Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Today is Chris Van Allsburg's Birthday!

Today, June 18, is Chris Van Allsburg's birthday. In chapter four of The Joy of Children's Literature, I wrote about the brilliant illustrative work and prosaic writing of Chris Van Allsburg. But, there are a number of resources online that allow his admirers to really get up-close and personal!

The picture to the left is Van Allsburg's self-portrait that appears in Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art (all profits from the sale of this book benefit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art). I like this picture because he is winking, which I think he does often through the stories he tells in his books.

Chris Van Allsburg's website
is one-stop-shopping for everything Van Allsburg. In his biography, you'll find out that he was born in Grand Rapids, MI in 1949 and walked a mile and a half to school everyday until he was in the sixth grade. When he went to high school, he didn't take art classes, but was interested in math and science. He made the decision to attend art school on the-spur-of-the-moment when an admissions officer came to his high school from the University of MI. There, he earned a degree in sculpture and went on the earn an MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. You can see many examples of Van Allsuburgs very unique and interesting works of sculpture, posters, and drawings here.

After RISD, he set up his own studio and married Lisa, whom he met at the University of MI and was an elementary school art teacher. She used picturebooks to encourage her students to draw and, along with friend David Macaulay, encouraged Chris to try children's book illustration. Lisa showed some of Chris' drawings to Walter Lorraine at Houghton Mifflin in Boston, who encouraged Chris to write his own children's book. Still working primarily on sculpture during the day, he started working on an idea for a picturebook at night. The book turned out to be The Garden of Abdul Gasazi which won a Caldecott Honor and the rest is history, as they say.
On his website, you can watch a video of Chris Van Allburg discussing his life and career, plus much, much more. You can read his Caldecott Award acceptance speeches for Jumangi and The Polar Express, download wallpaper and screen savers, print off book marks and coloring sheets, play games. There is also a writing context based on The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

You can read an interview with Chris Van Allsuburg and find teacher's guides and movie clips for many of his books on the Houghton Mifflin website.

Finally, ReadWriteThink has a classroom activity using point of view with Van Allsburg's books along with links to numerous other sites with resources on his books.

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