A Selected List of Videos on Canadian and International Children's Illustrated Books
Authors and Illustrators
Ann Blades. Produced by Suzanne Moritz. 26 min. Greater Vancouver Library Federation, 1980. Videocassette.
In this interview, Canadian Ann Blades presents visual images of her work, describes her writing life and talks about life as an author and illustrator of children’s books in Canada. A former teacher, she was prompted to write Mary of Mile 18 because most of the children’s books available bore little relevance to the children in her isolated community school in northern British Columbia. This video gives educators and writers/artists an intimate, in-depth look at one of Canada’s best-loved children’s writers and insight into the Canadian publishing process.
In this video, Canadian author and illustrator Barbara Reid demonstrates how she uses plasticine to illustrate picturebooks which have won several awards. She uses plasticine for her illustrations because children like it and tries to incorporate bits of her everyday world, such as the local corner store, into her art. Filmed at Reid’s Toronto studio, this interview gives educators and higher level art students a unique opportunity to watch Reid explain and demonstrate, from start to finish, the techniques she uses to make her plasticine illustrations.
This documentary video of the life of early twentieth-century English author and illustrator Beatrix Potter is based on the biography written by Judy Taylor. Many of the details of Potter’s unusual and lonely childhood were preserved in a private journal. Potter’s wealthy parents did not allow her to attend school or associate with other children; instead, Potter and her younger brother kept a variety of small animals for companionship. Potter spent many years observing and drawing her animal companions, and a collection of letters written to entertain the children of a friend became the basis of her first children’s picturebook, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
In this video interview, the prolific American children’s fantasy and picturebook author Jane Yolen talks about writing for children from Phoenix Farms, her home in rural Massachusetts. Beginning with her favourite genre, Yolen defines fantasy as a story where “magic has entered into the life of the hero.” She explains that successful fantasy requires rich characterization, magic integral to the plot, and the story must be relevant and meaningful to the reader. Yolen began her career writing poetry, receiving 113 rejections before finally being published. In fact, after publishing more than 120 books, she still receives an occasional rejection. She warns prospective writers that above all they must love the writing task because neither fame nor fortune is guaranteed.
Canadian Mohawk author and illustrator Carrie Taylor reads from her retellings of Native legends, displays artwork from her books, and discusses her motivation for writing and illustrating. Raised outside of her Native culture, Taylor began writing and illustrating themes from Native mythology as a way of learning about her culture. Taylor stresses that First Nations spirituality has become an important part of her life, and explains why the stories of Canada’s indigenous peoples remain important to indigenous culture: Native legends explain how things began and serve as a guide to the future. The interview is succinct enough to be of interest to both instructors and readers of Taylor’s works.
This video features images and narrated excerpts from the works of Canadian author and illustrator Elizabeth Cleaver. The narrator discusses Cleaver’s childhood, the themes in her books, and the early influences on her work. There is also detailed description of the process she went through in creating her collage illustrations. The narrator notes that Cleaver was skilled at creating pictures that please both the mind and the eye. The video uses still frames, but is short enough to remain interesting for both educators and readers.
American author and illustrator Eric Carle reads and shows images from his books: The Very Busy Spider, The Very Quiet Cricket, and Draw Me A Star. He discusses his childhood and the meanings in his books, and shows, step-by-step, how he prepares his colourful tissue papers and creates brilliant collage pictures. Saying he sees himself as a picture writer, rather than an author/illustrator, Carle notes that the years between age four and seven are a difficult period for children as they must leave home daily to go to school. His goal is to make the transition easier for them by making his books half-toy and half-book. This well-produced video is suitable for both educators and young readers.
This is a collection of six animated picturebooks by Ezra Jack Keats, including the Caldecott Medal winner, The Snowy Day. These gentle stories for very young children incorporate the sights and sounds of the city streets where Keats lived as a child. The stories are followed by an interview with their author and illustrator. Keats recalls that his mother encouraged his early artistic efforts, but his father feared he would starve as an artist. Keats still seeks ideas for his picturebooks by walking the streets of New York. In his studio Keats shows viewers how he uses scraps of paper in his collage illustrations.
In this video, American author and illustrator Bernard Most demonstrates his drawing and writing techniques, showing images and text from his books. His research trip to the local library gently reminds viewers of the valuable resources that can be found there. Much of the video is narrated by his son, who explains that “having Dad work at home was like having another kid in the house.” The program beautifully captures Most’s sense of imagination and his animated manner. His messages to “never give up on your dreams” and that “making mistakes is okay” will inspire both educators and younger readers. Entertaining and informative, this video is an excellent addition to a Language Arts lesson plan.
Internationally acclaimed American children’s picturebook author and illustrator Gerald McDermott tells his stories based on Native American myths to children gathered around a campfire. The audience is clearly captivated by the power of his storytelling, and McDermott explains that the inspiration for his art comes from myths from all around the world. He spends a great deal of time researching the art and mythology of different cultures. He retells old myths by using his own simple language and brilliant, stylized illustrations. McDermott’s picturebook editions of world mythology help contemporary children learn the universality of human experience. At the same time they teach children to appreciate different forms of cultural expression.
This casual interview follows American author and illustrator Keith Baker as he takes a class to the zoo and to the museum. He discusses the process he goes through in writing a book and demonstrates the techniques he uses to create his watercolour illustrations. Baker encourages children to look at patterns and designs in the natural world and to question what they see. He says he loves getting letters from his readers and encourages kids to write to him. Like other titles in this series, this fresh and informative video will interest both educators and his younger readers, and is a valuable addition to any lesson plan.
American picturebook artist Lois Ehlert talks about her lifelong infatuation with colour to an audience of young schoolchildren. Viewers accompany Ehlert to a grocery story where she finds inspiration in the produce department. Children will share her appreciation for the beautiful colours of the fruits and vegetables. Back in her studio she works to recreate their intense beauty in her art. In addition, Ehlert shows children how she incorporates simple items, such as silver gum wrappers, sticks, and torn paper, into her artistic creations. This colour-filled, playful video interview is certain to delight young audiences.
American author and illustrator William Steig recalls his childhood and youth in a Bronx neighbourhood in the 1920s. His parents were Polish immigrants who lost all their savings in the stock market crash of 1929, and Steig worked hard when he was a child in order to help support his family. Trained as an artist, Steig began selling his drawings to magazines and became a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He did not begin writing and illustrating books for children until he was 60 years old. The serious, philosophical tone of this thought-provoking video interview will appeal to mature students of children’s art and literature.
In this short interview, French-Canadian author and illustrator Gilles Tibo demonstrates the airbrush technique he uses in creating his illustrations and reads from some of his books. He recalls how as a child he didn’t like school, preferring to learn on his own. Tibo explains that he lives both in Montréal and in the world of his imagination. He describes his character Simon and discusses his motivations for writing. Of interest to educators and fans of his unique airbrush illustrations.
In this interview Canadian author and illustrator Ian Wallace discusses his childhood and the themes in his works. He reads from his books and shows how he creates his illustrations, from sketch to final product. Wallace’s books explore universal childhood situations from a variety of cultures, times and places, in which there is a struggle that the protagonist must overcome. For Wallace, visiting with children is an important part of his job, as it provides him with critical interaction with his readers. Wallace also notes that books provide many children with their first exposure to fine art. Fans of his work will find this video entertaining and insightful.
James Marshall, creator of the wildly popular children’s picturebook series George and Martha, talks about his life and work. Sketching as he talks, Marshall describes his “typical” childhood in San Antonio, Texas. Children will be delighted to discover how he has incorporated his favourite and least favourite teachers into his art, including one tactless Grade 2 teacher who laughed at his drawings, and proclaimed that he would never be an artist. As a result he stopped drawing for twenty years. Children will share in Marshall’s glee to have proven her wrong in the end.
Canadian author Kathy Stinson reads from her books, explaining how she writes and collaborates with illustrators. She discusses her childhood and family life, noting that she has always loved reading, and, as a child, frequently wrote and sometimes illustrated her own stories. As an adult, however, she suffered self-doubts about her talents as a writer until the success of her first book, the breakthrough Canadian picturebook Red is Best. She says she draws her story ideas from incidents in real life. Although this video uses only still frames, educators will find the information in this video useful as background information for lesson planning.
Bilingual Canadian children’s author and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay writes in both English and French. In this interview she reads excerpts from her books in both languages. While Gay was born in Québec City, she has lived in many places outside of Québec, and her zany illustrations portray the universal language of childhood, winning her numerous awards. Gay began drawing in her late teens at the suggestion of her mother, and quickly discovered that she enjoyed drawing enough to dedicate her life to that vocation. She studied at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts before beginning her successful commercial career.
The playful humour of award-winning author and illustrator Arnold Lobel is evident in this video profile. Accompanying a sequence of still shots of Lobel in his New York apartment, a scripted dialogue between the narrator and the artist reveals Lobel’s early success as a storyteller and illustrator in elementary school. Later, he studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Many of the ideas for his art and writing come from the experiences he has shared with his two children. This entertaining interview is specifically designed for young audiences.
This video features many visual images and narrated excerpts from the picturebooks of Canadian Inuit author Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak. As a child, Kusugak’s family had no television and told stories for entertainment. Today, he incorporates traditional spirit creatures into contemporary stories about life in Canada’s Arctic, and uses vignettes from his own life as inspirations for his works. He works closely with illustrator Vladyana Krykorka when writing his books. Brief but engaging, this video is particularly suitable for educators looking for children’s authors who write on the northern experience.
American author and illustrator Patricia Polacco talks about the ethnic diversity of her family background. Her maternal grandparents were Jewish-Ukrainian and her father’s family was Irish. Her multicultural childhood experiences became a major theme in her art and writing. Polacco weaves the exotic colours, patterns and traditions of many cultures into her stories, and she compares the process of writing to creating a dream. She dreams of multi-ethnic communities living together in harmony and “absolute respect.” Polacco expresses herself eloquently in this sophisticated video production. Children and adult students of children’s literature will appreciate this vivid portrayal of the artist and her dreams.
This video shows Canadian author and illustrator Patti Stren discussing her childhood and includes images and narrated excerpts from her picturebook Sloan and Philamina. Stren says she was not fond of reading as a child, but always loved hearing stories. She started writing as an adult, and credits much of her success to the encouragement of her editor. She finds writing lonely and isolating, but notes it has helped her to find herself. Although this video uses still frames throughout, it reveals Stren’s offbeat humour, playful nature and genuine warmth. Viewers of all ages will be interested in Stren’s works.
Canadian-born Paul Yee combines his love of history with his personal experience as a Chinese-Canadian to create his award-winning children’s stories, including many picturebooks. He worked for the City Archives of Vancouver, and began writing in order to represent Chinese-Canadians in the national literature. Yee feels strongly that the minority experience is significant to Canadian history, and wants readers to understand that non-whites have long been a part of the national experience. Yee’s access to archival records of early Canada helped him authenticate the stories of Chinese-Canadians in his novels and picturebook texts. He believes that when minority children see themselves reflected in the stories they read, they have a greater sense of belonging to society.
This collection features five separate video renditions of stories by the beloved American children’s author and illustrator, Robert McCloskey. Lentil, Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder, and Burt Dow: Deep-Water Man are dramatically retold, using skilful narrators, musical accompaniment, and iconographic studies of McCloskey’s illustrations. This is an excellent way to revisit some of McCloskey’s classic stories. The video concludes with a brief visit with Robert McCloskey at his island home in the state of Maine, and incorporates images of original artwork for his picturebooks. This collection will delight children of all ages and adults who fondly remember McCloskey’s stories.
This video shows Canadian picturebook author Robert Munsch discussing his childhood and writing style. It includes narrated excerpts and images from his early works, and briefly shows how Michael Martchenko creates the illustrations for many of Munsch’s stories. Munsch began telling stories to entertain children in the daycare where he worked, and today he still depends on children’s responses to shape his narratives. Although this video uses still frames, it is interesting for those wanting to know more about the life and interests of the much-loved Munsch.
In this interview, beloved contemporary English author and illustrator Shirley Hughes reveals how silent films serve as the inspiration for many of her picturebooks. The storyline in silent films is conveyed through visual images, she explains, similar to that of a good picturebook. Hughes considers the ordinary events of daily life quite beautiful, and her books deftly capture the drama of domestic family life. When the artist demonstrates her drawing for a classroom of elementary students, their rapt attention is proof of the magical appeal of her art. Audiences of all ages will enjoy this encounter with Shirley Hughes in her London neighbourhood.
Interviewed in her home, the flamboyant contemporary children’s author and illustrator Aliki talks about her family as the source of her artistic inspiration. Born in the United States to Greek immigrants, Aliki attributes much of her success to the encouragement of her parents and a special kindergarten teacher. She says the rest is due to hard work and perseverance. Aliki takes viewers into her tiny attic studio where she describes and demonstrates the process of writing and illustrating a picturebook. Young students will be delighted to meet Aliki and be inspired by her words of encouragement for aspiring artists.
Interviewed by Tim Podell, American author and illustrator Arthur Dorros talks about his life as a writer, reads excerpts from his books, shows how he creates his illustrations, and introduces his pet chicken. Dorros came from a family of storytellers, and most of his ideas come from real life. He discusses how his son’s fungus became the inspiration for the book The Fungus That Ate My School. Dorros reveals it takes him a long time to write a book because of the amount of research he does, and says he likes writing because it can be done anywhere. Both educators and students will be drawn to Dorros’ open nature and warm personality.
Authors of picturebooks and nonfiction, African-Americans Patricia and Frederick McKissack are interviewed by Tim Podell about their experiences as blacks growing up in the segregated South. Pat McKissack recalls that blacks could not enter many public buildings; however, everyone could go to the public library. The problem she found there was an absence of books about African-American history, a situation she encountered again as a schoolteacher. She and her husband, Frederick, began writing about African-Americans in order to provide a more complete historical record of America. They explain they are not writing simply for African-American children, but for all children.
American author and illustrator Tomie de Paola talks about his childhood, reads, and shows images from his books Tom and Strega Nona. He also shows his audience how to draw both sheep and his popular character Strega Nona, and how to give a genuine Italian kiss. De Paola comments that he always wanted to be an artist and storyteller, and as a child, he drew on his white bedsheets and under the wallpaper in his room. De Paola speaks live in front an audience of 500 in New York in 1998 and it is difficult to say who enjoys him more – the adults or the children. Viewers of all ages and backgrounds will appreciate De Paola’s humour and energy.
In this video, French author and illustrator Tomi Ungerer is interviewed by Gene Deitch, and discusses his childhood and the themes in his books. Excerpts from three animated films by Deitch of Ungerer’s picturebooks are also featured. Every book, Ungerer explains, reveals an aspect of himself. He enjoys making unpopular characters (such as the three robbers) into heroes and tries to put both fear and sensuality in his books. Although he deals with childhood fantasies and fears (such as fear of the dark), he uses adult jokes throughout his books. Viewers of all ages will appreciate Ungerer’s satiric humour and unique illustrations.
In this warm and candid interview, American picturebook author Bill Martin discusses his childhood and early adult life, and reads from his books: The Ghost Eye Tree, The Maestro Plays and the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? As a child, Martin found reading difficult and still reads very slowly today, although he reads regularly and loves poetry. In the interview, he describes how he writes stories in his head long before anything appears on paper. His stories are somewhat autobiographical, and borne from sudden insights. Both educators and younger readers will be drawn to Martin’s genial, open nature and delighted to hear him narrate three of his most popular books. Includes visual images from his works.
This video shows David Wisniewski at his home in rural Maryland where he works as an author and illustrator of children’s books. Wisniewski explains that he began his working career as a professional clown. Next, he and his wife started their own puppet company using shadow puppets. When their children were born, they could no longer do road tours, and Wisniewski turned to freelance illustration until finally he applied his diverse, accumulated skills toward creating picturebooks for children. He carefully details for young viewers each step in the process of making a picturebook, including how he creates illustrations from precisely cut pieces of coloured paper.
This casual interview with American author and illustrator Rosemary Wells shows her at home with her family and in her studio, detailing the process she goes through in creating a book. Wells has always loved drawing, especially animals and scenes of action and emotion. She resented children’s books of the 1940s and 1950s which she says showed only male characters in the thick of action; hence, many of her books feature strong female characters. Particularly suited for educators and aspiring children’s writers and illustrators, this video shows not only how Wells turns an idea into a story, but also the techniques she uses to create the wonderful watercolour illustrations which give her books such warmth and spark.
The enthusiasm and good humour of American children’s author and illustrator Tomie de Paola is contagious as he escorts viewers through his home in rural New Hampshire. Children and adults will be delighted to meet his five dogs and visit the 200-year-old studio barn where he works. Creator of more than 100 picturebooks, de Paola is still working hard and loving his work. He talks fondly of the character Strega Nona as he brings her to life using line drawings and watercolours. De Paola will charm viewers of all ages with his hopeful, joyous vision of life and art.
This video contains animated versions of four of William Steig’s stories, and features a brief interview with the American author and illustrator. The interview segment includes images of Steig’s artwork and shows him drawing. Although he loves to draw, he says he finds illustrating a chore because everything is prescribed. He chooses animals because he can do things with animals that he cannot do with people. The interview is a shortened edition of the video Getting to Know William Steig.
History and Criticism
The Educated Eye. Produced by Library Video Network. 15 min. ALA Video/Library Video Network, 1992. Videocassette.
Host Dee Freeman guides viewers through a fascinating tour showing how an idea becomes a picturebook, how the contemporary picturebook developed, and how technology affects the artist’s vision. It examines the motivation of the artist and the way colour, texture, shape, and lines affect the viewer. The video promotes itself as being useful for recognizing a prospective classic fifty years from now. It is valuable for those interested in a brief history of the picturebook, the relationship between publishers and illustrators, and the influence of technology on the development of the picturebook. American in focus.
In this video, Weston Woods picturebook director and animator Gene Deitch takes viewers behind the scenes to see the process of adapting a picturebook to film. Deitch strives to capture the most authentic film adaptation of each book possible. He tries to preserve the essence of the original story and illustrations, while adding additional elements of film, such as music, sound effects, and movement. It is a labour-intensive task involving many technical experts. As an example, Deitch recalls that it took five years to adapt Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to film. Viewers will begin to appreciate the skilful collaboration necessary to bring picturebooks to the screen.
Each video program in this series explores a new aspect of children's literature and emphasizes illustration within different children's book genres.
Give Us Books. Vol. 1
Mother Goose. Vol. 2
Poetry. Vol. 3.
Concept Books. Vol. 4.
Alphabet Books. Vol. 5.
Wordless Books. Vol. 7.
Raphael/Bolognese. Vol. 8
Information Books. Vol. 9
Contemporary Realism. Vol. 10.
Folktales I. Vol. 11
Folktales II. Vol. 12.
Memorable Animal Characters. Vol. 15.
Host John Langstaff suggests that children love picturebooks because they give them marvelous new worlds to explore. To answer his question, “Who are the people creating picturebooks?,” three award-winning picturebook artists—Robert McCloskey, Barbara Cooney, and Maurice Sendak—are interviewed about their work. It is clear they all take their work very seriously, as the time, energy, and enthusiasm they devote to their art indicate total commitment. Many examples of picturebook art are included to further the viewer’s appreciation for the genre. Time of Wonder by McCloskey is read in full, accompanied by the art, at the conclusion of the program.
This video follows British Columbian author and illustrator Fiona Garrick in her print shop as she creates her fine art children’s picturebook, Mr. Bear’s Song. As Garrick narrates the story, viewers watch her create the engraved illustrations, the paper for the end pages, and the block-type for the text for her book. While most of the techniques are only shown and not explained, this video remains a good introduction to small-press bookmaking for elementary students. Avid bibliophiles and fine press enthusiasts will undoubtedly also be thrilled by the care and detail Garrick puts into her work.
American critic of children’s literature Betsy Hearne discusses factors to be considered when evaluating children’s picturebooks. Using two editions of Priscilla and Otto Friedrich’s The Easter Bunny that Overslept, illustrated by Adrienne Adams, she analyses the illustrations in terms of line, colour, texture, composition, shape, and perspective. Hearne believes the illustrations in this title embody not only good art, but good picturebook art. She notes that books also have verbal or literary imagery, where each word is an aesthetic choice that builds effects of character, plot, setting, theme, style, and point of view. Hearn then analyses Mavis Jukes’ Like Jake and Me, illustrated by Lloyd Bloom, on the same basis. She asserts that evaluating picturebooks requires a careful and critical examination – most of us look at picturebooks too quickly to form solid judgments. Librarians, educators and parents will find this video useful.
Noted children’s literature scholar Betsy Hearne discusses elements to consider when choosing picturebooks for the very young. Because reading is an emotional and physical experience long before it is an intellectual one, it is important to look for quality books when selecting materials for this age group. Hearne reviews what to look for in cloth books, board books, pop-up books, and plastic books. Books of nursery rhymes, counting books, and folk tales are assessed and recommended. This straightforward, succinct video is useful for educators, children’s librarians, and new parents alike.
This entertaining and informative production, hosted by the enthusiastic LeVar Burton, traces the evolution of a children’s picturebook, from inspired idea to the finished product. Burton begins by introducing viewers to Henrik Drescher, author and illustrator of Simon’s Book. Drescher demonstrates how, with a little imagination, doodles can become the most extraordinary creatures like those in Simon’s Book. After the author’s creative work is complete, the book goes to a printer. Burton escorts viewers to a printing company to observe the fascinating technical processes and machinery required to build a book. The program concludes with several children reviewing their favourite books.