A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Penelope Lively (Dragon Trouble), Zibby Oneal (The Language of Goldfish), Keith Baker (LMNO Peas), Ralph Fletcher (Fig Pudding), Riley Carney (The Fire Stone), and Patrick McDonnell (The Gift of Nothing).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Kate Greenaway (1846â€“1901), Under the Window; Ennis Rees (1925â€“2009),Brer Rabbit and his Tricks); and Lillian Moore (1909-2004), My First Counting Book.
- Itâ€™s St. Patrickâ€™s Day, first celebrated in the United States in 1756 in New York City at the Crown and Thistle Tavern. Read Saint Patrick by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Michael Garland, and Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola.
Today illustrator Wendell Minor celebrates his birthday. Both Wendell and his wonderful wife Florence, one of the great teams in childrenâ€™s books, happen to be good friends of mine. Normally, that would stop me from writing this post because it is hard for me to be objective. But I think Wendell has worked so hard and given so much to the childrenâ€™s book field that I decided to use his birthday to sing his praises.
Someone who suffers from dyslexia, Wendell discovered that he had a particular talent for drawing. He pursued a career in graphic arts and in 1968 illustrated his first cover for an adult book. Over time he crafted fifteen hundred book jacketsâ€”including all the works of David McCullough, Harper Leeâ€™s To Kill a Mockingbird, James A. Michenerâ€™s Alaska, and Pat Conroyâ€™s The Great Santini. But that incredible output marked only the beginning stage of Wendellâ€™s career.
As Wendell says in Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Childrenâ€™s Book, he believes that childrenâ€™s books â€śare the last pond in the Serengeti. They are the one place we go to drink for inspiration.â€ť In the next stage of Wendellâ€™s work, he became a childrenâ€™s book illustrator. His natural love of the land brought him time and time again to depicting wildlife, and he has worked over the years on fabulous books with naturalist Jean Craighead George. Recently he and Florence created If You Were a Penguin, perfect for the preschool set.
Following in the tradition of N. C. Wyeth, Edward Hopper, and Norman Rockwell, Wendell became an accomplished and brilliant re-creator of American history for children. Known for his attention to historical detail, he always reaches for the emotional power of historical events. His figures are real people, not cardboard icons. And he goes the extra mile in research. For a book I wrote, Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot, Wendell discovered from David McCullough the exact breed of oxen that Knox used to carry the cannons of Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Then Wendell visited a farm in New York State where they raised that breed, the Randall Lineback. Since an ox had just been born on the day the Minors arrived, it was named â€śWendellâ€ť in his honor. Only in childrenâ€™s books! Whether he is illustrating stories like The Last Train by Gordon Titcomb, or showing the details of Americaâ€™s landscape in America the Beautiful, Wendell attempts to get every small visual reference right because children deserve only the best.
Someone with an amazing work ethic, Wendell will no doubt be working on his birthday. Please join me in wishing him happy returns of the day.
Hereâ€™s a page from The Last Train:
Originally posted March 17, 2011. Updated for .