It’s hard to explain the thrill of being inches away from an original watercolor by Uri Shulevitz, or Jerry Pinkney or the late Trina Schart Hyman.
“The Huntsman” from “Little Red Riding Hood” by Trina Schart Hyman, 1984 Golden Kite Medal winner
You just have to be there. The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) working with The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has now made that possible for thousands of people with a new exhibit, Golden Kite Golden Dreams that opened last Thursday at the Center in Abilene, Texas.
Located 180 miles west of Fort Worth, the NCCIL (they pronounce their acronym nickel) “enhances visual and verbal literacy by celebrating the best original art published in children’s literature” as their mission states. Their previous shows have celebrated the art of Mike Berenstain, Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, William Joyce, Robert Sabuda, Diane Stanley and N.C. Wyeth — to mention just a few. Golden Kite Golden Dreams, like previous NCCIL exhibits will tour major cities around the country when its stay in the rugged Texas hill country ends.
The SCBWI, which sponsors conferences, workshops and a wide variety of informational services to writers, illustrators and others engaged with children’s publishing, awards the Golden Kite Medals and Honors each year to the best books in four categories — fiction, nonfiction, picture book text and picture book illustration.
Golden Kite Golden Dreams pulls together original art from the winning books of the past 36 years.
Significant, I think that the first retrospective of Golden Kite Medal and Honor winners comes in the way of an art show. And this is a dazzling one: 75 pieces by 47 artists, curated by designer and children’s book illustrator (and SCBWI board member) David Diaz.
Representatives from every Texas SCBWI chapter — Houston, North Central North East Texas (Fort Worth-Dallas) Austin and Southwest (San Antonio) and Brazos Valley (College Station-Bryan) — joined their fellow illustrators, author-illustrators and SCBWI national board members and executive leaders for the opening weekend activities, talks and workshops.
In a Saturday presentation, SCBWI founders Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver told how they literally knocked on doors of top children’s authors to round up board members — and presenters for the first SCBWI conference (in 1971.)
For the organization’s first book award in 1974 (for Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene) “We picked the kite as our organization and contest logo,” SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver said, “because [author and SCBWI board member] Jane Yolen’s father was an expert kite flier.”
“One of the things we want to show is how complex an art this is,” Oliver said, speaking of of the original watercolor, gouache, tempera, acrylic , papercut and inkworks on display and children’s book illustration generally.
“For many, children’s books are the first exposure to literature and art and philosophy and what it is to be human,” SCBWI president Steve Mooser said.
Also in attendance were author Illustrators Pat Cummings, Diane Stanley (a native of Abilene), Priscilla Burris (SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator), Richard Jesse Watson, Larry Day, and Kristen Balouch Alan Stacy and Barbara McClintock and artist, art director and VP at Penguin Young Readers Group, Cecilia Yung.
Watson, Day, Balouch, McClintock and Stacy have work featured in the exhibit.
Burris, Cummings, Diaz and Yung serve on the International SCBWI Board of Advisers.
The NCCIL show will attract some wonderful attention to children’s book art and artists as it starts to tour the country this fall.
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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator from his drawing table in Austin, Texas.