Selecting 11 illustrators popular in the past decade, among them Chris Raschka, Lois Ehlert and Mo Willems, and adding postscripts to 10 he had interviewed for Ways of Telling (2002), Marcus mines the A-list, producing fascinating insights into the lives of picture-book creators and the format itself.
Organized alphabetically, each interview is preceded by a photograph and brief introduction. In contrast to the representative reproductions in the earlier title, the accompanying color insert presents process. Studies, sketches and scenes that didn’t make it are accompanied by instructive captions. The historian’s command of publishing trends, personalities, formal elements and psychology leads to customized questions, although common themes emerge. These include the power of teachers to enable artists to recognize their potential or doubt it, the role of encouraging relatives, the ways sensitive people grapple with family issues and economic or political realities and the impact of Charles Schulz and Maurice Sendak. The inclusion of Quentin Blake, Yumi Heo, Peter Sís, and Lisbeth Zwerger adds an international perspective. It is curious, though, that Marcus recycles so much from his previous book; except for Sendak’s seven-page commentary on Bumble-Ardy (2011), not much value is added. Why not a full-fledged second volume? That said, these discussions of the relationship between artists’ lives and the stories they produce, preferences regarding medium or style, and the unique confluences of circumstance, market and passion are indubitably worthwhile.
A welcome illumination of a historically under-appreciated art form. (bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 14 & up)