Monday, May 12, 2014

Show Me A Story (2012)

Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators. Compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. 2012. Candlewick. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter is a collection of interviews. Leonard S. Marcus has spent decades interviewing illustrators. In this collection, he shares his interviews with 21 illustrators. Some of the illustrators are also authors. The long list includes: 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, and Lisbeth Zwerger. Chances are that if you've read any picture books in the past thirty years, you'll recognize a name or two from the list. I'll be honest, there were a few on the list who were new to me.

It is a book of interviews. Some of the interviews are older interviews. Some are newer, of course. Some interviews cover a greater number of books than others. A few just discuss the latest (at-the-moment) picture book published. Others do a better job of covering an artist's career, of touching on many, many books--often beloved books. In my opinion, the interviews vary in quality. I think some people felt more comfortable than others during the interviews. Some interviewees really gave it their all, and were very open and outgoing. Some interviewees I felt held back and were more reserved. It seemed like he had to really work hard to get answers from some. By far my most favorite, favorite, favorite interview was with James Marshall.

What I appreciated in this book is the discussion, the emphasis on how important picture books are, on how important good, quality art is in picture books.

Favorite quotes:
Picture books tell stories in a visual language that is rich and multi-leveled, sophisticated in its workings despite its often deceptively simple appearance. It is through the book's images that a child first understands the world of the story--where it is set, when it takes place, whether it's familiar or new. They read the characters' emotions and interactions in facial expressions and body language. They may notice secondary pictorial story lines happening alongside the main action, like a secret for them to follow. And nowhere is visual humor explored more fully than in the picture book. ~ David Wiesner
In my books, I don't want to teach. What I have done might better be described as "teaching without teaching"--providing the conditions that allow children to learn for themselves. ~ Mitsumasa Anno
Before I decided to go there [Cambridge], I thought, If I go to an art school I might stop reading, whereas if I go to university I know I won't stop an illustrator, reading is an important part of what I do, so I think it turned out to be good training. ~ Quentin Blake
A picture book becomes a whole world if it's done properly. I'm very surprised that sometimes people don't understand this, or realize that the picture book is a true art form. ~ James Marshall
A good ending is inevitable, but it's also a surprise. ~ James Marshall
I'm quite suspicious of books that set out to teach things. A picture book, after all, is primarily a stepping-stone to reading. That is what one hopes will happen in the end. What a book must do is to make a child want to read it, to make him think: "Oh, gosh, now what's going to happen?"--and turn a page. ~ Helen Oxenbury

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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