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1997 Children's Book Festival Tops All-Time Attendance Record

 

Nearly 1000 people assembled in Hattiesburg to honor Eric Carle, the 29th recipient of the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion. Other speakers included Charles Ghigna, Jon Agee, Patricia Lee Gauch, and Anne Lundin.


Left to Right: Charles Ghigna, Patricia Gauch, Jon Agee,
Eric Carle, Dr. Horace Fleming, President, The University of Southern Mississippi

Eric Carle is perhaps best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a modern classic that will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 1999. During his illustrious career, Carle has written and/or illustrated more than 75 books for children, more than 40 of which are still in print.

Born in 1929 in Syracuse, New York to German parents, Eric Carle was able to start kindergarten before his family moved back to their native Stuttgart. Carle spent his youth in Germany, but returned to the United States after World War II. Fellow illustrator Leo Lionni, then art director of Fortune magazine, helped Carle to obtain a position as a graphic designer with the New York Times. He enjoyed his work as a designer and art director, but after ten years of meetings, memos, and commuter trains, Carle realized that he would be happiest working as a free-lance artist.

His first illustrated children's book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?,written by Bill Martin, Jr., was published in 1967. It was soon followed by 1,2,3, To the Zoo (1968) and The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969), the first two books written and illustrated by Carle. From the start, his imaginatively styled collage pictures featured a full range of animals. His books are perfect for small children, the brief and simple text paired with brilliant colors and crisp forms.

Many artists who use collage as their illustrative medium have developed very distinctive methods. The papers used in Carle's collages are created one at a time, using a process in which he first paints blank tissue paper, speckles it, squiggles, and sometimes stamps it with interesting textures. These hand colored papers are then stored in flat files, organized by color. Carle, who considers each piece of paper a work of art, says "some of them are so beautiful it hurts to have to cut it up."

The excellence of Carle's work has been recognized by national and international organizations, art and library associations, children's choice awards, and the New York Times. His books have been reprinted in more than fifteen languages and are enjoyed by children throughout the world.

Eric Carle is an innovative creator who has not allowed new technological advances to pass him by. In The Very Quiet Cricket (1990), a computer chip reproduces the sound of a cricket's song and the fireflies flicker on the last page of The Very Lonely Firefly. Fans, young and old alike, can even visit Eric Carle at his very colorful and informative web site (http://www.eric-carle.com).

Charles Ghigna, also known as "Father Goose," is a children's author, poet, and nationally syndicated writer of the humorous daily newspaper feature Snickers. He is also a performance poet who has traveled throughout the country entertaining audiences with his program "The Poems & Pranks of Father Goose."

As a poet he receives inspiration from many sources - family, friends, the news, childhood memories, and even the family pets, who inspired the poems in Good Cats/Bad Cats and its companion, Good Dogs/Bad Dogs. Riddle Rhymes was created when Ghigna's son, Chip, asked his father to create some riddles for him and his friends.

In addition to books published by Walt Disney's Hyperion Books for Children, HarperCollins, and Random House, Ghigna's poems have also appeared in a number of children's magazines including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Humpty Dumpty, Ranger Rick, Jack and Jill, and Children's Playmate. Ghigna also creates poetry for adults. Among his recent collections are Speaking in Tongues: New and Selected Poems 1974-1994, The Day I Spent the Night in the Shelby County Jail, and The Best of Snickers. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and McCall's, as well as in hundreds of other literary magazines and anthologies.

His numerous honors and awards include a Pulitzer Prize nomination, invitations to perform his work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Library of Congress, the Helen Keller Literary Award, fellowship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He received the American Bookseller's Pick of the Lists Award in 1994 for Tickle Day and in 1995 for Riddle Rhymes.

Much of his time is now spent in the classroom, talking to young aspiring writers. His advice to them is "Buy yourself a notebook. Write in it every night for ten minutes. After two weeks, stop - if you can. If you can't, you're a writer. Enjoy it. It's the most powerful, magical, frustrating, thankless, rewarding thing you can do."

Born in 1959, Jon Agee grew up in Nyack, New York, surrounded by creative people. His father was a math teacher, but also worked as a weaver and a baker, and his mother's work was exhibited in group shows. Jon and his twin sister, now a painter, were always encouraged to express themselves through art. Agee received a B.F.A. from the Cooper Union School of Art, where he studied film making and painting. After graduation, Agee's sights were set on a career in animation - that is, before he discovered children's books. The creation of picture books provided the same sense of continuity that he found in the still frames of an animated film. Agee was influenced by Andre Hell,, Tomi Ungerer, Ferdinand Leger, Balthus, and French comic book artists Herg, and Edgar P. Jacobs.

If Snow Falls was Agee's first children's book, published in 1982. While at Cooper Union, Agee exhibited many of his cartoons, some of which were actually short stories. His second published book, Ellsworth, is based on one of those cartoon exhibits. Ludlow Laughs, published in 1985 by Farrar Straus Giroux was a Reading Rainbow selection, with narration provided by Phyllis Diller.

Although his early work met with success, it was his 1988 title, The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau that garnered critical acclaim from the highest sources. It was named a Notable Book by the New York Times Book Review and The American Library Association, Redbook magazine listed it among their Top Ten Picturebooks of 1988, and Horn Book gave it a starred review in which the reviewer stated "Every so often a work appears that expands the limit of the picture storybook genre as it piques the imagination with unexpected possibilities. Jon Agee's witty tale...is just such a book. Truly a book for all ages, it delights the eye, promotes laughter, and stimulates the intellect."

Continuing with books that stretch the limits of creativity, Agee has created two books of palindromes - phrases that read the same both forward and backward. The titles of the books, Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! and So Many Dynamos! are themselves palindromes. Flapstick: 10 Ridiculous Rhymes with Flaps,The Toy Box!, and Dishes All Done all recent titles that employ the lift-the-flap format to advance the action of the story.

Author, teacher, editor, lecturer, reviewer, and general children's literature advocate, Patricia Lee Gauch was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1934. She graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Miami University in Ohio in 1956, received a Master's Degree in Teaching from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and a doctorate in English Literature from Drew University.

She married Ron Gauch in 1955, and after college graduation began her writing career as a reporter for the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal. The birth of three children soon made her job as a reporter no longer feasible. Although Gauch did some writing while at home with the children, she felt the need for something more challenging and stimulating. She found the perfect challenge in a writing workshop led by acclaimed children's author Jean Fritz. Gauch calls Fritz a genius and give her credit for developing her skill as a writer. As testament to that relationship, two of Gauch's early published books, Grandpa and Me and Christina Katerina & the Box were products of their workshop interaction.

Although she received a master's degree and began teaching, Gauch continued her writing. Finally all aspects of her life were merging nicely together. She taught the children who read her books and her own children were called upon to review her manuscripts. Publishing success continued with Christina Katerina and the First Annual Grand Ballet; Aaron and the Green Mountain Boys; This Time, Tempe Wick?; and Thunder at Gettysburg. The illustrations of noted artists like Trina Schart Hyman, Tomie de Paola, Stephen Gammell, and Margot Tomes grace the pages of her picture books.

Recent titles include the continuing adventures of Christina in Christina Katerina and the Time She Quit the Family, Christina Katerina and Fats and the Great Neighborhood War, and experiences of the hopeful ballerina in Bravo, Tanya; Dance, Tanya; and Tanya Steps Out. Over the years, Gauch has written appealing stories for children of all ages, with the total number of titles now exceeding thirty.

Another facet of Gauch's professional life began in 1985 when she became Editor- in-Chief of Philomel Books. She was responsible for acquiring and editing novels and picture books, a job she did quite well. She was the editor for Caldecott Medal winners Owl Moon written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr, and Lon Po Po by Ed Young, as well as the Caldecott Honor winner Seven Blind Mice, also by Ed Young. She is now Vice-President and Editorial Director of Philomel Books, where she oversees the publications of Eric Carle, among other talented authors and illustrators.

This year's Ezra Jack Keats Lecturer was Anne Lundin, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Library and Information Studies. Lundin currently teaches courses in children's literature, storytelling, and youth services. The title of her lecture was " 'The Heart's Field': Landscapes in Children's Literature."

Lundin, a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, received a Master's degree in English from the University of Michigan, a Master's in Library Science from the Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. in Library Science from the University of Alabama. Her dissertation was a study of Kate Greenaway's critical reception in England and America, 1879-1901.

Lundin's background includes fifteen years as an English teacher and five years as the Assistant Curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. During her time in Mississippi, she wrote a book column on children's books for the Jackson Clarion Ledger. She is co-author of Teaching Children's Literature (McFarland, 1995) and publishes in journals such as Lion and the Unicorn, Children's Literature in Education, Library Trends, and Library Quarterly. Lundin served on the 1995 Newbery Medal Committee and is active in the United States Board on Books for Young People and the Children's Literature Association.

Last updated January 28, 1998

 

 

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