"The Brook Book"
Poetry Friday: Edgar Allan Poe

Picture Book Art "Almost Violently Impressionistic"? Huh?

In an obituary of the late, beloved author-illustrator Tasha Tudor, the Wall Street Journal's Meghan Cox Gurdon described Tudor's style, "a distinctive, delicately watercolored evocation of all that was tender and lovely in the lives of children of yore," contrasting it with the following:

The vogue now in children's illustration is for harsh lines, garish colors, and almost violently impressionistic figures. It is perhaps an open question whether children really enjoy this trend. They endure it, for sure; children will look at almost any picture book if an adult can be bothered to read it to them.

Setting aside the cranky tone ("if an adult can be bothered..."), what is Gurdon talking about? She gives no examples of this "trend." In the current picture books I've looked at, I notice a wide range of art, from wood-block prints to watercolors to multimedia collage, not to mention oil, acrylic, and computer-generated work. I'd be particularly curious to hear opinions from artists and from the judges and nominating committee from last year's Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils).


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Susan, I don't buy it either. As you pointed out, there are artists/illustrators working today in such a wide array of styles. I hardly think that Kevin Henkes', David Small's, Marla Frazee's, Tricia Tusa's, Giselle Potter's books can be described as violent in execution in any way whatsoever. Look at 2008's Caldecott winners and honors. I agree that citing examples would have helped. That is a sweeping, absolutist statement, and without examples, she leaves us a bit lost.

When adults long for an "evocation of all that was tender and lovely in the lives of children of yore," looking back to illustrators of days gone by, I am often not surprised.

Jules, right! Nobody is even coming to mind who's "violently impressionistic." Who is she referring to? I think she could have made her point without the swipe at current picture book art.

Throughout Tasha Tudor's career, there were illustrators doing much different kinds of work: Dr. Seuss, Sendak, Crockett Johnson, Wanda Gag.

Anytime a journalist uses the word "vogue" you should run for cover. It's almost as bad as "trend."

If a writer really wanted to know what was in vogue, they would need to call working professionals and find out. Here's a possible scenario of what might have allegedy happened instead:

Walked past store window. Saw the new Jabberwocky. Noticed it wasn't as cuddly as her favorite book, Love You Forever. Decided to criticize entire industry in the WSJ.

Sam, yeah, it's that unsupported "vogue" that I have trouble with. I know that the piece's focus is Tasha Tudor, but Gurdon's swipe only confuses rather than illuminates.

"Almost violently impressionistic" conjured "The Hello, Good-Bye Window" for me. The dark lines, the so-called harsh colors -- I think that very lovely, readable, fantastic book fits her disparaging description. Not to Cox Gurden's credit, either.

Jody, I think you're right about Raschka--and yep, not to her credit at all.

One person is hardly a trend.

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