One of the things I noticed the other day is that some of my favorite illustrations in picture books are books that do not necessarily have original text. In other words, the illustrator has taken a song or poem and illustrated it. In other cases, the text is an adaptation of another work.
I love the illustrations in Angels Watching Over Me adapted by Julia Durango and illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Simon & Schuster, 2007). In this case, Durango has taken the African American spiritual “Angels Watching Over Me” and used it interspersed between original text. The text compliments the beautiful illustrations that make me want to fly. There is watercolor, collage, and more. It’s stunning.
Ashley Bryan’s Let it Shine (Atheneum, 2007) illustrates three African American spirituals, “This Little Light of Mine”, “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In”, and “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”. He illustrates using construction paper cut-out. The colors are bright and hopeful. The people in the book are all colors, but the only detail on the people is silhouette. The animals, flowers, and buildings all have more detail done by cut paper. The music and words are all printed in the back of the book along with an author’s note about the songs. Truly a beauty to hold!
Another favorite of mine is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood (Little, Brown, 2007) retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, which I reviewed here. The illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink. Every picture is so painstakingly detailed that I could spend an enormous of amount of time taking in all of the details on each and every page. The entire story is told in a winter setting, so Pinkney’s beautiful snow scenes add to my amazement of his illustrations.
Another book which I reviewed recently is Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal (Henry Holt, 2007) by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. This one is a retelling of several versions of Cinderella, but Fleischman really made all of those versions come together and "sing". Paschkis' illustrations are phenomenal, and just as beautifully as Fleischman weaved the stories together, Paschkis was able to seamlessly illustrate the same story, with many different versions. GORGEOUS!
Last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Myers reimagined and illustrated version of Jabberwocky (Hyperion, 2007). I have always been a big fan of the poem Jabberwocky, and I read it to my 4th graders every year. I have a version illustrated by Graeme Base that I usually show them, then I read the “meaning” of the words out of Through the Looking Glass. This year, I’m adding Myers’ version to my repertoire. This is a basketball “version” of Jabberwocky. But what I find so fascinating is that Myers just didn’t decide to do a basketball illustration on his own. During his research for the book he thought he was writing, he was reading Carroll’s (Dodgson’s) journals. Carroll had written a word that referred to an ancient game that was very similar to basketball. All of this is explained in detail in the author’s note. So, the basketball “version” is rather symbolic of Carroll’s studies and original meanings of some of the words used in the poem. Even more interesting are Myers’ larger-than-life illustrations that go with one of my favorite poems.
When I noticed the pattern of my favorite illustrations of 2007 all being pictures for adapted or previously written text, I wondered how much chance they had of winning the Caldecott Medal or Honor. It is given to the artist of “the most distinguished American picture book for children” (according to the ALSC website). So I looked at previous winners in the last few years to see if any book was ever honored that had an older text (such as a song or poem) that was illustrated.
In 2001, Casey at the Bat, illustrated by Christopher Bing also won a Caldecott Honor.
There are numerous retellings of fairy tales that have won, including Jerry Pinkney, who won a Caldecott Honor for his retelling and illustration of The Ugly Duckling in 2000.
All of this to say, I hope my faves have a shot at the big-time. Since I’m not the judge, I wish them all the best of luck.