Day, Alexandra 1941- (Sandra Louise Woodward Darling)
Day, Alexandra 1941- (Sandra Louise Woodward Darling)
Born September 7, 1941, in Cincinnati, OH; daughter of Charles Lawson (an artist) and Esther Grace (a homemaker) Woodward; married Harold Darling (a cinema/bookstore owner and publisher), 1967; children: Sacheverell Austen, Rabindranath Tagore, Lafcadio Hearn, Christina Rossetti. Education: Swarthmore College, B.A., 1963; trained as an artist at Art Students' League (New York, NY), 1963-64. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Fashion design and dressmaking.
Office—Blue Lantern Studio, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103-6900. E-mail—email@example.com.
Fine artist, writer, illustrator, and book publisher. Freelance artist, 1965—; Green Tiger Press, San Diego, CA, founder and owner with husband, Harold Darling, and note cards and stationery designer, 1969-86; children's author and illustrator, 1983—; Blue Lantern Studio, San Diego, CA (after 1993 Seattle, WA), owner with H. Darling, 1986—, Laughing Elephant Publishing (gift-book and paper goods manufacturer), Seattle, cofounder, 1992—, creator of Darling & Co. imprint, 1999, reacquisition of Green Tiger Press from Simon & Schuster, 2004—. Young Men's Hebrew Association, New York, NY, former crafts teacher. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Every Picture Tells a Story, Los Angeles,
CA; Art of Illustration, Seattle, WA; Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Mazza Museum, OH; and Society of Illustrators, New York, NY.
Special mention, Children's Jury, Bologna Book Fair, and Children's Choice Award, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, 1984, both for The Teddy Bears' Picnic; Parents' Choice Award for Illustration, 1984, for The Blue Faience Hippopotamus.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED; "CARL" SERIES
Good Dog, Carl, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1985.
Carl Goes Shopping (also see below), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1989.
Carl's Christmas, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.
Carl's Afternoon in the Park (also see below), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1991.
Carl's Masquerade (also see below), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.
Carl Goes to Daycare (also see below), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1993.
Carl Makes a Scrapbook, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1994.
Carl Pops Up, includes illustrations by Vicki Teague Cooper, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Carl's Birthday (also see below), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1995.
Carl's Baby Journal, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Follow Carl! (also see below), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
You're a Good Dog, Carl (includes Carl Goes Shopping, Carl's Afternoon in the Park, Carl's Masquerade, Carl Goes to Daycare, Carl's Birthday, and Follow Carl!), Square Fish (New York, NY), 2007.
Carl Goes on Vacation, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2008.
The "Carl" books have been translated into Spanish, Japanese, and French.
Frank and Ernest, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.
Paddy's Pay-Day, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
Frank and Ernest Play Ball, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
River Parade, Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
Frank and Ernest on the Road, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
A Bouquet, Blue Lantern Studio (San Diego, CA), 1996.
(With Cooper Edens) The Christmas We Moved to the Barn, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Boswell Wide Awake, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Cooper Edens) Darby, the Special Order Pup, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Cooper Edens) Special Deliveries, HarperCollins Children's Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Puppy Trouble (pop-up book), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.
The Flight of a Dove, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Not Forgotten: A Consolation for the Loss of an Animal Friend, Laughing Elephant (Seattle, WA), 2004.
Also author and illustrator of My Puppy's Record Book, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY).
Jimmy Kennedy, The Teddy Bears' Picnic (book and record set), Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1983.
Joan Marshall Grant, The Blue Faience Hippopotamus, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1984.
Cooper Edens, Children of Wonder, Volume 1: Helping the Sun, Volume 2: Helping the Animals, Volume 3: Helping the Flowers & Trees, Volume 4: Helping the Night, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1987.
Ned Washington, When You Wish upon a Star, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1987.
Abigail Darling, Teddy Bears' Picnic Cookbook, Puffin Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Christina Darling, Mirror, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor with Cooper Edens and Welleran Poltarnees) Children from the Golden Age, 1880-1930, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1987.
(Editor with Welleran Poltarnees) A.B.C. of Fashionable Animals, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1989.
The "Carl" characters have been adapted for several books, including My Puppy's Record Book, Farrar, Straus, 1994; and Carl's Baby Book, Farrar, Straus, 1996.
Best known for introducing readers to a lovable rottweiler named Carl, author and artist Alexandra Day is the pen name of Sandra Darling. As Day, she is the creator of the picture-book classic Good Dog, Carl and its many sequels, as well as the author and/or illustrator of several other books. As Darling, she had become well-known in publishing circles as the cofounder, with husband Harold Darling, of the historic Green Tiger Press in 1969, as well as of the more-recently established Laughing Elephant Publishing and Blue Lantern Studio, both located in Seattle, Washington.
As the granddaughter of an architect and the daughter of a painter, Day grew up in a family where art was viewed as important. After attending Swarthmore College, where she majored in English literature, she moved to New York City and worked at the Young Men's Hebrew Association as a crafts teacher. She also took classes in figure drawing and painting at the Art Students' League and from Will Barnet. On a trip to California, she met Harold Darling, who owned a cinema and book store (housed in the same building), and they were married in 1967. Harold had three children from a previous marriage, and during the next seven years the couple had four more children, each named after lesser-known authors the bookish couple admired.
Drawing on the vast collection of antique children's books Day and Darling collected, in 1969, the couple founded Green Tiger Press. The business, located in San Diego, California, originally published postcards, notecards and bookmarks featuring artwork from such talents as Arthur Rackham, L. Frank Baum, and others. Three years later they published their first book, All Mirrors Are Magic Mirrors, written by Harold Darling, and sold 50,000 copies by mail order. As Day recalled, the company grew, hired staff, and expanded its publications; then, after a dozen years a quandary pushed her into a new phase of her career. Needing an illustration for an old song, "The Teddy Bears' Picnic," and not having an appropriate image, she decided to create the art herself. The book was a success, and Day soon found herself illustrating other books published by Green Tiger Press.
On a trip in Zurich, Switzerland, the Darlings discovered an antique German broadsheet titled "Der brave Karo," about a poodle and a baby who played together while the baby should have been napping. Charmed by the story, the Darlings decided to create a similar work, casting the family rottweiler Toby in the poodle's role and Day's granddaughter Madeleine as the baby. Good Dog, Carl, published in 1985, became phenomenally popular among young readers. Since 1989, when the loveable Carl made his second picture-book appearance in Carl Goes Shopping, Day has produced several more "Carl" books, each characterized by a brief text and her engaging illustrations.
In Good Dog, Carl, a child's mother tells the family dog to watch the baby while she leaves the room; her words of praise upon her return are "Good dog, Carl!" Because the text is so brief, Day's illustrations, tell the story; rendered in what a People contributor described as "lustrous oils," Day's art is "a handsome counterpoint to the whimsy of the narrative." One of the last books to be published by Green Tiger Press prior to its sale to Simon & Schuster, the book sold over a half-million copies during its first five years. In addition to sparking a publishing phenomenon due to its small-press origins, the book also had another surprising effect. As Kelli Pryor explained in Entertainment Weekly as the "Carl" series took shape: "The warmth Day put into her realistically rendered oil paintings has earned the books so much adoration that it's not farfetched to speculate that Carl is partly responsible for boosting rottweilers … into the top five of the American Kennel Club's most-popular breeds list." While, over time, the models for Carl have changed as the Darlings' beloved family dogs have successively passed on, the personality of the original Toby shines through in each of the "Carl" books.
In Carl Goes Shopping Carl watches over a toddler and carries her into various departments in the store. Calling the book a "thoroughly enjoyable adventure," a reviewer in Horn Book suggested that Day offers "the most pinchable baby and pettable dog of the season." After wreaking havoc everywhere they go, toddler and pup return before Mother does. The third book in the series, Carl's Christmas, in the words of a Publishers Weekly critic, is "imbued with enough ‘good will towards man’ to warm a whole town." Carl takes care of a puppy and a baby in Carl's Afternoon in the Park, published in 1991. In this book "the dogs are as charmingly true to life as ever," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic.
Carl and his toddler charge continue to charm young readers in Carl's Masquerade, Carl Goes to Daycare, Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, and Carl Goes on Vacation, among others. When toddler Madeleine follows her parents to a costume party, the loyal rottweiler comes to her rescue in Carl's Masquerade. According to Roger Sutton, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, the picture book's setting "allows Day free rein for her deliberately outré, painterly style and whimsical turn of imagination." In Carl Goes to Daycare the resourceful pup takes charge of Madeleine's preschool class when the teacher is accidentally locked outside. Ellen Mandel asserted in Booklist that this book "is sure to be a favorite in a deservedly popular series."
A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "everyone's favorite rottweiler is back in top form" in Carl's Birthday, in which Carl and Madeleine secretly aid Mother's party preparations, while in Follow Carl! Carl leads the neighborhood children in a game of Follow the Leader. As a reviewer in Publishers Weekly noted, "the combination of grassy settings, friendly village shops and, of course, tender companionship" in Follow Carl! "adds up to an excursion virtually any reader would enjoy."
In Carl's Sleepy Afternoon the pup decides that an afternoon on his own would be better spent out and about than sleeping at home in the sun. When Madeleine and Mother go to town on errands, Carl is not far behind, catching a ride on a passing van. Spotting Madeleine in a bakery, the pup sneaks in and is given a cookie; helpful visits to a nearby druggist and a burning garage where he rescues a litter of stranded puppies round out Carl's day, and the two unsuspecting shoppers find him sleeping in the sun upon their return home. Noting that Carl's Sleepy Afternoon marks more than two decades of "Carl" books, a Publishers Weekly writer added that the rottweiler "has lost none of his appeal—or his spunk." "Day's stunningly realistic, brightly hued illustrations are as timeless and endearing as the plot," the critic added. Finding Carl's Summer Vacation a "charming addition to a whimsical series," Lisa Gangemi Kropp concluded in School Library Journal that Day's simple story about Carl and Madeleine's outdoor adventures near the family's summer cabin features Day's "richly detailed and beautifully hued illustrations."
In addition to the "Carl" books, Day has also written and illustrated a number of other highly praised chil- dren's books, including a short series featuring a bear named Frank and an elephant named Ernest. In the first book, Frank and Ernest, the watercolor-illustrated pair runs a '50s-style diner, their story told in amusing diner dialogue explained in a glossary. Trev Jones, writing in School Library Journal, concluded that the book is "bound to become standard fare for story hour specials." Frank and Ernest Play Ball finds the pair managing a baseball team and using a dictionary to understand their job, while Frank and Ernest on the Road follows the duo as they find work as truckers, mastering Citizen's Band (CB) radio jargon along with readers. "Fans of the dynamic duo's previous adventures will appreciate this exploration of a new linguistic frontier," wrote Zena Sutherland in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, referencing Day's inclusion of a glossary of CB terms.
In the picture book Boswell Wide Awake Day tells the story of a little bear who gets up in the middle of the night and does work around the house that was left undone at bedtime. "Day turns the plot into something of a tour de force," noted a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, "bringing to her visual storytelling the same extraordinary tenderness and seamless blend of fantasy and realism that characterize her Carl books." Other picture books by Day include Puppy Trouble, a pop-up book in which a young, rambunctious pup gets into a series of small, harmless scrapes with trouble, and The Flight of a Dove. In the latter book, based on a true story, Day focuses on a preschooler named Betsy who has autism and lives in a very lonely world due to her condition. Betsy's first experience at a new school is a frightening one, until an interaction with the class dog, and her experience watching a beautiful dove flutter around the room makes Betsy feel more comfortable with her surroundings and results in her first spoken word. While noting the story's somber theme, School Library Journal contributor Linda Beck praised Day's illustrations, writing that "the beautiful artwork effectively highlights [Betsy's] … sense of isolation and [ultimate] happiness," while in Booklist Linda Perkins explained that "the lush watercolor art … brings the story to life" and "demonstrates the miraculous therapeutic power of animals."
Day has also worked with fellow illustration aficionado and artist Cooper Edens on several picture books, among them The Christmas We Moved the Barn, Darby, the Special Order Pup, and Special Deliveries. Of Darby, the Special-Order Pup, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst in the School Library Journal wrote that Day has "created another canine that children will love" as much as they have her famous Carl the rottweiler. Peter F. Neumeyer, in a review for the Boston Sunday Globe, called Darby, the Special-Order Pup "that rare, sophisticated specimen—a picture storybook in which the illustrations tell their own story and play off their own jokes in counterpoint to the written text." Special Deliveries was called an "imaginative, funny book" that "is alive with great pictures" by reviewer Ellen Mandel in Booklist.
A family business, Blue Lantern Studio publishes gift books and other paper products under the Green Tiger Press and Darling & Company imprints. While Day and her husband continue to oversee the company's direction, their children serve in design, production, and business capacities. Several book projects have resulted from this creative collaboration: Day has illustrated the Teddy Bears' Picnic Cookbook, a cookery book written by her stepdaughter, Abigail Darling, and Mirror, a fantasy storybook written by her youngest daughter, Christina Darling. Discussing their publishing philosophy on the Laughing Elephant Web site, the Darlings explain: "All of our imprints reflect our belief that values and ideals are enduring, and that the insights of past times are still valuable."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Children's Literature Review, Volume 22, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Booklist, February 1, 1993, Ellen Mandel, review of Carl's Masquerade, p. 986; December 15, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of Frank and Ernest on the Road, p. 750, and Ellen Mandel, review of Carl Goes to Daycare, p. 763; November 15, 1994, Ellen Mandel, review of Carl Makes a Scrapbook, p. 610; January 1, 1996, Ellen Mandel, review of Carl's Birthday, p. 843; March 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Mirror, p. 1170; September 1, 1997, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of The Christmas We Moved to the Barn, p. 138; November 1, 2000, Ellen Mandel, review of Darby, the Special-Order Pup, p. 547; May 1, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of Special Deliveries, p. 1688; May 1, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of Special Deliveries, p. 1688; November 15, 2004, Linda Perkins, review of The Flight of a Dove, p. 580; September 1, 2005, John Peters, review of Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, p. 143.
Boston Sunday Globe, September 3, 2000, Peter F. Neumeyer, "Strong Animal Tales, from Then and Now," p. M3.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1992, Roger Sutton, review of Carl's Masquerade, p. 109; March, 1994, Zena Sutherland, review of Frank and Ernest on the Road, p. 219; November, 1994, review of Carl Makes a Scrapbook, p. 85; July, 1997, review of Mirror, p. 391.
Horn Book, January-February, 1990, review of Carl Goes Shopping, p. 50.
Entertainment Weekly, September 27, 1991, Kelli Pryor, "Day's Dog."
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1991, review of Carl's Afternoon in the Park, p. 1230; October 15, 1994, review of Carl Makes a Scrapbook, p. 1406; May 15, 2008, review of Carl's Summer Vacation.
People, September 23, 1991, "Top Dog," p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1990, review of Carl's Christmas, p. 123; October 17, 1994, review of Carl Makes a Scrapbook, p. 83; October 23, 1995, review of Carl's Birthday, p. 67; January 13, 1997, review of Mirror, p. 75; June 29, 1998, review of Follow Carl!, p. 57; November 8, 1999, review of Boswell Wide Awake, p. 66; June 4, 2001, review of Special Deliveries, p. 79; October 28, 2002, review of Puppy Trouble, p. 74; September 13, 2004, review of The Flight of a Dove, p. 78; August 22, 2005, review of Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, p. 62.
School Library Journal, August, 1988, Trev Jones, review of Frank and Ernest, p. 80; October, 2000, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of Darby, the Special-Order Pup, p. 120; May, 2001, Holly Belli, review of Special Deliveries, p. 114; September, 2004, Linda Beck, review of The Flight of a Dove, p. 157; October, 2005, Lynn K. Vanca, review of Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, p. 110; May, 2008, Lisa Gangemi Kropp, review of Carl's Summer Vacation, p. 94.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux Kids Web site,http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com/ (December 1, 2005), "Alexandra Day."
Good Dog Carl Web site,http://www.gooddogcarl.com (April 12, 2006).
Laughing Elephant Web site,http://www.laughingelephant.com/ (December 3, 2005), "A Little History of the Laughing Elephant."
Darling contributed the following autobiographical essay to SATA in 2008:
Alexandra Day is my pen name. My real name is Sandra Louise Woodward Darling. I was born in 1941. My father was Charles Lawson Woodward; my mother's maiden name was Esther Arabella Claflin. My father's family was descended in America from John and Priscilla Alden. His branch of the family had long been in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I was born and raised.
My father's family was large and close. I grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins. This led to a sense of security, of knowing where one stood in the larger world. Many of these relative were inclined to the arts. Among my father's brothers and first cousins, one earned his living as a painter and illustrator, one taught art at Wayne University, one was a conductor and professor of music, and two were architects. Painting was a very popular family recreation, and almost every excursion included one or more easels and a variety of sketch pads, chalks, paints, and pencils. My grandfather was an architect who designed many public and private buildings in Cincinnati, including the high school that I attended.
My mother's mother named among her ancestors Hannah Dustin, the pioneer woman who, with her newborn babe and nurse, was carried off by Indians. She, the nurse, and a captive English boy fought their way to freedom, and a monument to her still stands in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
My mother's father was a printer, and it is from this Irish strand of the family that my pseudonymous last name, Day, derives. (The first name, Alexandra, was the name my grandmother thought I should have been named, rather than the shortened Sandra.) My mother was raised in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. My mother and father met at the University of Wisconsin. They were married in 1932 and came to live in Cincinnati. I was the first of three daughters. My sister Patricia, four years younger than I am, is a watercolorist who regularly exhibits in galleries in Canada, where she lives. Shawn is eight years younger than I am, and it is with her that I have always shared a love of animals.
My father attended the Cincinnati Art Academy after college and loved to paint landscapes in watercolor. I remember him having commissions to paint the homes of people in the Cincinnati area and occasionally accompanying him to the sites. One memorable afternoon we were in a field adjoining a farm he was painting, and I fell asleep. I was awakened by chewing noises and there, in a semicircle behind my father and me, were at least a dozen cows, chewing their cud and curiously looking on. He had been so absorbed that he hadn't noticed their approach. He did portraits of Mr. Proctor and Mr. Gamble which still hang in their headquarters. One of his favorite commissions was a series of paintings done for the Ohio River Steamboat Company, of the last of the paddle wheelers on the Ohio River.
Sadly, however, these commissions were not enough to support a family, and, like many artists, he was forced to take jobs in commercial art. One of these was for the
Gibson card company, and I remember, at the age of about eight or nine, being taken to the print shop and getting my first lesson in how four-color printing was done.
My father worked at home from the time I was nine until I was thirteen years old. This was important because I could watch paintings grow from the first sketches to their finished reality. I particularly enjoyed arising in the morning and discovering how much my father's work in the night had changed from what had been there when I went to bed. My father encouraged my early painting efforts and offered, as well, practical advice upon which I still lean. My father taught me the power of images. When a beloved horse of mine died, he made me a portrait of her, and I was comforted by this memorial of her presence. I remember a beautiful mask of a fox which he painted me for a school play.
In my home, imagination was encouraged to flower. My father enjoyed L. Frank Baum's "Oz" books and frequently read them to us. He also referred to them in daily conversation. One Halloween he made himself a giant papier-mâché; head and attended a party as Jack Pumpkinhead. I saw how life and art reflected each other.
Another encouragement to the play-life of my mind was the gift to us, by a family friend, of a trunk full of costumes. For many years this allowed us to change character, to play in other times, and to realize, in a small way, our dreams.
My mother excelled in the arts of the home. She cooked and baked, and taught me to do so. She taught well so that I could follow a cookbook with understanding and precision or, when circumstances demanded, make a recipe to fit the circumstances. All my life this has benefited me, for I need not depend either on restaurants or commercially prepared food products for culinary adventure. She also taught me to sew, and again this has changed my life, for I have always been able to design and make my own clothes, which as a young woman encouraged my self-esteem, for I could dress with a style and individuality far beyond my purse. I also learned from my mother gardening, canning, cleaning, and many other things—all of which added up to a repertoire of devices by which one could achieve beautiful and orderly surroundings. Well into her eighties she still baked her own bread because she said that store-bought just wasn't the same.
Through the good efforts of both my parents, my home was always well supplied with those things necessary for creation, repair, and transformation—pencils, chalk, paint, brushes, paper, tools, wire, nails, glue, and so on. My sisters and I were always made to feel that these materials were there to be freely used. Even more significant was the assumption in our family that if you wanted something, whether it was a kite, a strawberry
pie, a prom dress, or a tree house, with a little ingenuity and application (and help, if necessary) you could make it.
We spent many of our summers at a vacation cottage on an island in Georgian Bay, a part of Lake Huron in the Canadian province of Ontario. This cottage was owned by my father's parents. It was rustic, had no telephone or electricity, and could only be reached by boat. We used an ice box and cooked and lighted with kerosene. On other islands in the area other branches of my father's family also vacationed. In the brief and brilliant summers I saw much of aunts and uncles, and played regularly with cousins, deepening my awareness of a large and comfortable family.
In Georgian Bay the woods and waters were the primary reality. Raccoons attacked our trash cans. Porcupines were backyard visitors, and our dogs had to be taught to leave them alone. Beavers built dams in inconvenient places, and we needed to dismantle them. Red squirrels went up and down every tree and raced along the porch railings. Because water was all around us we all became practiced swimmers and skilled in the use of canoes, rowboats, and small sailing craft.
The lack of electricity made us dependent on the sun, and in the evening we, like the animals, grew quiet and retreated to our nests—in our case to pop corn and play games under lamplight. The omnipresence of the lake made us similarly dependent on the weather, and when the weather turned we fled to land much as the birds sought the trees.
For four years we lived on a hundred-acre farm in Kentucky. The space invited roaming, and the animals became my friends. Here I grew especially fond of horses, training and riding. It was a half a mile to our nearest neighbor, and this made me dependent on myself and my family. As with many country children, nature was a very important companion. I spent long periods playing in streams and fruitlessly attempting to redirect them. My grandmother Woodward was a very educated woman and had been a schoolteacher before her marriage. She taught me that "plants, animals, and birds are our friends. We must respect them, and learn their names, as we do our human friends." I am told she was proud of my learning to identify and say "Philadelphia fleabane" at the age of three. Here in Kentucky I put this knowledge to good use, and what had been before mere nodding acquaintances became close friends.
Living in the country led to lots of time for reading. My father had art books—I remember Rockwell Kent, Lynd Ward, Winslow Homer, Russell Flint, and Edward
Hopper, particularly. We had in our basement a run of National Geographic magazines from 1901 to current (with indexes) from which questions about Tibet or polar bears or the Okefenokee Swamp got answered. There were also my father's own children's books: St. Nicholas magazine, Struwwelpeter (which we all thought hysterically funny), the "Oz" books, The Wind in the Willows, and the "Winnie-the-Pooh" books (my mother's favorite, which she read aloud, with sound effects which we loved). My mother inherited, from her father, a beautiful set of books by Dickens, which had been read to her as a child and which she in turn read to us.
Another aspect of my strong feeling about the interconnection of spirit and matter is the importance which Christianity has had for me, especially since 1975. My father's family was Episcopalian and my mother Presbyterian, but we only attended church sporadically in my childhood. When our children were ready for school, my husband, Harold, and I heard about a school run by the All Saints Episcopal Church in San Diego. Through this wonderful school we discovered the church itself, and both Harold and I have been inspired and sustained by the traditional Anglo-Catholic spirituality which we found magnificently manifested there.
I remember being an avid reader of fairy tales; I also read Nancy Drew, the "Black Stallion" books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E. Nesbit, and wept with Black Beauty and Little Women. I remember being tremendously impressed with George Macdonald's At the Back of the North Wind. This, I think, was no accident, as I have always been particularly attracted to stories which attempt to describe the relation between the material, tangible world and the spiritual. For this reason, George Macdonald has remained a favorite author of mine, along with C.S. Lewis, C.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. I think that one of the reasons my illustrations have appealed to people is that they can sense my sincerity. I have no trouble at all in believing that dogs can read, stuffed-animals come alive, or a bear and an elephant run a business. I know that marvels exist which are just outside our ordinary experience, but that at any moment we may turn a corner and encounter one of them. Children also believe this, and because they and I have this conviction in common, we, as creator and audience, make good partners.
I was living in Kentucky when I finished the sixth grade. My parents decided to make the considerable sacrifice of driving me each weekday into Cincinnati (forty-five miles away) so that I could attend Walnut Hills, a six-year, college-preparatory high school. It was an excellent school, and their effort did help me to a better education.
My father died when I was fourteen. Aside from the psychological blow to all of us, it changed things practically. My mother, who had always stayed home with us, now had to work. I, the oldest daughter, found myself assuming unfamiliar responsibilities. My father's
death had tumbled me from the nest of childhood to the hard ground of practical necessity. Fortunately, my mother's lessons in domestic skills prepared me for a good portion of the new challenges.
In high school several remarkable instructors made good impressions on me. An art teacher encouraged me to believe that my talent was worth further development. He also taught me that the best approach to an artistic problem was the exploratory sketch. He was in charge of design for the school's drama department, and I found the experience of helping to paint sets liberating and instructive. Other excellent professors were one in physics, who started me thinking about the vastness, complexity, and order of matter, and one in French, who made me realize the goodness of single-minded devotion to an intellectual pursuit. I had always enjoyed reading books, and this affection led to a study of literature and my appointment as editor of the school literary magazine.
When it came time to attend college I decided that I wanted to attend a small liberal-arts institution. I had the opportunity to attend several colleges, and I visited their campuses. After visiting I found it easy to decide on Swarthmore College. The old stone buildings were set in a park-like setting surrounded by an arboretum. It was a Quaker college, not far from Philadelphia, and the simplicity and friendliness of its heritage made it an ideal choice.
I had a major in English literature. I probably would have profited from studies in art, but Swarthmore, being an old-fashioned liberal-arts institution, eschewed the practical in all areas of study. Literature did prove a fruitful choice because it took me, an enthusiastic but untrained reader, and taught me that distinction, analysis, and background can greatly enrich one's enjoyment of books. In my last two years I was part of the honors program, in which it was assumed that the student was a mature scholar ready for research and self-direction. Seminars were held once a week, and in them the emphasis was on the writing of papers and discussion in the small group. We were expected to do research and present a clear and, if possible, somewhat individual presentation of the subject we had chosen that week. Though Swarthmore may have been too optimistic about the skills of a still relatively untrained student, their approach did encourage independence and responsibility, and did push me to raise my levels of performance and confidence.
Swarthmore had a strong sense of community. All students lived in dormitories, ate together in a dining hall, and adhered to clear, and rather strict, codes of behavior. Far beyond many colleges, Swarthmore valued intellectual achievement. Scholarship and creativity here were esteemed more than social facility or athletic accomplishment. My college proved to be, for me, an excellent choice. Its heritage of individual dignity, moral order, and idealistic striving are with me still.
After college I went to work for the Young Men's Hebrew Association in New York City. I had worked for this organization while I was in college, acting as a counselor in their summer camp for girls in Maine. In New York I taught crafts, primarily silversmithing, which I had learned as an extracurricular activity at Swarthmore. While in New York I took classes at the Art Students' League. I took figure drawing, and I am very glad to have this in my background for I believe that accurate observation should underlie all painting, no matter how idiosyncratic. I also took courses on painting from Will Barnet. At that time Barnet was an abstract painter, and in his classes he emphasized composition and the juxtaposition of shapes. His teaching has been valuable for me, for, being a realistic illustrator, there is always the temptation to surrender to the demands of narrative, forgetting the fact that each illustration should succeed as a painting if the book as a whole is to achieve its highest artistic potential.
While visiting a friend in California I heard that La Jolla was home to an excellent school of art. I went there to investigate, and though the school proved disappointing, I did meet my future husband, Harold Darling. He was the owner of a very unusual business: the Unicorn Cinema and Mithras Bookstore. The cinema was small and featured remarkable programming. It was eclectic in the extreme, mixing foreign, Hollywood, experimental, short, and silent films in nearly equal measure. The bookstore, which sold a highly personal selection of new and used books, was the entry to the cinema and stayed open until the last film had concluded. As a consequence it had two lives: in the daytime it was a quiet bookstore, and in the evenings it pulsed with the life of the cinema. The theater tickets were dispensed from a counter in the store, and the cinemagoers waited for the change of films while browsing the shelves.
In 1967 Harold and I were married, and these two remarkable institutions became a part of my life. The cinema changed me in several ways. My mother and father were not moviegoers, and as a result I was a relatively unsophisticated film viewer. The immersion in moving images that the Unicorn offered somewhat moved me from the concept of an image as a fixed and individual thing to the idea of an image as part of a continuum. This helped prepare me for illustration when the opportunity offered itself.
The Unicorn issued seasonal brochures which described and pictured their future programs. I took on the task of designing these. I was thus moved from the world of fine art to that of commercial art. Typesetting and the practical and economic problems of paper and printing became familiar. So, too, did the underlying challenge, which was to gracefully combine the printed word and picture.
The Mithras Bookstore also had its impact on my life and thinking. Since it carried both new and used books, both of these two rather different worlds had to be attended to in order to keep the store running. Even though I had been a lifelong reader and had majored in English literature, I had had no idea of the width and depth of the ocean of books. Like most people, only those books that impinged on my life had significant re-
ality. What I discovered was that books are like the sands of the seashore; that every subject in the world has inspired a book, or more likely, a library of books; that behind every one of the numberless volumes there is a mind; that most books sink unremembered; that nothing is new under the sun; and that those few books that are remembered have something remarkable about them. All of these lessons were useful for a future maker of books, and they affect everything I do in my career as an illustrator.
Harold brought three children—Harold, Jr., Abigail, and Benjamin—to our marriage, and in 1969 our first son was born. We named him Sacheverell, after the English writer Sacheverell Sitwell. In 1971 Rabindranath Tagore was born, named after the Bengali poet of the same name. In 1972 Lafcadio Hearn was born, named after the American writer who is best known for his writings on Japan. In 1973 Christina was born. She was named after the English poet Christina Rossetti. We selected these names for a number of reasons. We chose only the names of authors, and we wished in our naming to pay tribute to the world of books. Further, they were not the best known of literary figures, and we wished to emphasize that excellence does not belong alone to the leviathans. We also liked the sound of each name. Finally, we hoped to encourage individuality in our children by giving them very different first names. I cannot be sure how this last intention was fulfilled, for the growth of character is a process too mysterious to chart, but all of the children have very individual characters, and all have come to be fond of their strange names.
We continued for some years in the cinema and bookstore business, but we realized that these businesses, both characteristically difficult to make profitable, were insufficient to support our rapidly enlarging family, and so we searched our minds for an activity that would fit our needs. We wanted to be in business for ourselves. We wanted it to proceed out of our enthusiasms, to draw equally on Harold and myself, and to utilize our knowledge and skills. We needed it so organized that a good portion of the necessary work could be accomplished at home, for our children were small and needed our presence.
Publishing was our answer, and the Green Tiger Press its manifestation. We founded it in 1970. In the beginning it published only postcards, but soon we were making notecards, calendars, posters, bookmarks, and so on. Our aim was to rescue from the pages of old children's and illustrated books images too good to be forgotten. Arthur Rackham was our first success, and he was soon followed by Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen. Harold had long been a collector of old books, and it was in his library that our pictures were found. My natural roles were design and art director, and I found these agreeable, though increasingly demanding. The business grew, in not too many months, too large for our home. Also we needed more hands than our own, and employees were hired. Soon all the problems of a growing business surfaced, but the rightness of publishing was so great that the difficulties were worth bearing.
In 1972 we published our first book, All Mirrors Are Magic Mirrors by Welleran Poltarnees. It was a series of essays on the pictures in old children's books, a natural outgrowth of our interests. It proved to be a modest success, and our fate was sealed. Though stationery products were profitable and a marvelous vehicle for our trove of images, and though we continue to this day to publish them, books are, for both Harold and me, one of civilization's supreme achievements, and the opportunity to participate in their creation is a joy beyond our expectations.
All Mirrors Are Magic Mirrors had its colored illustrations tipped (glued) onto their pages. In doing this we were echoing a practice followed by the publishers of many of the book artists whose images we were publishing. We shortly thereafter began to produce our notecards in this fashion. We did this because we were determined to link our efforts to the efforts of our predecessors. In looking back I realize that our choice of old children's books as a focus of our business lives had deeper roots that we had realized. We were, in an age of confusion, determined to connect ourselves with timeless goodness and truth. Paul Hazard, in his Books, Children, and Men, said of these pictures we loved, "Children lead us back to the fountainhead. We are blasé; we have seen too many strange things. They call, inviting us to look at and admire, pictures that owe their strength to their simplicity." We wanted a stable and idealistic climate, and the world of myths, folklore, and children's stories is such a world. One of our catalogs put this clearly:
Our company started by reproducing pictures from old children's books, and though we have since pursued a variety of other enthusiasms this origin says a great deal about us. We stress those qualities which the child exemplifies—the freshness of vision, the spontaneity, the hunger for mystery and adventure. Francis Thompson in his essay on Shelley said that to be a child was "to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief." We hold these as our ideals, and we select all that we print to their support and encouragement.
As Green Tiger Press published more and more, we grew increasingly discontent with the quality of work we were receiving from our printers. In 1975 we purchased our own printing press. This became my area of expertise and taught me much that has been valuable in my work as an illustrator. The more one knows about the creation of a book, the better one is able to conceive it correctly.
Some of the most valuable lessons I learned from Green Tiger Press came from reviewing unsolicited submissions sent to us to consider for publication. Harold and I and a variety of employees shared the task of reviewing the thousands of manuscripts and portfolios that arrived each year. We discovered several valuable truths from this work. First, we found that very few were publishable by anyone (probably less than one percent). Second, though most of the submissions were picture-book texts, very few of the creators showed that they had ever studied the nature and demands of the genre. Third, many of the writers and artists of these many stories seemed to imagine that, since children's books were short and simple, their creation would be a short, simple task open to anyone who could write; that any jottings about children or animals was potential for publication.
It was apparently widely imagined that children were a simple people, satisfied with almost anything. The origin of these ideas seems to lie in the fact that one's own children are so glad for parental attention that they do welcome any attempt at a story. In truth, writing for children is a challenge akin to writing poetry, where every word must count and be in the right place. Fourth, most submitters seem to believe that children are more different from adults than they are; that they need to be talked down to and need cute language. Fifth, illustration, like story, was apparently thought to require little talent; probably deduced from the fact that children themselves have only primitive artistic skills. Sixth, too many people submitted books because they wished to be published, not because they had a story to tell or a vision to show. There were always drifts of manuscripts about whatever subject or character was fashionable at the moment. Those few that did proceed out of a real impulse at communication could achieve goodness, even if their makers were inexperienced and untalented. Genuineness is the one essential ingredient in a children's book. Lastly, storytellers were commonly heavily didactic, which was unfortunate since most editors, librarians, and children resent too-obvious moral instruction.
One of the best things about publishing is the nice people one meets, for the making of books draws decent and interesting people as honey draws bees. I was particularly interested in what the various illustrators had to teach and to learn. We worked with many artists who had not illustrated a book before, and no matter how accomplished they were at painting or drawing they did need to adapt their style to the necessities of reproduction. Some of the illustrators whose first books we published, and who continued into notable careers either at Green Tiger or elsewhere, were Don Wood, Michele Clise, Katie Thamer, Michael Hague, Jasper Tomkins, Dan Lane, and Cooper Edens.
Of all the friendships that arose out of our publishing activities the one that developed between ourselves and author/illustrator Cooper Edens was the most remarkable. We received, in the torrent of unsolicited submissions, his text for If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow in 1976. We liked it and wanted
to publish it, but we were cautious about letting Cooper illustrate it because his paintings for it were unique and somewhat naive. He, however, convinced us to let him do it. This book, which is a series of poetic solutions to common problems, went on to become one of the most successful we have ever published. It appealed to both children and adults, and continues to be popular, having sold more than a million copies.
This dual appeal is one of the things that characterizes Cooper's work and Green Tiger Press as well. We believe that adults and children are not as different as is commonly imagined; that they share the same needs for story, fantasy, and laughter; and that books occupying this common ground need not define their audiences. I believe all of our books, and my books as well, have been affected by this belief. Cooper became not merely one of our finest creators, but a friend and compatriot in many aspects of our publishing efforts. His enthusiasm for the pictures from old children's books became as great as our own, and the Magic Spectacles Calendar, which we published annually from 1981 to 1992, and again from 2004 to 2007, was his joint inspiration and responsibility. It was an engagement calendar and featured an abundance of antique illustration in both line and full color. Each month was organized around a theme, and each year's set of themes was different. For example, we had "A June of Solitude," "An August of Bubbles," "An October of Clowns," and "A March of Tigers." Quotations were added which illuminated each of our visual essays. Each year's choices involved hundreds of hours of image searching, which Harold and I and Cooper shared.
Another marvelous educational opportunity that our publishing house gave me was our frequent attendance at the annual children's book fair in Bologna, Italy. Here the publishers of the world assemble each spring to show their new children's books to publishers from other countries, hoping they will wish to publish them in their own lands. Each is, of course, looking for foreign books to make their own. Here also come many illustrators, hoping to find commissions. The breadth of this experience gives one a better view of contemporary children's illustration than anything else I know. We secured for Green Tiger publication of many fine works. We were the first American publishers of several notable illustrators: Monique Felix (A Little Mouse Trapped in a Book), Mario Mariotti (Hanimals and Humands), and Frederic Clement (Animals Ball). We commissioned several European illustrators with pleasant results: Sophie Kniffice (The Sunny Hours), Louise Jalbert (The Diverting Tale of the Radish and the Shoe), Reinhard Michl (Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman), and Alberto Pratelli (Soup Pot). The last two artists, the first German, the second Bolognese, became friends, and to them we owe a wider view of the art of illustration. Also at Bologna we met and came to know Paola Pallotino, a professor and expert on Italian children's books, and she helped broaden our understanding of this rich field.
It is strange to look back and realize that we had been publishers for twelve years and that it had never occurred to me to illustrate a book. It seemed as if my artistic time was fully utilized in designing books and helping illustrators find the best way to bring manuscripts to life. I had painted the occasional isolated illustration, but a book seemed out of my way. A customer of Green Tiger Press wrote us several times saying that we should make a book out of the old song "The Teddy Bears' Picnic." The music had been written in 1907, by John Bratton, and the words added in 1932 by Jimmy Kennedy. We searched our minds to discover who among the illustrators we knew would be right for the project, and, finding no one, I eventually wondered if I might not be the one. I had plentiful reasons for thinking it difficult. I had small children to raise and an important job to do at Green Tiger Press. We at that time lived in the mountains about forty-five miles east of San Diego. We arranged that I would stay home a couple days a week and paint on the book. I started work in 1982 and finished in about a year.
I was attracted to this project for several reasons. First, I liked teddy bears and had a small collection of beloved ones. I also borrowed bears from my son Rabindranath and a friend. Second, the words stimulated my imagination, offering hints and possibilities as to what took place and who attended that famous picnic, but not really specifying the answers. A key statement for me was "If you go down to the woods today you'd better go in disguise." What I decided, and what I pictured, was that the song was addressed to human children, and that this was advice to allow them to witness this remarkable picnic. Thus, in my book, human children put on bear suits, which allow them to attend unnoticed and to mingle with teddies. The real teddy bears wear human costumes of human roles such as Indian chief, medicine man, and soldier. We accompanied each book with a phonograph record which contained two versions of the song, one sung by Bing Crosby and the other one sung by a local klezmer band, which we renamed the Bearcats.
The Teddy Bears' Picnic sold very well—in fact it continues to sell. Everyone seemed pleased with my work; it won an award from the children's jury at the Bologna Book Fair and was selected by the Children's Book Council as one of their choices for 1984. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, and so I determined to continue as an illustrator.
My second book was based on a short story published in 1942 by Joan Grant that we believed would make a good picture book. The Blue Faience Hippopotamus was published in 1984. It is set in ancient Egypt and tells the story of a river hippopotamus who falls in love with a human princess whom he sees while she is bathing. His love leads to sacrifice and a beautiful kind of fulfillment. I was attracted not only by the touching story but also by my love of animals and by what I perceived as the opportunity to emulate the Egyptian's love of flat patterns in my book design. I have always been fond of borders, and this opportunity to create them in the spirit of ancient Egypt was welcome.
We were visiting Zurich, Switzerland, in 1983 and found in a second-hand bookstore a volume of old German picture sheets. These were originally single sheets, intended to be sold individually on the streets, at a low cost, and were usually humorous in content. The volume was quite expensive, so we didn't buy it, but we did see a picture story about a poodle that played with a baby who was supposed to be napping. On the air flight home we talked about making a children's picture story on the same idea, but using our rottweiler in place of the poodle. The original had been farcical, cartoonish, and we decided that we wanted our book to be serious and lovely in approach. The rottweiler was a deliberate, not circumstantial, choice. We owned two other breeds of dog. We liked the apparent fierceness of our hero to contrast with his gentle care. The rottweiler, as a breed, does have considerable tenderness and sensitivity underneath his aggressive demeanor. In our story, titled Good Dog, Carl, the dog hero helps the baby out of bed, and they enjoy together a series of household adventures. When the mother returns she finds the baby back in her crib, all the disorder having been put to rights, and she mistakenly imagines that Carl has been a silent and trusty guardian. She closes the book by praising him with the phrase which is the book's title.
I went to work on the book in 1984. A book in our collection called Our Hospital ABC, illustrated by Joyce Dennys, inspired me to create my illustrations on gray paper. We realized that, since neither the baby nor Carl could talk, we were in a good position to avoid words, and thus the book has only a few words at the beginning and at the conclusion. This dependence on pictures to tell the story focused me on the narration, which drives the irrelevant out of the frame. Further, because the story rushes wordlessly forward, I pictured some of the episodes by showing only small pieces of the action as floating vignettes. This sketched quality was intended to convey to the reader that there was insufficient time to finish the paintings because the events were so fast moving. Molly Myers, the daughter of an employee, was my model for the baby girl.
Good Dog, Carl, published in 1985, was an even larger success than The Teddy Bears' Picnic. It and its sequels continue to sell enormously, and I have to fight off the pressure to make a career of babies and dogs.
The next project I turned to was, as my first book, based on a song: "When You Wish upon a Star," written for Walt Disney's Pinocchio in 1940. The words were by Ned Washington, the music by Leigh Harline. As before, we included a phonograph record. On one side was the voice of Jimmy Cricket (Cliff Edwards), and on the other a version by Louis Armstrong.
I chose a song again because I like the challenge of extending the reality that familiar songs have achieved in our minds. We remember Pinocchio's yearning when Jimmy Cricket sings "When You Wish upon a Star,"
and it was my desire to listen closely to the words. This I did, and this time applied them not specifically to Pinocchio's situation, but to the similar striving in all conscious creatures. In this work I carried further than I have ever done the impulse to work the words of a picture book into the pictures. Here they are painted on fences, appear as embroidered samplers, stand on the steps of a staircase and on the shelves of a bookcase, appear on a passing truck, and so on. No one comments on this aspect of When You Wish upon a Star, but I am pleased to have attempted so complete an integration.
When You Wish upon a Star was not a great popular success, and I think I know why. I have always tried to select stories of interest to both children and adults, for I believe that the best children's books manage to appeal to human traits that we all have in common. I failed to realize that the longing which is the core of this song, and my book, is not a feeling present in any strength in the child, who is occupied too fully by the present moment. I had selected for a children's picture book a theme of limited interest to children.
In 1986 we sold the Green Tiger Press, and thus When You Wish upon a Star—which was released shortly after the sale—was the last book of mine published by the company we had founded.
We sold the press because the financial and practical details had overwhelmed us. We now wanted to find a way to concentrate on the creative parts of bookmaking and get rid of the financial and administrative tasks which we found unrewarding. To this end we founded the Blue Lantern Studio. Here we developed books for other publishers, an activity which has continued. Some of these are Cracker Jack, The Ultimate Alice in Wonderland, Bon Voyage, A Christmas Alphabet, Child's Garden of Verses, Cakes Men Like, Favorite Fairy Tales, Three Princesses, Glorious Mother Goose, and Tips for Teens. We now also have an ever-increasing number of the images from our library on Corbis.
The first book I illustrated for anyone except my own publishing house was Frank and Ernest, published by Scholastic in 1988. It is the story of a humanized elephant and bear who are in the business of taking care of other people's business enterprises for short periods, while they are away. In my book they take care of a diner and are faced with the challenge of learning the language used by waiters to relay their orders to the cook.
The origins of Frank and Ernest are complex. I chose an elephant and bear as partners because of my fondness for a book called Martin et Tommy, published in Switzerland in 1920. The characters are an elephant and a bear, and they act like human beings, though, unlike mine, they do not wear clothing. Ours were named Frank and Ernest because these names fit their personalities. We also remembered an old radio program in which a man named Frank asked a man named Ernest Bible questions. An interest in trade vocabularies was the spark from which the whole project started. The terms used in diners is called Hash House Greek, and Harold's desire to find a way to use this in a children's book started the thinking which led to Frank and Ernest. The biggest problem I had with this book was how to show animals, particularly an elephant, who has very clumsy feet, doing intricate human tasks. Fortunately, elephants' trunks are marvelously adroit.
Something which needs to be said is that the books of Alexandra Day are often written, sometimes conceived, by my husband, Harold. When I sign my pen name it is with the understanding that it includes both of our contributions.
Frank and Ernest was successful, and two more books featuring this helpful pair have been published by Scholastic: Frank and Ernest Play Ball (1990), in which they manage a minor-league baseball team and need to learn the Vocabulary, and Frank and Ernest on the Road (1994), in which they load and deliver a truckful of freight and learn the language of CB radio.
In the beginning, for The Teddy Bears' Picnic, I started my work in watercolor, but I was dissatisfied with the results, and so I used a combination of egg tempera and watercolor. The advantage of egg tempera is that it, unlike watercolor, allows one to build layers of paint, and this painterly technique was what I desired. I have used this method in many of my books. I was not entirely happy with the watercolor, egg, and body color method I used for Good Dog, Carl because I found it too hard to render Carl's shiny black fur in that medium. So for Carl Goes Shopping I changed to oil on canvas. I used this for Carl's Christmas and Carl's Afternoon in the Park as well, but, particularly with the last of these three, we had trouble with color separation. I concluded that the laser scanner was picking up dark canvas, or the oil medium was causing a darkening and diffusion of the colors which was untrue to the feeling I wanted to achieve. Therefore, I changed medium again and now use either all watercolor, occasionally adding egg, or watercolor with certain areas (for example, Carl) overpainted in oil. This seems to separate more satisfactorily while giving me more range of effects where I need it.
Another book I illustrated was Paddy's Pay-Day, published by Viking in 1989. This is based on the character of our beloved Irish terrier, Padraic. He was graceful, clever, independent, adaptable, and friendly, and we wanted a book which manifested these traits. In the book he is the assistant for a lady acrobat. He receives his pay, as a small bag of coins, and we follow as he walks to town by himself, spends his wages on a variety of pleasures, and returns home under the moonlight. It is one of my favorite works, and though Paddy hasn't achieved Carl's fame, I get many letters from fans who love him.
One obvious theme that runs through my books is the interrelationship between humans and animals: Frank and Ernest are animals who mix with and act as humans, Carl and the baby have a close and sympathetic relationship, Paddy moves intelligently and comfortably in the world of people, and the blue faience hippopotamus is actually transformed through its empathy with a human. I myself feel this connection very strongly. I have been a vegetarian most of my adult life because I cannot be a party to killing animals. I think that this theme is one to which many people respond. There is an essential loneliness in the human condition, and we long for a sympathetic communion with the "other." Religious people believe this is a hunger for God, for the lost harmony of paradise; Jungians talk about connection with unconscious; and so on. There is a thrill which ravishes us at a deep level when we experience the gap being bridged—it can happen in romantic love, or as when the German and Allied troops in the First World War came out of their trenches on Christmas Eve and sang carols together. People dream of it between us and beings from other planets, and are moved to tears when someone gives his life for another.
Animals are manifestly "other" than we are, but most people feel that at least some communication with them is possible. They are therefore a natural manifestation and symbol for me of the "other" with whom we long to be at one.
In 1989 Farrar, Straus & Giroux published my second "Carl" book, Carl Goes Shopping. In it, Carl and the baby (whom we named Madeleine, after our first grandchild) are supposed to wait in a designated area while the mother is shopping in a department store, but they leave and explore the book department, the toy and pet departments, and so on. Again, Carl was very popular, and the public's enthusiasm has led to a series of sequels, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Carl's Christmas (1990) chronicles a variety of Christmas Eve adventures, including a meeting with Santa Claus. Carl's Afternoon in the Park (1991) shows the variety of adventures a baby and dog can find in a large public park. Carl's Masquerade (1992) involves the two of them attending a masquerade party and avoiding the parents, who are attending as guests. In Carl Goes to Daycare the teacher is accidentally locked out of the class room, and Carl has to supervise the group in her absence.
River Parade, published by Viking in 1990, was a book that grew out of my many vacations at Georgian Bay, which began in childhood and still continue. It is the story of a little boy on vacation at a lake who is afraid of the water and who finds a way to conquer that fear. I painted this book at Georgian Bay, and it is, for me, a distillation of memories and a lovely memory in itself.
Teddy Bears' Picnic Cookbook (published by Viking in 1991 and reissued by Laughing Elephant in 2004), written by my daughter Abigail, was for me an opportunity to create vignette illustrations and decorative devices, both of which I particularly enjoy.
Carl's Afternoon in the Park has a rottweiler puppy that joins Carl and the baby on their adventures. This came about because our original rottweiler, Toby, who had been the model for Carl, died of old age just after Carl's Christmas was completed. To assuage our grief at losing him, we got a rottweiler puppy who was so appealing that I couldn't resist putting him into the book on which I was then working. Because we have long been enthusiastic fans of the Basque ball game of jai alai, a family vote named the new puppy Arambarri, after a favorite player. When he grew up I used him as a model for Carl. He was wonderfully athletic and would jump, carry, pose, etc., with a will. He loved children and was happy to have babies pose on his back.
He unfortunately died young, and was followed by a wonderful dog named Zabala. Zabala added a new dimension to "Carl" when he became a therapy and service dog and traveled with me to children's medical and educational facilities, as well as to bookstores, in many parts of the United States and Canada. He even had a bronze statue modeled after him which stands in the Meridian Park in Seattle and has grown shiny from the thousands of children who have ridden him. After Zabala died, we were able to get his half brother, Zubiaga, who has a similarly wonderful personality and who, like his brother, visits hospitals, schools, conventions, and bookstores. Both Zabala and Zubiaga have ridden in antique convertibles in the famous Adolphus Christmas Parade in Dallas.
I try to make Carl always look the same, but each of the dogs adds a little of itself to the portrayal. The same thing is true to an even greater extent with the baby in the "Carl" books, since I must change models with almost every book because the babies keep growing up.
For Carl's Masquerade I made much use of the Blue Lantern library, from which I got a wide variety of costume ideas from sources ranging from French magazines of the 1910s and 1920s, and nineteenth-century German costume catalogs, to fancy-dress fashion plates from the 1800s to the middle of the twentieth century. (I also used a couple of kids who came to the door on Hallowe'en.)
For Carl goes to Daycare a wonderful pre-school teacher at my children's school made costumes and props for the children and Arambarri (the "Carl" of the time) enacted many of the scenes which appeared in the book.
After finishing Carl Goes to Daycare, the Blue Lantern began to demand much of my time. After some years in the making of books for other publishers, we found ourselves missing being publishers ourselves, especially the rich variety of challenges and the fact that one had complete control over the form of each book.
In 1992 we started Blue Lantern Books and the Laughing Elephant, which was the note card and stationery arm of our enterprise. We reproduce, as we did in the beginning, pictures from our library of old children's books and ephemera. As before, they are popular. People enjoy the unfamiliar images that remind them of the timeless realm of childhood. We have published at this writing (2008) almost a hundred books and hundreds of cards, as well as other paper gift products such as notebooks, decorative labels, paper dolls, and calendars. We make gift books, because here fine design and rich imagery find a ready audience. We, of course, are involved with children's books. We have published many reprints of old picture books and will continue to reproduce old favorites. We have also created several anthologies which show many illustrators' approach to Mother Goose, alphabet books, children's poetry, and fairy tales. We will continue this program and additionally plan to commission new children's books by living authors and artists. We also create books that draw upon the fertile minds of our children and our associates, illustrator/author Cooper Edens, and graphic artist and retired university professor Richard Kehl.
In 1993 we moved from San Diego to Seattle, Washington. We chose Seattle because we like the seasons, the moisture, the lively cultural atmosphere (especially the classical music), and the fact that two of our best artistic collaborators—Cooper and Richard—reside there. With the help of Jan Gobel, a man who had been with us from our bookstore, theater, and Green Tiger days, we began to concentrate on our own publishing. Since 1993 we have added a trade book imprint called Darling & Co. and a children's book imprint for which we have revived the name Green Tiger.
At the heart of the Blue Lantern Studio, which is responsible for conceptual, editorial, and design aspects of the company, is our library. It now contains about 20,000 picture books and uncounted kinds and categories of ephemera. What makes it remarkable is that which makes any private library unique; it is the embodiment of our ideas and enthusiasms.
Our major enthusiasm is illustrated children's books, but we also have fair-sized collections of art, photography, design, natural history, fashion, typography, and Shakespearean books. Within the children's books we favor volumes published earlier than the 1940s and prefer fiction to fact. We naturally have a special fondness for particular artists and collect them fully. A few among
these are Charles Robinson, L. Leslie Brooke, Honor Appleton, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Edward Ardizzone, W. Heath Robinson, Peter Newell, Cecil Aldin, Ilse Wenz-Vietor, N.C. Wyeth, Ludwig Richter, John R. Neill, and Jessie Willcox Smith. We have subject specialties as well; for example, object books, primers, and readers; art instruction for children; baby record books; annuals and other children's periodicals; and books about elephants, dogs, and St. Nicholas. We also have a substantial reference library to help us understand the books and things we collect. Our collection of ephemera includes post and greeting cards, calendars, prints, labels, magazines, advertisements, and much more. Again these have been collected because of their imagery. Sometimes we know why, often we don't.
The Blue Lantern Studio, including our library, is now located in a wonderful Seattle building. It is called the Good Shepherd Center. It was built in 1902 as a nunnery but has been owned since 1906 by Historic Seattle. It is the home to a variety of nonprofit institutions and a few businesses such as a yoga center and ourselves. It is a large and comfortable old building, located in an eight-acre park. Our library, which had been crammed into an old house in San Diego, is now comfortably housed on shelves and in cabinets, which makes its use easy and pleasant. We have many large tables where we spread the materials for each book on which we are working. There are large windows all along three sides of our premises. From one side we look out into a small park with many old trees, including an eccentric and aged monkeypod tree. From another side we look over a larger park and the city and sound to the Olympic mountain range. From the third side we see across Lake Union to downtown Seattle and beyond that the snow-capped bulk of Mt. Rainier. This is a place where creativity seems the natural order of life.
Harold's three children, our four children, and our foster child, Jack, are a close and harmonious family. Many of them are involved in the business. Benjamin is in charge of trade shows and assists with marketing, Sacheverell is our designer; Abigail and Christina handle the library and do research, editorial, and secretarial jobs; Christina's husband, Jason, has taken over as business manager from our son Rabindranath, who now has his own business here in Seattle; and Jack is in our shipping department. Lafcadio is an attorney in Seattle, and Harold, Jr., lives in San Francisco and is a legal assistant. Our several grandchildren get called on regularly to model for me.
Perhaps influenced by the sense of adventure that the move to Seattle created in us, we decided to try a very different kind of "Carl" book. In Carl Makes a Scrapbook (1994) we attempted something unusual. Carl and the baby, who are supposed to be napping, pull out the mother's scrapbook and on blank pages imitate her work. Hers is organized around headings, for example: Friends, Vacations, Family, and Milestones. Carl understands what she has done and puts things on the facing page that are his dog equivalent. Madeleine does not understand exactly what is going on but sees it instead as an occasion to select and paste anything she finds colorful and appealing. Her contributions are placed every which way on the pages, sometimes even covering Carl's items.
The strangest thing about Carl Makes a Scrapbook is that, whereas the world of Carl has hitherto been a painted, entirely fictive world, now we are shown real things, actual photos of the characters and events we have come to know. All of the scrapbook's pages on which Carl and the baby are seen to be working are real pages with real things pasted onto them. In actuality it is only a counterfeit reality. The mother's photographs are either photographs of my models (the mother is my daughter, Christina, for example), their friends and relations, or unrelated photos from our collection. The things she includes (postcards, invitations, patches, greeting cards, and so on) are from our collection of ephemera. The whole is a diverse accumulation, partially rooted in reality. We hope that we have fused all of these elements into an artistic reality.
Carl's Birthday (1995) was the first book in which the backgrounds start to reflect our move to the Pacific Northwest: lots of evergreens and flowers that don't grow in San Diego. For Follow Carl (1998) I rounded up the children on my street and used a local park and shopping area as venues. Carl's Sleepy Afternoon (2005), in honor of it being Carl's 20th anniversary, had eight more pages than usual, and I used many local stores, a local firehouse (and fireman) and even our veterinarian. Carl's Summer Vacation (2008) uses Lake Washington and a local cabin in the Oregon woods.
There have been a number of Carl-related books, calendars, puzzles, and coloring books. In 1994 Farrar published a baby book for puppies called My Puppy's Record Book, which included a medal for the puppy's neck. Farrar also published Carl's Baby Book for human babies in 1996. Two pop-up books were also made; Carl Pops Up (Simon & Schuster, 1994) and Puppy Trouble (Farrar, 2002). There were also calendars for 1998 and 1999.
In 1997 I decided that I again wanted to make books other than "Carl" books. Farrar published The Mirror, for which my daughter Christina wrote the text. I also made a book that year with Cooper Edens for HarperCollins, titled The Christmas We Moved to the Barn, about a family that has to move at the last minute on Christmas Eve. I love painting snow! The family in that book has another adventure in Special Deliveries (HarperCollins, 2001). Cooper and I also did a book about his parents' troublesome bull terrier, titled Darby, the Special-Order Pup (Dial, 2000).
Farrar has published two other non-"Carl" books for me. Boswell Wide Awake (1999) is about a little bear who wanders around his house in the moonlight, eating pie, playing, giving the cat an outing, and finally kissing his parents goodnight. The Flight of a Dove (2004) is not exactly a children's book. I read an account of an autistic child in France who was eventually brought out of her isolation by a dove at a school where animals were part of the "curriculum." Since I have had personal experience of how animals can help children in pain or distress, I wanted to try to convey the inspiration I felt from this story.
Since the books we have so far published ourselves have used existing art for their illustration, most of them are created by my husband, Harold, usually with input from our children and me, but there are some that I have developed from the library (with input by the others, of course): A Bouquet, a book about the language of flowers illustrated with Victorian scraps; Not Forgotten (2004), a consolation for the death of a pet; Hooray for Dogs (2008), a celebration of all the ways dogs enrich our lives; and Bridal Memories (2008), a bride's record book decorated with beautiful old flowers and illustrations from our collection.
When people ask me my age (children have a great interest in this!), I always have to figure it out. This year is 2008, so I figure I'll be sixty-seven. That means I illustrated my first book twenty-five years ago. It's true I need glasses for close work these days, and my back objects to too much sitting or too much gardening, but on the other hand, my paintbrush obeys my desires more readily with each passing year, and ideas seem to be like love: the more one pours out, the bigger the pool from which one has to draw. I'm excited about all the things to do and think up and paint. I look forward to the rest of today and tomorrow and tomorrow.
"Day, Alexandra 1941- (Sandra Louise Woodward Darling)." Something About the Author. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
"Day, Alexandra 1941- (Sandra Louise Woodward Darling)." Something About the Author. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. (July 24, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2282100027.html
"Day, Alexandra 1941- (Sandra Louise Woodward Darling)." Something About the Author. 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2282100027.html
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