A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
APRIL 8:

  • Happy birthday Susan Bonners (Edwina Victorious), Linda Crew (Children of the River), and Steven Schnur (The Koufax Dilemma).
  • It’s the birth date of Harold Keith (1903-1998), Rifles for Watie, Ruth Chew (1920-2010), The Wednesday Witch, and Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004), Saint George and the Dragon, King Stork.
  • In 1904 Longacre Square in Manhattan was renamed Times Square. Reread The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon, illustrated by Garth Williams. It’s Draw a Picture of a Bird Day. Read How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird by Jacques Prevert, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein.

Born in Philadelphia on April 8, 1939, Trina Schart Hyman trained as an illustrator and spent over three decades creating beautiful books and artwork for children. Beloved by her editors, Trina, who was always a force to be reckoned with, delighted in making sure they actually studied what she had drawn. She usually wove in some slightly scandalous or inappropriate detail, challenging them to find it. When they didn’t, her devilish sense of humor caused controversy. In her artwork for Jean Fritz’s And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? Trina put Virginia Kirkus of Kirkus Reviews to rest in a cemetery with the saying: “Virginia Kirkus a nasty soul is its own reward.”

Personally salty, she remained throughout her life a straight shooter who wasn’t afraid to say what she thought. She once took me to task over an editorial in the Horn Book—a letter that still stings decades after I received it. But the artist who created the books approached texts in a softer, gentler, much more subtle manner. Trina brought a romantic lushness to her books. In person she exuded fire and passion—in her art, sunlight and wind.

For anyone who doesn’t know her work, Little Red Riding Hood, a Caldecott Honor winner, makes a great place to begin. We see Red Riding Hood as an innocent and charming girl; even the wolf appears only marginally scary while serving as the villain. Fascinating borders and geometric patterns round out the picture. In the final scene Grandmother appears slightly disheveled and drinking some red wine! Well, Trina was always a realist—many people would need a drink after being holed up in the belly of a wolf. Still Trina has managed to take a very frightening tale, tell it respectfully, and make it possible for a small child to go to sleep after reading it.

Toward the end of her life, Trina was afraid that her books would not stand the test of time: she did all of her work in the four-color-process days of publishing, and these books simply don’t have the rich saturated color that became possible with photographic scanning. But she remains one of the best loved illustrators of my twenty- to thirty-year-old graduate students. They grew up on her inspired artwork for Cricket Magazine. As the first art director for the magazine, she set the feeling and tone. Then they found, and became captivated by, her books. I cannot even count the number of times some young person has said to me, “How I wish I could have met her.”

Even if you weren’t lucky enough to have known this singular spirit, you can celebrate her birthday by picking up one of her books. All of them remind us that great illustration never overwhelms the text but supports and extends the words.

Here’s a page from Red Riding Hood:

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Also on the Almanac: Easter

Originally posted April 8, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Caldecott, Fairy Tale, Folktale
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Little Red Riding Hood
One year ago: Maniac Magee
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COMMENTS

  1. In my gallery of art work I am pleased that I was able to add a signed very large print of artwork from LRH. It seems her illustrations for the books were composed much larger than the book itself. Hyman remains one of my all time favorite illustrators and I’ve loved the Virginia Kirkus story for decades. Her depiction of family members and friends were also very telling. And I was fortunate enough to have met her — she was a treasure.

  2. Tom Angleberger says:

    The Bagthorpe family portraits for the first 6(?) of Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpe books.
    Masterpieces all!
    Once you learn to love the characters, you can return to the portraits again and again to see that she got every detail right!

  3. suzi w. says:

    i loved her first in Cricket, later in her books. I am thrilled as I realize how many Margaret Hodges’ books she illustrated.

    I still remember a blue jeaned princess story in Cricket, circa 1981 or 82. I had the chance to look through the Crickets once upon a time and didn’t. I figure it will be answered someday in this life or in that library that is heaven.

    Happy Easter!

  4. Trina once shared with me that as she was finishing the title page for SNOW WHITE,
    hand lettering the title, her brush suddenly flipped out of her fingers splattering red paint all over her illustration as it landed in the middle of the spread. The only remedy? She
    had to do all the work all over again.
    A story best appreciated by another Illustrator. (shudder)

  5. Michele Krueger says:

    Her illustrations from Peter Pan line my walls! One of the greatest artists ever!

  6. Mary Milligan says:

    What an honest piece about an authentic talent! Trina was a generous artist. My children proudly display their graduate gifts from her on their walls. And I treasure her invaluable insight about art for children. I can’t decide which is my favorite work. I love Little Red, but her Sleeping Beauty is magnificent. Thanks for celebrating this unforgettable illustrator.

  7. Jamie says:

    So pleased to see Trina mentioned here. I have long been a fan of her work and actually had the pleasure of meeting her when I was quite young. (My younger sister did a school report on her.) I don’t remember much about her personally, but have always loved the whimsy and mischief in her art. I have a probably long out of print card of hers that features a tabby cat peeking up over the edge of a kitchen table, looking wildly at some kind of pixie or imp that is emerging from an egg in an egg cup. I think there are daffodils on the table. I haven’t looked at the card in years, but the image and the feelings it evoked have stayed with me for decades. Thank you for sharing her work.

  8. I was fortunate to know Trina. She was a remarkable illustrator whether working in color or drawing in black and white. She was also always honest and often outspoken — and if she felt wronged never minced words or doing a bit of pictorial payback. And Yes — she was “salty”

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