...

It's interesting to read about the Big 3 that influenced you, Don. I've seen your book MACK MADE MOVIES on several lists as inspiration for other writers of pb biography.

Kathleen Krull said...

Nonfiction in the News:
(and apropos of Don Brown's books) --
Fuse #8 writes today:
"If I were to condemn an author I knew to a life of unending woe and sorrow, I would probably tell them that they could only write faithful picture book biographies of complex people for the rest of their days. Not everyone can do it, you know. It’s an art. Somehow, you have to synthesize a person’s entire LIFE into 32 pages. On top of that, you have to be honest and not fudge the facts, while at the same time keeping your book kid-friendly and appropriate."

Since I cannot get a link to work until a certain 11-year-old boy comes to my house, here it is -

Elaine Magliaro said...


Welcome to the kidlitosphere! I enjoyed your most recent book on Dolley Madison. I'll be looking forward to your next biography.