So Small Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky

Two words to describe So Small are small and charming. Small, because the book itself is small (perfect for little hands), and charming because of the great illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky. It could also be described as small but mighty, as the pages are fully illustrated and loaded with detail. Add to this Rojankovsky's distinct style and his unique use of color and you've got a great book, no matter what the size.

The story, by Ann Rand, is about a tiny mouse called Little Bit. Much smaller than his five siblings, Little Bit decides that it's better to be brave than behave, and doesn't heed his parent's warnings about dangers in the world. He puts himself into peril and learns the hard way.

So Small by Ann Rand
Pictures by Feodor Rojankovsky
Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., New York, 1962

Feodor Rojankovsky was born in Mitava, Russia on December 24, 1891. Feodor and his four siblings were encouraged in their education and development of artistic skills. Feodor was fascinated by the Baltic Sea and the forests of the area. He decided to become a painter and entered the Moscow Fine Arts Academy in 1912. Two years later he left to joint the infantry in the Russian Army. Wounded during his service, he used that time to make sketches and paintings of the war. These became his first published work. In 1919 he was drafted into the White Army, was later captured and held as a prisoner of war in Poland. He was released after the war, but because he was a former officer in the Imperial Army and the White Army, he was not permitted to return to Russia. He stayed in Poland for a number of years, working as a stage director for the theater and an art director for a fashion magazine and a book publishing company. In the mid 1920's he moved to Paris and worked for an advertising agency, film studios and publishing firms. There he met Esther Averill who published his book, Daniel Boone: Historic Adventures of an American Hunter Among the Indiansir.gif. This was a unique situation at that time in history - that a Russian Illustrator, living in France, could illustrate a book, about an American folk hero, for an American Publisher. 

With the German invasion of France in 1940, Rojankovsky became a refugee again and he emigrated to the United States. Now middle aged, he hardly missed a beat - illustrating seven published books in 1942. Over the course of his career Feodor Rojankovsky illustrated over 75 children's books. writing six of them himself. While best known as a children's illustrator, he was also a war artist and erotica artist (during his time in Paris). This did not bother Rojankovsky, as he stated that he loved nature and children. He was awarded a Caldecott Medal for his illustrations in Frog Went A-Courtin' ir.gif(1956). Some of Rojankovsky's books include The Great Big Animal Bookir.gif (1952), The Tall Book of Mother Gooseir.gif, Gaston and Josephineir.gif, Over in the Meadowir.gif, The Holy Bibleir.gif and the many Golden Books he illustrated. A very gifted illustrator, Feodor Rojankovsky died on October 12, 1970.


Little Red Riding Hood, Retold and Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Following Snow White is another tale by the Brothers Grimm, Little Red Riding Hood.  This version by Trina Schart Hyman is just beautiful. Her use of shadow and light is remarkable. There is much to look at, so much detail. Elisabeth (Little Red Riding Hood) is a sweet little character. Hyman's forest illustrations are lovely, as are the flora spilling out everywhere and all the little creatures.  The fringed buckskin jacket on the huntsman is a nice touch. The illustrations and patterns bordering the text are especially nice.

Trina's work makes me think of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, with her highly detailed illustrations and great use of shadow and light. (I apologize, my scans are lighter than the actual book) In researching what medium Trina worked in, I found this excerpt of an interview with Trina from Something about the Author, Volume 46.  "I do all my work on the same piece of paper, so my preliminary sketches become the finished piece of art work. First I make a pencil drawing, then I use India ink and brush followed by acrylic paint, which I dilute like watercolor and apply in thin glazes. I believe that because I work on the same piece of drawing board, the pictures are alive. My own struggle, underneath the final image, is what gives the picture its soul." Trina also stated that she might add colored pencil, lead pencil, pastels or crayola crayons. Trina also said "I can only work on one book at a time, because when I am illustrating a book (or even just the jacket illustration for a novel) I am totally immersed in the "world" of that story, and dare not let anything else intrude into the imaginary world that I've created."

Trina Schart was born April 8, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At an early age she learned to read and draw. As a child, her favorite story was Little Red Riding Hood and she tirelessly wore a red cape that her mother made. In 1959 Trina married Harris Hyman and moved to Boston. In 1960 she graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She and Harris then moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where she studied at the Swedish State Art School. There she illustrated her first book, Toffe and the Little Car. In 1963 their daughter Katrin was born. After divorcing Harris in 1968,  Trina and Katrin moved to a farm in Lyme, New Hampshire. Trina was the first art director of Cricket Magazine from 1973 to 1979. She was a regular contributor  to the magazine until her death. Trina is also considered one of the first white American illustrators to regularly incorporate Black characters into her illustrations. This was due in part to her daughter's marriage to a man from Cameroon. Trina's grandchildren are in several of her books.

Trina Schart Hyman illustrated  140+ children's books over a span of more than 30 years. She was awarded four Caldecott awards. Some of the books Trina illustrated are How Six Found Christmas (1969), The Sleeping Beauty (1977), A Little Alphabet (1980), Self-Portrait: Trina Schart Hyman (1981), Little Red Riding Hood (1983), and The Enchanted Forest (1984). She is best known for her illustrations of classic folklore and fairy tales. Hyman died from breast cancer at age 65 on November 29, 2004.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Illustrated by Belinda Downes

Textile illustrations bring the story to life in this unique version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Belinda Downes uses applique, embroidery and water color to create lovely illustrations for this adaption of the classic Grimms' fairy tale.

Belinda's illustrations are nicely detailed. She uses gauzy fabric to represent light coming from a lamp and for the glass coffin that Snow White lies in after eating the poisoned apple.  French knots are used for flowers, hair or a nail holding a picture up on the wall. Her work is layered with a wide array of fabrics embellished with embroidery and watercolor. There is also a sense of perspective in the illustrations that you don't always see with textile art. I especially like the illustration of Snow White sleeping on one of the Seven Dwarfs beds (see below). The beds are all lined up in a curving row, each with a different quilt. Slippers peek out under the beds and one long rug spans all the beds. 

 And just so you know -  the seven dwarf's names are Fred, Ted, Ike, Mike, Tim, Sim and Sachie in this version of Snow White, retold by Joan Aiken.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 
Adapted by Joan Aiken
Illustrated by Belinda Downes
Dorling Kindersley, 2002

Belinda Downes is a world renowned embroidery artist. She is one of England's most successful embroidery designers. Belinda has illustrated other books using applique/embroidery such as Baby Days: A Quilt of Rhymes and Pictures, The Starlight Princess, Every Little Angel's Handbook and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. A former artist-in-residence at Hampton Court Palace, Downes is an accomplished needlesmith whose work has been exhibited internationally.  According to Dorling Kindersley, "She is rapidly becoming one of the most collected children's book illustrators." Belinda lives in Bristol, England.


Mr. Hazelnut, Illustrated by Birgitta Nordenskjold

Mr. Hazelnut is a charming book with very sweet illustrations done by Swedish illustrator, Birgitta Nordenskjold.  The subject of the story is a young girl named Alice. She is the quintessential Swedish girl with her blond hair, blue checkered dress and fisherman sandals. Alice starts receiving mail from Mr. Hazelnut, a tailor, who notices that she is growing out of her clothes and wants to make her some new ones. He makes her a new dress, coat and pajamas. He does not want any payment for the clothes, but asks Alice to take care of her clothes and to be kind to her brother Henry. Mr. Hazelnut then disappears, before Alice and her parents can thank him. Alice's clothes grow with her as she grows up and she wears the pink ruffled dress at her wedding.

One illustration in the book that I really like is on the title page (see pic). I love the little green tree with the sewing tools on it!  Many of the illustrations have flowers, bees, birds, squirrels, dogs, cats and other creatures which add to the the charm. I like the Swedish houses and sheds. The illustration with Henry sick in bed, surrounded by all his toys, is especially sweet. Birgitta's illustrations have a light touch to them and the color palette is just right for the story.

Mr. Hazelnut 
By Britt Hallqvist
Illustrated by Birgitta Nordenskjold
Gelles-Widmer Co., 1961

It was not easy to find information about Birgitta Nordenskjold. When I finally did, it was a short biography written in Swedish by her daughter, Agnes Ankarcrona. Thank goodness for online translators! I am including more information than usual as it seems a shame that it should be difficult to find information about Birgitta after the fine work she did as an illustrator.

Bridget Anna Catherine Nordenskjold (Moller) was born January 2, 1919 in Sweden and raised in a large family. Her father Ludwig Moller, a physician, often took the family on trips, including places such as Egypt and Italy.  Bridget (Birgitta)  took everything in. At the age of seventeen she met a young lieutenant named Sven Nordenskjold. They married after Bridget finished her training as an art teacher at the College of Arts school in Stockholm. She then got a job there as a teacher of freehand drawing. As Birgitta said "I never stopped school" and she stayed at the College of Arts school until Sven's retirement. 

Bridget illustrated children's books such as Mr. Hazelnut, three of Astrid Lindgren's books:  I Don’t Want to Go to Bed (1947), I Want to Go to School Too (1951) and I Want a Brother or Sister/That’s My Baby (1954).  She also illustrated mushroom books by Nils Suber, a mushroom expert in his time and Annaberg's recipes in DN.  Everything Birgitta did was with verve and great interest. Birgitta hosted/organized dinners and receptions at Sven's request.  She was a good cook - svampstuvnigar, soup and deer saddle were her specialty. Bridget loved Gottskar where friends and family filled the house and they ate hummersupeer (lobster) and crab. According to  Agnes, Birgitta was the family's cohesiveness. She said Birgitta was a strong wonderful mother and grandmother. Birgitta celebrated her 90th birthday at home with friends and family around her, shortly before passing away in January 2009.


ABC de Puerto Rico

It  was not my intention to do two books with woodcut illustrations back to back, but ABC de Puerto Rico is such a great book. I can't read much of it (it's written in Spanish), but that's okay, I bought it because of the illustrations. This ABC book was written and designed for Puerto Rican children, reflecting their culture and language.  ABC de Puerto Rico has a strong graphic sense in the way type is used in interesting variations; whether combined with images, a part of a image or on its own. I like the way that the grain of the wood shows through in many of the illustrations. ABC de Puerto Rico written by Ruben del Rosario, Isabel Freire de Matos and illustrated by Antonio Martorell.

Antonio Martorell is a painter, illustrator, draughtsman, printmaker, graphic artist, performance artist, writer and radio and television personality. He was born on April 18, 1939 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Martorell studied diplomacy at Georgetown University in Washington D.C  and painting in Spain under Julio Martin Caro. In Puerto Rico, he worked with Lorenzo Homar at the graphic arts workshop of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. He was the winner of the "Bienal de Arte San Juan". ABC de Puerto Rico, published by Troutman Press in 1968, was later burned by the Educational Department of Puerto Rico under Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo's administration. 

Martorell is currently the Resident Artist of the University of Puerto Rico and directs the Ramon Frade Museum there. As a writer he has written books such as The Skin of Memory, and The Drawn Book. He has illustrated books of several authors including Alma Rosa Flor, Heraclio Cepeda, Nicholasa Mohr and Pura Belpre. He currently writes a column for Escenario, a section of Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero. He exhibits regularly in Puerto Rico and the United States and participates in arts events around the globe.