Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New-Found Appreciation for Randolph Caldecott

I am delighting in a recent book purchase: Caldecott & Co., by Maurice Sendak (a Caldecott Medal winner himself in 1970).  The book, consisting of essays written about several authors and illustrators that Sendak admired, as well as autobiographical essays and interviews by Sendak, is an opinionated, yet thoughtful, observation of some of The Best of what is out there for children.

To be completely honest, I've sometimes wondered if the "Caldecott Medal" was a bit over-hyped - I mean, really, can you judge art?  But in reading Mr. Sendak's chapter about Randolph Caldecott, I've gained a new appreciation for Caldecott himself and a better understanding of the importance of the standard set by this "Father of the Modern Picture Book" and how that standard should be upheld and lauded in the world of children's picture books.

From The Diverting History of John GilpinShowing how he went farther than he
intended, and came home safe again. (1878)
(The illustration on the Caldecott Medal is taken from this book)
Sendak gives a wonderful explanation about what Randolph Caldecott brought to children's books in his opening paragraph about him:

Caldecott's work heralds the beginning of the modern picture book.  He devised an ingenious juxtaposition of picture and word, a counterpoint that never happened before.  Words are left out -- but the picture says it.  Pictures are left out -- but the word says it.  In short, it is the invention of the picture book.

Mr. Sendak goes on to describe in detail the talent and humor of Caldecott's books, something I had really not given full attention to in my own observations of his work!  He sites Caldecott's "rhythmic syncopation of words and images", saying "the characters leap across the page..." and revealing "Caldecott is an illustrator, he is a songwriter, he is a choreographer, he is a stage manager, he is a decorator, he is a theatre person: he's superb, simply."

One of my favorite Caldecott works is one that I've featured before, here: The Milkmaid.  Be sure and notice all that is going on in his amazing illustrations. Below are some more favorite Nursery rhymes...

Cover Art - go here to see all the book's illustrations
Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting (which Maurice Sendak describes in delightful detail!)
Go here for all the illustrations on Project Gutenberg.

"And the dish ran away with the spoon..." from Hey Diddle Diddle
Cover illustration for Randolph Caldecott's Sing a Song of Sixpence (1880) ,  public domain.
Thank you, Mr. Caldecott the sense of movement, humor, and vitality you brought to children's books!

In the United States, receiving the Randolph Caldecott Medal is the highest honor an artist can achieve for children’s book illustration. Established in 1937, this medal is given to the artist who has created the most distinguished picture book of the previous year. It accompanies the prestigious Newbery Medal which is awarded for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year. 

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded by the American Library Association and was named in honor of the nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott. Caldecott’s illustrations for children were unique to their time in both their humor and in their ability to create a sense of movement, vitality, and action that complemented the stories they accompanied. 

The Randolph Caldecott Medal itself captures that vitality. Rene’ Paul Chambellan designed the medal in 1937, inspired by one of Caldecott’s illustrations for “The Diverting Story of John Gilpin,” showing John Gilpin astride a runaway horse, scattering squawking geese, chased by yelping dogs, and waved at by startled onlookers. Significantly, the recipient of the Randolph Caldecott Medal is memorialized on the reverse of the medal with engraved name and date of award.

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