When I was a kid, I always sought out the picture books with the shiny gold and silver stickers on the cover. I had no idea what these stood for, but like a magpie searching for glittering baubles, I was drawn to them for the magical illustrations they contained.
I learned soon enough what these stickers represented, but still only had a vague sense of who Randolph Caldecott was. Thanks to Leonard S. Marcus’s wonderful new book, Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013) I know much more about this pioneer of picture books for children.
Oversized and printed on heavy, creamy paper, Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing follows Caldecott from his birth in 1846 to his early death at the age of 39 in 1886. Caldecott found joy in nature and humor in everything. He went to work as a bank clerk at the age of 15, but spent most of his free time sketching. He was soon selling illustrations to newspapers and on his way to becoming the inventor of the modern picture book.
This book is lavishly illustrated. Scenes from Caldecott’s sketch books are interspersed with both black and white and color illustrations published throughout his lifetime. Caldecott’s drawings are filled with humor and energy. He wrote of his art, “Please say that my line is to make to smile the lunatic who has shown no sign of mirth for many months.” (p. 36) And an 1883 illustration from The Fox Jumps Over the Parson’s Gate shows hounds racing through a graveyard with headstones for Peter Piper, Mary, and Thomas Blowhorn.
As I read this book, I thought of Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art. Published in 2007, Artist to Artist is a collection of essays by picture book artists, many of them Caldecott Medal and Honor winners, telling the story of their careers with young readers. It’s so important for students to learn about the often long and arduous path so many artists take on their way to success. Learning about their creative process can take the mystery out of becoming an artist and make it seem within reach. Sharing these stories with our students can inspire them to pursue their own passions and create their own art, because, as Caldecott himself reminded a young fan, “there are so many beautiful things waiting to be drawn.”
Be sure to visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers to find out what other people have been reading lately. Thanks, Jen and Kellee, for hosting! And thank you, Colette, for giving me this lovely book.