• Happy birthday Russell Hoban (Bread and Jam for Francis), Barbara Shook Hazen (Tight Times), Pat Ross (M & M series).
  • It’s also the birth date of civil rights activist Rosa Parks (1913–2004), Rosa Parks: My Story.
  • In 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected the first United States president. Read George Washington’s Socks by Elvira Woodruff.
  • Happy birthday Facebook, founded in 2004. Read A Smart Girls Guide to the Internet by Sharon Cindrich, illustrated by Ali Douglas.

In the first week in February, we celebrate Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week. Of course, on the Almanac I celebrate them every day of the year. But still I appreciate a week where everyone can focus on these extraordinary people.

After being in the field for more than forty years, I love finding an author-illustrator unknown to me, either someone beginning to create children’s books or a person I have missed. In 2012 I first looked at the work of a father/daughter illustration team, Ronald Tolman and Marije Tolman from the Netherlands. Their book The Island had just been released in the United States, and it absolutely captured my imagination. Children’s books remain continually exciting because talented artists like the Tolmans find new ways to use traditional formats.

If you do not know their books, I recommend beginning with Ronald Tolman’s website; there readers can see his work as a sculptor, graphic artist, and painter that preceded his entry into children’s picture books. Like other fine artists such as Antonio Frasconi and Chris Van Allsburg who have turned their hand to creating books for children, Tolman exhibits a narrative quality in his work that helped make it possible for him to tell stories to children through his art.

The best book to pick up is The Tree House, our book of the day. This wordless picture book, which won the BolognaRagazzi Award for the most beautiful picture book in the world in 2010, brings readers into a magical world created by the Tolmans. In a large, oversized format, the artists use the space to create a world that begs to be entered. In the opening spread a polar bear swims to a tree house and is followed by a brown bear. The two settle in for a session of reading when lo and behold a rhino and flock of flamingos, polar bears, and peacocks descend upon their abode. In the end the two companion bears are finally left alone together again. One catches snowflakes with a butterfly net, and they watch the moon shine in a deep blue sky.

The intensity of the color, the animation of the animals, and the bold graphic composition of each page distinguish this book. Both The Tree House and The Island can be used for writing exercises for students grades two through nine. The creators have left an enormous amount of room in the story for a child’s imagination. In the fall of 2012 at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, The Island was displayed on a wall that talked about raising readers, “one weird book at a time.” I wouldn’t myself call these books weird—but I do think they are exhilarating, magical, and exquisitely beautiful. So if you want to add an international author to your celebrations this week, you can do no better than look at the work of Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman.

Here’s a page from The Tree House:

The Tree House image


Originally posted February 4, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Art, Award Winning
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Tree House


  1. Becky S says:

    My grandson received a wordless book as a birthday gift from a young woman raised in the Netherlands for whom this is a favorite childhood book. I thought you’d appreciate knowing about it given your post today.
    It is Monkie by Dieter Schubert.

  2. S.Matt Read says:

    I just got this book from the library. What vibrant art and a sweet, playful story. Just another day in the life with animals from all over. I think my favorite is the rhino popping the tree and then a few pages later seeing it in the tree itself. This book made my evening.

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