Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just booklove miscellany in general.
This week, I am excited to share with you a book I reserved from the public library: The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF’s 40th Anniversary with a Foreword by Leonard S. Marcus.
Reading is Fundamental or (RIF), as described in the jacketflap of the book is the “largest nonprofit literacy organization” whose main objective is to put books into the hands of children across America. At the time of publication (2005), RIF was celebrating their forty years of being of service to the community. This means that next year, 2015, would be their 50th anniversary! I wonder what they would have in store for readers across the globe then.
In this collection, forty immensely-talented illustrators came together to create a book-about-books that will not easily be forgotten by most bibliophiles. As Leonard Marcus noted in his Foreword:
The forty artists you are about to meet were once forty children learning to read, write, hold a paintbrush, and wonder about things.
They came to the “art of reading” – illustration – from a diversity of places and backrounds and beginnings: New York, Vermont, the Midwest, South Korea, the Netherlands; from homes well supplied with children’s books and from homes and communities where reading matter of any kind was rare.
Yet regardless of the differences in their early literary experiences, they are one in their understanding of the power of art in children’s books. And so each full-page spread demonstrates each authors’ re-envisioning of that one favorite book from their childhood that made them fall in love with words. Here are a few that caught my eye:
This is Ashley Wolff’s version of Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey – reimagined with all the modern conveniences that folks in the year 1948 did not have.
I was also fascinated with Richard Egielski’s depiction of Moby Dick. While I am largely unfamiliar with Egielski’s work, Leonard Marcus did mention him in our edited book Beyond Folktales, Legends, and Myths when we talked about comic books and how they proved to be a gateway to reading the classics for most artists such as Egielski.
Patricia Polacco described what Horton Hatches the Egg meant to her:
“This helped me realize what faith in oneself is all about! The heart of the story is also about making a promise and keeping it… no matter what may come. He stayed on that little nest through the most horrific happenings. He never gave up!” (p. 39)
Naturally, I also had to share David Wiesner’s favorite childhood book – 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke which he got from his school book club.
Brian Selznick’s book choice was The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury which solidifies my wayward notion that we are indeed kindreds. Of course I haven’t read this novel yet, but I love Bradbury and have read most of his short story collections and a few of his novels (except this one).
William Joyce, the creator of Guardians of Childhood, selected Where the Wild Things Are. He acknowledges the profound influence that Sendak had on his artwork and sensibilities and even shared a few of his drawings in high school and college.
There are so many more illustrators who shared their creative energies and book inspiration in this collection such as Peter Sis, Tony Diterlizzi, Eric Rohmann, Jerry Pinkney, Chris Raschka, Yumi Heo, David Diaz, Dan Yaccarino, Loren Long, Mark Teague among so many of the greatest creators in children’s literature. Do find this book and fall in love all over again with words.
The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF’s 40th Anniversary with a Foreword by Leonard S. Marcus. Published by Dutton Books, 2005. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.