Five picture books for #fivewomenartists

Can you name five women artists? It's surprisingly difficult for most people, even more so if you leave out the big three: Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe. This March, for Women's History Month, the National Museum for Women in the Arts (NMWA) is leading a social media campaign to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #fivewomenartists. I'm doing my part by sharing this list of five great picture books about women artists. Not including Cassatt, Kahlo, or O'Keeffe, although there are some gorgeous picture books about them, too!

Louise Bourgeois,  M is for Mother , 1998, pen and ink with colored pencil and graphite, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Louise Bourgeois, M is for Mother, 1998, pen and ink with colored pencil and graphite, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Abrams, 2016). As a child,  20th-century artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois learned to weave and repair tapestries alongside her mother in the family's tapestry restoration workshop. This experience inspired some of her most powerful works, including a series of steel spider sculptures--the largest of which is called Maman.

Four Pictures by Emily Carr by Nicolas Debon (Groundwood, 2003). Emily Carr (1871-1945) is one of Canada's most renowned artists; her work is now exhibited with and compared to Kahlo's and O'Keeffe's. In this graphic novel, Debon traces Carr's life story through four of her best paintings (also reproduced here).

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Henry Holt, 2010). I interviewed Margarita about this book when it first came out six years ago, and I still love it. Told in the voice of the young Maria Merian, 17th-century Dutch artist and naturalist.

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Charlotte Voake (Shwartz and Wade, 2016). Spoiler alert: the guinea pig DIES. But if you can get past that, this is a charming book, and the picture-letter format is similar to how Beatrix Potter's own early stories were written. There's even a P.S. (the author's note). 

Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron by Susan Goldman Rubin; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick, 2014) AND Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Lisa Congdon (Cameron + Company, 2012). Not one but two picture book biographies of photographers, Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-79) and Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976). 

There. Now if anyone should ask you to name five women artists, you're all set (and then some--don't forget the illustrators of these books). Of course, you probably already were. Who's on your list?

The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert

Small and square, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (Beach Lane Books, 2014) by Lois Ehlert is actually bursting with images and inspiration drawn from the picture book maker's long career. It's unmistakably Ehlert, down to the round typeface of the main text (I think it's Century Schoolbook) and the handwritten notes (in place of the sans serif labels used in most of her books) adding another level of detail. Maybe a little messier, though, since The Scraps Book is all about process (and, Ehlert tells us, "I'm messy when I work"). In words and images, she shares where her book ideas come from, how to make a storyboard, the art technique of collage (often using recycled or natural materials), a recipe for bird treats...The Scraps Book is stuffed full of interesting things to inspire young (and not-so-young) readers, writers, and artists, right where they are. 

Instead of a bibliography, there's a double-page spread of Ehlert's book covers at the end. I was surprised at how many of them we had read and remembered: Planting a Rainbow, Eating the Alphabet (the IJKL page was our favorite, followed closely by the letter Pp, which got two pages), Waiting for Wings, and Feathers for Lunch (a good choice to read alongside The Scraps Book, which includes a series of spreads showing how Feathers for Lunch went from idea to finished book).

Where's Mommy? (Mary and the Mouse)

Where's Mommy.jpg

The very first book I reviewed on this blog (and I use "reviewed" loosely; perhaps better to say "mentioned") was Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Schwartz and Wade, 2007). So I was naturally curious about the companion book Where's Mommy?, which is out now, and am happy to report that it is just as charming as the original. It has the same parallel structure, too, picking up with Maria and Mouse Mouse at bedtime one summer evening, when they discover that their mothers (the original Mary and the Mouse) are missing. Separate searches lead them to the garden shed, and a surprise that readers of Mary and the Mouse will already suspect.

I wish I had larger images of McClintock's detailed illustrations, rendered in pen-and-ink, watercolor, and gouache, to share (see them at Schwartz and Wade's Where's Mommy? flickr set). The book takes place entirely in and around (and under) Maria's family's contemporary ranch house, all glass brick and stone--a perfect fit for the long horizontals of the double-page spreads. My favorite image is of the living room (it's in the flickr set)--besides the bookcase, which is ample, I especially like the painting on the wall: it's a reproduction of Goya's portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, with three cats (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). The mouse family living below gets a print of Hunca Munca from Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

goya, manuel osorio.jpg

[Barbara McClintock is one of my favorite illustrators. Does anyone know whatever happened to Adele and Simon in China? It was supposed to come out Fall 2011.]