Picks and Pans Review: A Treasury of the Great Children's Book Illustrators

updated 10/10/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Susan E. Meyer

In this visually sumptuous, fascinating volume, Meyer, an expert on illustration and editor emeritus of American Artist, has not only collected 252 samples of the work of 13 artists but provides enticing details about their lives. She discusses, for instance, the feuding between Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel, who illustrated the first editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. (Carroll had drawn his own illustrations and was dissuaded from using them in the final version only after strenuous urging from his friends.) When Ernest Shepard, who drew the art for the first Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows, died at 96, he had just completed a new set of Pooh drawings. Beatrix Potter first wrote and drew her Peter Rabbit as part of a letter to the bedridden son of a former governess. There are also chapters on such artists as Howard Pyle, who wrote and illustrated The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood in 1883, Randolph Caldecott, who illustrated The House That Jack Built and after whom today's children's illustrated book awards are named, and N.C. Wyeth, who provided illustrations for a number of Robert Louis Stevenson novels, as well as fathering painter Andrew Wyeth. Meyer, in her acknowledgments, recalls snuggling in her father's lap as a girl: "precious memories: the lighthearted stories and kindly pictures, my father's soft voice as he read aloud to me under the lamplight, the marvelous sense of well-being. My father died just before my 12th birthday, but the recollection of these loving moments represents his enduring gift to me, and this book was surely inspired by those memories." There could be no more wonderful inspiration nor, of its kind, no more wonderful book. (Abrams, $45)

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