of the Center for Children's Books:
|Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books..
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Christine Davenier came to the Bulletin's attention in a big way in 1998 with her picture book Leon and Albertine. Since then we've seen her illustrative contribution in a series of worthwhile works, and her art continues to demonstrate that same effervescence, flow, and, pardon our corny French for this French illustrator, joie de vivre.
That flair makes her unmistakable. It's not always easy to be distinctive in watercolor, but Davenier achieves uniqueness apparently without effort. Leon and Albertine (the former a pig, the latter a chicken) has an air of simplicity, its oversized white pages the stage for the principals to cavort upon. The lines are drawn for verve, not verisimilitude, their apparent carelessness adding to the feeling of movement as they spill out into conventional motion lines, as if Duvoisin drew at a gallop. Add big splashes of color, and you've got an air of gaiety that makes these animals nearly fit for the circus.
Such an approach made her a natural for illustrating the ebullience of a young dancer (Mabel Dancing, by Amy Hest). There, however, she heightens the intensity without losing the airiness, filling the backgrounds with colorful splashes like Christmas ornaments, which somehow cohere into a subtle and effective quilt. These shimmering spreads also set her illustrations for the easy reader Iris and Walter above the genre crowd, giving a rambunctious glory to the story of a girl's adjusting to her family move.
It's worth pointing out just what colors she's enriching her art with and where she puts them. Davenier wins the "Best Unusual Use of Blue" prize in a walk, for a start. People's hair is often blue, trees have blue highlights, golden poodle Touché (from The Other Dog) is touched with blue in her puffy tail. This isn't a gentle pastel, either--these are rich, deep, pleasurable shades, and they succeed elegantly, making night, shadows, and leaf-filtered light the source of a different and beautiful world. Tawny ochres and warm pinks often counterbalance the blue, imbuing the scenes with sunset-toned magic.
Sometimes illustrators take us to new worlds; sometimes they make us see our own familiar world anew. Christine Davenier gives daily life a freshness and genuine élan that you only hope the world outside her books can match.
--Deborah Stevenson, Associate Editor
Books Illustrated by Christine Davenier
This page was last updated on March 1, 2001.