Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawingby Leonard S. Marcus, Randolph Caldecott
Randolph Caldecott is best known as the namesake of the award that honors picture book illustrations, and in this inventive biography, leading children’s literature scholar Leonard Marcus examines the man behind the medal. In an era when the steam engine fueled an industrial revolution and train travel exploded people’s experience of space and time,… See more details below
Randolph Caldecott is best known as the namesake of the award that honors picture book illustrations, and in this inventive biography, leading children’s literature scholar Leonard Marcus examines the man behind the medal. In an era when the steam engine fueled an industrial revolution and train travel exploded people’s experience of space and time, Caldecott was inspired by his surroundings to capture action, movement, and speed in a way that had never before been seen in children’s picture books. Thoroughly researched and featuring extensive archival material and a treasure trove of previously unpublished drawings, including some from Caldecott’s very last sketchbook, Leonard Marcus’s luminous biography shows why Caldecott was indeed the father of the modern picture book and how his influence lives on in the books we love today.
Gr 6 Up—Marcus has sifted through a variety of archival collections to find fresh material by and about the celebrated 19th-century British illustrator. Opening with an arresting self-portrait, the volume chronicles Caldecott's birth, rise in British social circles, travels, publications, marriage, and untimely death. The book is handsomely designed with a jacket bordered in the burnt sienna favored by Caldecott. Endpapers are decorated with cameos; thick, cream-colored paper lends richness. Marcus skillfully places his subject in historical context, weaving in such concepts as the impact of the advent of the train on the artist's energetic style and the influence of contemporaries (Turner, Whistler, Tenniel). He wonders, convincingly, if Caldecott had seen Muybridge's photographs proving that horses run with all four legs in the air-and if they inspired his depiction of John Gilpin's galloping horse that graces the Caldecott Medal. Art and quotations bolster the narrative, building the character of a complex man and ultimately detailing his contributions to picture-book design. The question of audience arises. With a trim size comparable to a portrait-style picture book, a page count of 64, and examples with clear child appeal, this is not pitched to academics. Yet, its scrupulous documentation, thorough back matter, and sophisticated language, e.g., "The epicenter of England's burgeoning textile industry, Manchester was a new kind of city," indicate it is also not for casual, child readers. It will be a delight for picture-book enthusiasts and a provocative introduction for those who want the backstory of the man behind the medal.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library
Timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, which honors excellence in picture-book illustration, a slender illustrated biography of its namesake. Though he created only 16 picture books for children in a sadly shortened but hugely productive career, Randolph Caldecott's (1846–1886) name has become inextricably linked to the form. Children's literature expert Marcus (Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices, 2012, etc.) sketches his life swiftly but surely, introducing readers to a likable, hardworking professional. A sickly boy, Caldecott entered the workforce in 1861 at 15 as a clerk in a village bank--a job that left plenty of time for the young man to draw. He sold his first drawing before he turned 16, to a London newspaper. By 26, he was able to move to London to make his living as an illustrator; six years later, eager for a new challenge, he began to apply his talent to picture books. Though not a picture book itself, Marcus' book has the dimensions of a generously sized one. Caldecott's sketches, drawings and full-color picture-book illustrations appear throughout, as do other contemporary images that provide context. Carefully selected quotations bear witness to the artist's signature wit. The pages are of a thick, creamy stock that gives both text (set in a large, comfortingly antique-looking typeface) and illustrations a pleasing richness. Marcus provides a cogent analysis of the ways Caldecott revolutionized storytelling with pictures, creating a visual narrative that expanded on the written text and utilizing pacing and page turns to guide readers through the story. While it's a shame that some of the images referenced are not reproduced in the book, the copious examples that do appear attest to the artist's humor and growth. A worthy illustrated tribute to the man who arguably invented the modern picture book.
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