Curator Commentary: Loved Illustrators

from by Andrea M.

Sometime during the seven years I trained as a linguist, I went from a world-traipsing museum-goer to a life of words, words, and more words. Oh, and the occasional gesture and eye-gaze.

In my new life with little ones, I’ve been reintroduced to visual art and have encountered some wonderful artists disguised as children’s book illustrators.

Here are a few artists that have stood out over the past 600-odd books we’ve looked through.



Zachary Pullen
We first encountered Pullen in The Toughest Cowboy: or How the Wild West Was Tamed. This was a fun book, but Pullen’s art was better than John Frank’s story. So I hunted for other work by Pullen and found Friday My Radio Flyer Flew which he authored and illustrated. Home run! (Speaking of which he’s also illustrated Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King.)

Pullen paints wonderfully detailed caricatures from frequently odd, close-up angles that invite the reader, young and old, to enter into the world of the book.


Jane Dyer
We first noticed Dyer in Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-Me Book of Poems. Her watercolors paired so well with the thematically arranged poems.

Then, browsing in the non-fiction section of the library we came across Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons. Rosenthal uses cookies to define abstract terms like modest, fair, and content. Dyer’s watercolors of children and animals complement Rosenthal’s text in a way that provided a context and opportunity for me to discuss important concepts with our four-year-old. Because she’s starting to become aware of ethnic and linguistic differences and her own ethnic heritages, I also appreciated that the children depicted were from a number of different ethnic backgrounds.


John Himmelman

Himmelman’s extensive experience observing and documenting the natural world is obvious in his renderings of animals. As my father-in-law commented about Chickens to the Rescue, Himmelman has perfectly captured “chicken-ness” on every page. The antics of the thirty-odd chickens are so engaging even my two-year-old frequently dumps the book into my lap for another go at them. We’ve read several of Himmelman’s other children’s books, but this is our hands down favorite. This summer, I plan to take a look at his non-fiction “Nature Upclose” series.


In my late teens and early twenties, I chased down the abstract paintings of Kandinsky and Malevich, and as much as I enjoyed that, it was sort of a personal quirk and definitely a solitary pursuit. In these children’s books, I’ve been able to share the experience of beauty and truth with two little people I love. It’s fun to have them point out what they notice, eg. my two-year-old always points out the upside down chicken in Chickens to the Rescue, and for them to remember things we talked about the last time we read the book. One day I’ll introduce my kids to Kandinsky and Malevich, but for now we’re having a whale of a time with Pullen, Dyer, and Himmelman.