RANDOLPH CALDECOTT by Leonard S. Marcus

RANDOLPH CALDECOTT

The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

KIRKUS REVIEW

Timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, which honors excellence in picture-book illustration, a slender illustrated biography of its namesake.

Though he created only 16 picture books for children in a sadly shortened but hugely productive career, Randolph Caldecott's (1846–1886) name has become inextricably linked to the form. Children's literature expert Marcus (Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices, 2012, etc.) sketches his life swiftly but surely, introducing readers to a likable, hardworking professional. A sickly boy, Caldecott entered the workforce in 1861 at 15 as a clerk in a village bank—a job that left plenty of time for the young man to draw. He sold his first drawing before he turned 16, to a London newspaper. By 26, he was able to move to London to make his living as an illustrator; six years later, eager for a new challenge, he began to apply his talent to picture books. Though not a picture book itself, Marcus' book has the dimensions of a generously sized one. Caldecott's sketches, drawings and full-color picture-book illustrations appear throughout, as do other contemporary images that provide context. Carefully selected quotations bear witness to the artist's signature wit. The pages are of a thick, creamy stock that gives both text (set in a large, comfortingly antique-looking typeface) and illustrations a pleasing richness. Marcus provides a cogent analysis of the ways Caldecott revolutionized storytelling with pictures, creating a visual narrative that expanded on the written text and utilizing pacing and page turns to guide readers through the story. While it's a shame that some of the images referenced are not reproduced in the book, the copious examples that do appear attest to the artist's humor and growth.

A worthy illustrated tribute to the man who arguably invented the modern picture book.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-31025-7
Page count: 70pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2013




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