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Imagination and Illustration

September 24, 2015

This year we are blessed with children’s books by two masters of illustration, Marvin Bileck and Christopher Myers, who provide glimpses into extraordinary, imaginary worlds. Check them out!

A Book 40 Years in the Making

Catalog Book Cover

By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge

By Words by Ashley Bryan and Marvin Bileck, Illustrated by Marvin Bileck

Marvin Bileck illustrated one of my favorite childhood books, Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer. By Trolley Past Thumbledon Bridge is another gem. His colorful drawings are flights of visual fancy, filled with tiny characters and scenes that inhabit dream-like worlds. Partner him with Ashley Bryan, a consummate storyteller and poet, and you have a children’s book for the ages.

Blue cloth and story-thread weave together ten poems. An old woman embroiders these stories in a land reached by a bridge a “merry mile long” on a magical trolley, the landscape springing to life around her as she dreams.

The woman is at once a fate, a wind-witch and an old auntie who reels images from her spool and sets the world spinning; drawing out rabbits and baby does, hyenas and antelope. The pictures prance across the page, bits and pieces drawn into sharp focus, as others swirl faintly in the background.

By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge almost didn’t see the light of day. The story behind the story is as fascinating as the book itself.

One of Bileck’s little drawings includes a cheeky dig (Who’s afraid of Virgina Woolf?) at the Virginia Woolf Estate. Woolf’s Estate first commissioned the illustrations for a children’s story, Nurse Lugton’s Curtain, written by Virginia Woolf for her niece, Ann Stephen. The estate dropped the artist after a ten year wait.

Bryan and Bileck preserved these amazing illustrations, creating the text specifically for them. It’s been almost a 40-year process to see it through to publication.

This is not a book to read quickly. My grandson and I spent a long time examining each page. He was fascinated with spinning his own stories from the glorious pictures.

The poetry is great to read-aloud for any age group. Although for me, the best experience was to share it with a child on my lap, lingering over each word and image. The last few pages are filled with small drawings and an invitation to weave your own story…

We’ve circled back home

From the start to the end.

I took the first turn

Now it’s your turn, my friend.

The Power of the Pen

My Pen is for anyone whose heart sings with a pen in hand and a blank piece of paper! Christopher Myers invites us into his imaginary world where anything is possible…tap dancing on the sky, wearing satellite sneakers with computer laces and putting elephants in teacups. His pen can travel to faraway places, provide thrill rides, play hide and seek, and fully express love and fear.

Myers illustrations are suffused with emotional truth, where sparse pen and ink drawings touch deep chords of love and sadness. Several pictures pay tribute to Myers’ father, beloved children’s author Walter Dean Myers, who died last year.

I love so much about this book! The end pages are mostly scribbles & splotches, and that feel achievable for anyone. Ink get thrown around a lot. Atmosphere and environment play an important part, as do family and friends. Pens can worry, and faces can be renewed every morning. However, what I love most is the reminder that there are a million stories contained in every pen.

What wonderful possibilities!

Excuse me….I need a blank piece of paper!

Emily headshot thumbnail

Emily Green-Cain

Emily Green-Cain is part of our Bringing Books to Life outreach program. She teaches literacy skills to teachers and parents, and does storytimes for children. Learn more about Bringing Books to Life.

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