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The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books:

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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.. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.

Ed Emberley

 

This month, the Bulletin Dozen features how-to books about creative ways for kids to entertain themselves. One tried-and-true author-illustrator of such books, in his case instructional drawing books, is Ed Emberley. Over the past forty years, Emberley has written and illustrated over forty-eight books (including said drawing books), as well as illustrated many more books written by his wife, Barbara, or by other authors. Besides his various drawing books, Emberley is probably best known for his bold yet detailed illustrative work on the 1968 Caldecott Medal winner, Drummer Hoff (written by Barbara) and for the clever Go Away, Big Green Monster!, a feat of well-designed paper engineering.

While Emberley's drawing books have not always been his most critically acclaimed, these simple books plant the seeds for a more advanced understanding of artistic elements and concepts by demonstrating how to construct an image from basic lines and shapes. Children with varying levels of artistic skill can easily follow Emberley's straightforward step-by-step instructions (appealingly laid out in small comic-book-like panels) and feel satisfied with the results. These drawing books enable children to feel proud, and as a result confident, in their own artistic abilities, and they then become more willing to continue to draw and to further develop their artistic skills. As Emberley himself said, "If a child gets satisfaction or consolation from imitating the creations of another--let him go to it. Before you know it, he'll modify, embellish, improvise to create something of his very own. And, best of all, he'll enjoy! Enjoy!" (Something about The Author, Vol. 70. p.54).

Another Emberley title that affirms his ability to inspire and empower children is Go Away, Big Green Monster! As with his drawing books, here children are able to construct, and then deconstruct, an image: in this case, a toothy green monster. The monster's face gradually takes shape in the first half of the book as cut-outs in the pages reveal underlying shapes and colors, adding facial features one page at a time; once the monster's face appears in full, a thumbing through of the remaining pages retracts the features one by one, until there is no monster left. This book's appeal comes not only from its bold shapes and bright, jewel-tone colors, but also from the power which it bestows upon the reader/viewer: the ability to control both the creation and destruction of this monster. Being able to make a monster "go away" is a mighty skill to possess, particularly if you're a toddler or preschooler.

Ed Emberley's drawing books and his Go Away, Big Green Monster! highlight both his considerable talent for book design and illustration and his acute awareness of his young audience's needs, abilities, and tastes. Kids definitely have their own ideas about the kind of books they think are fun and satisfying; Emberley's books are a good example of how sometimes it's perfectly O.K. to give kids what they want.

--Jeannette Hulick, Reviewer and Editorial Assistant

Selected Bibliography:

Written and illustrated by Ed Emberley:

Illustrated by Ed Emberley:


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This page was last updated on August 1, 2002.


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