Books by Elisha Cooper

Elisha Cooper is the author of the children's books Dance! (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2001) and Magic Thinks Big, and of A Year in New York. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters.


RIVER by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2019

"Expansive content impressively and beautifully presented. (author's note, note on the Hudson River, sources, further reading, map) (Picture book. 6-12)"
A woman travels the length of the Hudson River by canoe in Cooper's (Train, 2013) latest, a 12-inch-square picture book. Read full book review >
BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 14, 2017

"A hard book to read for anyone who has lost a feline family member but a heart-healing message all the same. (Picture book. 3-8)"
The circle of life in a cat-loving household. Read full book review >
FALLING by Elisha Cooper
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: June 14, 2016

"A profoundly moving memoir. "
The children's book author shows masterful control in this memoir of a life careening beyond his control. Read full book review >
8 by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 28, 2015

"Don't get behind the eight ball: order now; it's great fun. (Picture book. 4-10)"
A distinctive animal alphabet presents a counting game. Read full book review >
TRAIN by Elisha Cooper
Kirkus Star
by Elisha Cooper, illustrated by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2013

"Kids will be all aboard for this one. (glossary, author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)"
Who can watch a train race by without longing to be on it? Read full book review >
HOMER by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2012

"Soothing and satisfying; perfect for reading on the porch on a summer evening, preferably next to a dog. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Stories of patiently waiting dogs have been around for just about forever, or at least since Homer wrote about faithful Argos recognizing Odysseus after a 20-year absence. In Cooper's touching story, the patient pup is an aging yellow Lab named Homer, whose love for his family is as deep and wide as the ocean outside their cottage. Read full book review >
BEAVER IS LOST by Elisha Cooper
ANIMALS
Released: June 8, 2010

When unflappable Beaver accidentally lands in the big city, he encounters challenges finding his way home. It all starts when he hops aboard a floating log and ends up on a logging truck heading to the city, where he's chased by a dog, swims in a backyard pool, visits the zoo, escapes into a lake, exits through a culvert, emerges into a street, locates the river and swims home. The sparer-than-minimal text heralds Beaver's arrival in the city with "Beaver is lost" and announces his return to his lodge with "Home." The rest of Beaver's saga unfolds entirely through Cooper's splendid watercolor-and-pencil illustrations. Using a palette of blues, greens and browns, the illustrator tracks Beaver's diminutive figure as he resolutely traverses an alien, urban landscape progressing unflaggingly from left to right across pages and through frames in his solitary, silent journey astride the log, atop the truck, across the pond, through the culvert and city crowds and, eventually, back into the river to swim home. Stunning in their simplicity, these pictures speak a thousand words. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
FARM by Elisha Cooper
by Elisha Cooper, illustrated by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2010

Agriculture receives exhaustive treatment in this text-laden picture book about people, animals and fields on the farm from the beginning to the end of the growing season. While the language rings lyrical and pure, it dominates, detracting from the dappled watercolor-and-line illustrations. Blocks of white space, chunks of text and small watercolor vignettes alternate across double-page spreads, capturing the endless activity of farm life but also creating a disjointed reading experience. When Cooper delivers panoramic vistas of the farm, its barns, fields and big sky, he leaves readers awestruck. Elementary-school readers will fidget, however, as this long picture book continues to deliver details about planting, tilling, the girl, the cat, the cow and weather changes. Their eyes will flit across pages, across too many words and pockets of illustration that leave them jumbled, tired and wishing this farm offered more wide-open spaces and quiet. (Informational picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
BEAR DREAMS by Elisha Cooper
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Cooper has expanded his point-of-view from diminutive (Ice Cream, 2002) to expansive (Magic Thinks Big, 2004), demonstrating that his focal point works well using either lens. When Bear can't sleep, he wonders why he has to stay in a cold cave when the other animals get to play outside; it's not fair. But he has a plan; he calls the animals together so he can race with the rabbits, wrestle with the moose, climb trees like the woodpecker and fly across the lake with the geese. As the animals fall asleep, Bear still wants to play—until he too, falls asleep, and his mother and father carry him back to his warm cave. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations depict the child-like behavior with vertical and horizontal panels to generate motion, using white borders that frame the mottled animal shapes and spareness of words. A charming bedtime tale for young ones. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
BEACH by Elisha Cooper
Kirkus Star
by Elisha Cooper, illustrated by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2006

Another charmer from Cooper, who, with his signature impressionistic, diminutive figures and scenes, delivers a perfect day at the beach, observing people, paraphernalia and nature. Panoramic views appose Lilliputian visual narratives—a woman pulling a wagon packed with toys and kids, a boy pretending he's a sea turtle as the waves carry him out, kids building a sand castle and a dog barking at waves. People are depicted like embellished artists' wooden movable figures, jointed but amorphous in detail, and the simple daubs of paint generate motion like a handful of animation cels or a flip book. Masterful page composition creates a cinematic effect by panning from double spreads of the far-reaching vista to close-up pages of layered tiers of miniature dioramic scenes that are both graceful and fluid. As soothing and satisfying as the spray from dancing waves, sand between your toes and sun-warmed, waist-high water, this is as close as you can get to the beach without getting wet. As daylight ebbs, the beach empties but leaves behind "a day to remember when the beach is far away." (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
A GOOD NIGHT WALK by Elisha Cooper
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Cooper's warm and energetic watercolor and ink pictures are more detailed than his usual here, but hold the same evocative engagement with his audience. A child and a parent—since the child is never pictured, the reader takes his or her place—take a walk down their block in the late summer evening. Cooper's images flow along the line of their walk, each spread connecting to the next. A gardening neighbor sits on her red wheelbarrow beneath a huge oak tree, whose squirrels race across it to the next clothesline and that house's bird feeder. A cat rests under an apple tree, whose owner is making pie. Lawns are mowed, burgers flipped. Readers see folks through their windows and on their porches. By the time it's dark and the walkers retrace their steps, each activity has been completed and each family has settled inside. "And all we have seen, we will see again, when we walk along the block in the morning." Cozy and friendly with lots to look at. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
MAGIC THINKS BIG by Elisha Cooper
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2004

Magic is the ultimate cat. As he sits in the doorway looking outside, he considers going out to chase loons, or maybe watching somebody else chase them—like the dog. But he's hungry so maybe he could catch a salmon or watch the bears catch one and share it and when ready, he could ride Moose home across the lake again—or maybe not. Or maybe he should just stay put. Cooper has captured feline behavior and attitude to a T in both story and art. His illustrations of rotund, pear-shaped Magic are a departure from his previous small, wispy images such as in Ice Cream (2002), as he uses full-blown perspectives to project Magic's point-of-view. The result is totally charming and could only be achieved by someone who thoroughly knows cats; voilà, a photograph of the real Magic (at 18 pounds) is on the back cover. No maybes about it, this very large, very round, very imaginative cat will work his magic on readers, grown or not, who will purr with delight over his story. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
ICE CREAM by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2002

Cooper is a master at transforming dabs and wiggles of paint into people at play (Ballpark, 1998) or architecture (Building, 1999) or vistas (Country Fair, 1997). Starting with cows—a lot of cows—he tells the tale of ice cream as it happens, from the milking, to the processing, to the blending and tasting. Children (and adults, probably) will be fascinated by the scientists concocting recipes, the taster with the gold spoon whose tongue is insured, and the final journey back to the farm for the farmer's delivery of ice cream. There's also a last glimpse of all those cows: "The driver gets out and gives a few cartons to the farmer. The farmer thanks him, then walks out to the field, and eats ice cream with his cows. Well, he lets them watch." The text slithers through the conveyor belts and around the machinery, emphasizing a particular worker or process. Nearly invisible labels point out important and silly features for hide-and-seek game playing: "crows," "olive grove," "hole in the wall." A chocolate, vanilla, and berry palette adds to the taste appeal. (glossary) (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
DANCE! by Elisha Cooper
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

The essence of dance is the movement and the music, both difficult to capture in writing, especially so in a work for young children. Cooper (Henry, not reviewed, etc.) describes all the players and the hard work required to prepare a modern dance piece for performance, from the company dancers entering the rehearsal studio to the curtain going up on opening night. His text adequately describes each step of the complex rehearsal timeline in a spare, often humorous style, although he sometimes gets carried away with flights of fancy that simply don't work: dancers floating above the piano as symbolic musical notes and the dancers' shadows taking on a life of their own will leave many children puzzled. Cooper's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are in a muted palette, with loose, stylized dancers usually shown in miniature, without faces. He includes extremely tiny, handwritten labels in many of the illustrations that are nearly impossible to read, and several pages have the text set in nonconventional ways (wrapping around in swirls, a circle, or a square), which convey motion but also make the reader work harder. Children who are seriously studying dance might be interested in learning about the professional rehearsal process (which mirrors their own), but this is unlikely to find a wide audience. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
BUILDING by Elisha Cooper
Released: April 1, 1999

Cooper (Ballpark, 1998, etc.) once again takes a familiar sight and infuses it with a squiggly magic as he ebulliently illustrates how a vacant lot is transformed by construction. The architect comes with her blueprints to a lot full of trash and weeds. A backhoe follows, and big trucks delivering materials and digging out stuff. Then the workers come, with mortar that looks like "a big tub of oatmeal" and concrete that "smells like chalk." They fetch and carry and measure things off, and they eat fried chicken and call home. Cooper piles on numerous small images of workers hammering and hauling toilets and wedging insulation, often opposite a full-page image of the building as it slowly takes form and shape, filling the vacant lot. The lines of text come at right angles and bend around machinery as Cooper tells about a worker "with hands and arms so big they could juggle trucks" and another "with two braids" who repeats a joke to her co-worker, who repeats it to the worker above him. The pictures are fascinating and informative; readers will come away with a real understanding of how a building comes into existence. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
BALLPARK by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1998

A second picture book from Cooper (Country Fair, 1997), cataloging the timeless pleasures of baseball. Small watercolor and pencil figures, intensely expressive in a few lines and blots of color, fill some pages but move to the lower border of spreads when the ballpark appears—a wide green swath. Cooper's language is simple but evocative: the groundskeeper tasting a blade of grass, the locker room smelling of "cool lotion and warm feet," the batter gazing at the outfield as though "looking for birds," and the manager and umpire posing "belly to belly." Everything that might happen at a ball game, from a small furry creature on the field to a rain delay, is illustrated, as well as the hive of activity before, during, after (reporters sharpening pencils and booting up computers, players spitting sunflower seeds). Sports fans or not, spectators or athletes, children will be engaged for the full nine innings. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
COUNTRY FAIR by Elisha Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

Cooper's first children's book creates a quirky, engaging look at the sights, sounds, and scents of a country fair. Whimsical watercolors are all color and squiggle—sometimes Cooper even labels the scenery (as in the first spread, where the words ``blue hill'' appear on same). The crisp, hand-lettered text invites interactive read-alouds; some of it forms squares around the object of discussion, or circles around like a curlicued pig's tail, or zigs like the flight of a yellow jacket. The language is funny and clever: Just-sheared sheep are ``clean and pink and naked, as if they've just stepped out of the shower and can't find their towels.'' Pies are judged, corn is shucked, a blue ribbon gets eaten by the winning cow, and then everything gets cleaned up; the field is empty again. For city children, for country children—fun. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >