A sumptuously illustrated biography of a grande dame of children’s literature.
Marcus brings his formidable talents as a children’s-literature historian to this title, which both documents and honors the distinguished career of British illustrator Helen Oxenbury. With typography lifted right from one of her most famous titles, Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (1989), and illustrations and/or photographs decorating every spread, each element of the book’s design and content contributes to a cohesive, flattering tribute to its subject. And while its large trim size emulates a typical picture book’s dimensions, the book’s 288 pages allow ample space for indulging in textual and visual detail about Oxenbury’s early life, education, and career. Those details include everything from drawings created during her childhood in Ipswich through her art school courtship with her future husband, the late John Burningham (“Happily for the relationship that became their marriage, she thought him the better artist and he thought the same about her”), to her instrumental role in developing the board book as we know it today and her inclusive efforts at representing racial diversity through her art. Postscript tributes from some of her collaborators over the years—Trish Cooke, Mem Fox, Phyllis Root, Rosen, and Martin Waddell—are the cherry on top to Marcus’ thorough scholarship, which culminates with an exhaustive bibliography/timeline of Oxenbury’s 88 published works.
Illustrious in both subject and execution.