Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

Title: Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing
Author: Leonard S. Marcus
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 64
Available: August 27, 2013
Review Copy: Library Copy

Summary:Randolph Caldecott is best known as the namesake of the award that honors picture book illustrations, and in this inventive biography, leading children’s literature scholar Leonard Marcus examines the man behind the medal. In an era when the steam engine fueled an industrial revolution and train travel exploded people’s experience of space and time, Caldecott was inspired by his surroundings to capture action, movement, and speed in a way that had never before been seen in children’s picture books. Thoroughly researched and featuring extensive archival material and a treasure trove of previously unpublished drawings, including some from Caldecott’s very last sketchbook, Leonard Marcus’s luminous biography shows why Caldecott was indeed the father of the modern picture book and how his influence lives on in the books we love today. -- Cover image and summary via Goodreads

My Thoughts: This week I finished reading Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing, but I also attended the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture in Madison which was delivered by Leonard Marcus. His topic was Why Picture Books Matter. During his speech he said that "a book could have more than one story to tell." He explained that one of those stories could be how the book came to exist. His book about Randolph Caldecott does just that. He gives us the history of not only Caldecott's life and the many things that influenced him.

It was fascinating to learn that the advent of the steam engine and other mechanical types of advances actually affected illustrations. Marcus links speed of the trains to the fact that illustrators were creating pictures that conveyed motion. Caldecott excelled at this. They were pictures that invite readers to be a part of imagining the scene.

The book includes samples of Caldecott's early sketches and illustrations from his books. I loved the combination of text and artifacts. The old-fashioned cream colored paper on the end pages made me feel like I was stepping back through time. Marcus included a timeline, a list of Caldecott's books, source notes and a thorough bibliography.

I am glad that I got the chance to read this fantastic piece of picture book history.

A Few Notes from the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture: Leonard Marcus explained that some people think of picture books as water-wings to be shed as soon as possible. That people should graduate from picture books. Obviously Marcus does not share that belief.  Picture books can speak to all ages and they are important. He pointed out that picture books are the "first gateways to a lifelong appreciation of literature and art." One of my favorite quotes was that, "No one should underestimate the 'thinginess' of books." They are things that we collect. We like to have them in our hands.

The video below expresses much of what he spoke about - Why Picture Books Matter:

Brian Selznick and Leonard Marcus on Caldecott

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