Friday, August 15, 2008

I heart Iona Opie

As anyone who reads this blog for more that 5 seconds knows, I'm pretty fixated on a certain number of authors and illustrators. Most of them, in one way or another, have had a truly significant impact on my life.

Okay, they've changed my life. 

Whether it was reading them and finding some truth of life that glimmered from the page like a small (or large) lodestar, or happening upon their illustrations and feeling as though, again, some truth shown forth (these are the artists whose work never grows old for me, is always fresh and thrilling, soothing and illuminating)...well, there's a bunch of these folks. 

In, I haven't gotten to all of them, nearly, yet (perhaps at the end of this post I will put a little list of 10 to come). But I feel compelled to share their richness with you, and my goal for this late summer session [addendum of 11.08: we'll have to make that sometime over the 2009 session!] will be to introduce several, and give you a few reasons I think you might love them as much as I do.

Iona Opie will be first, mostly because I honestly cherish her "glass hill" comment in Jonathan Cott's exquisite "Pipers at the Gates of Dawn." She is, herself, a lodestar: a pioneer--with her late husband, Peter--in recognizing the vast import that children's rhymes, poetry, games, toys and books have had on the world, and in being the ur-collectors of this magnificent oeuvre (which they have since donated to the Bodleian Library at Oxford). All this might seem a bit esoteric to someone who's just looking for a good kid's book. But it is good to know, and, should you pick up (perhaps more for yourself than for your child) your very own (you really should have one) copy of "I Saw Esau," with it's magical (and sometimes rather naughty) illustrations by the great Maurice Sendak...well, I think you will like to know a bit more about this marvelous human being.

So, in the next few weeks, in art.books.children, we'll be seeing a bit more about Iona and Peter Opie and: 

9.    Arthur Rackham
8.    Hilary Knight
7.     William Steig
6.     Erik Blegvad
5.     Helen Oxenbury
4.    Laurent and Jean de Brunhoff
3.    Maurice Sendak
2.    Lizbeth Zwerger
1.     Maira Kalman

It's just the tip of the iceberg, surely, but everyone on the list above has created life-changing works, and plenty of 'em. And, although I profess to be no extreme-scholar here, I'd love to focus on a few things they've done that put them in the created-this-very-moment "a.b.c hall of fame."