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Catalanotto, Peter 1959-

Catalanotto, Peter 1959-

Personal

Surname is pronounced "KA-ta-la-NOT-to"; born March 21, 1959, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Anthony (a printer) and Ella Virginia (a homemaker) Catalanotto; married Jo-Ann Carrie Maynard (a photographer), August 8, 1989; children: Chelsea. Education: Pratt Institute, B.F. A., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Basketball, reading.

Addresses

Home—Doylestown, PA.

Career

Illustrator and author of children's books. Freelance illustrator, 1982-87; freelance writer and illustrator of children's books, beginning 1987. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Mazza Collection, Findlay, OH; and at Keene State Gallery, Keene, NH. Included in permanent collection at Elizabeth Stone Gallery, Birmingham, MI, then Alexandria, VA.

Awards, Honors

Most Promising New Artist designation, Publishers Weekly, 1989; Best Book for Teens designation, American Library Association, 1990, for Soda Jerk by Cynthia Rylant; Keystone Book designation, 1991, for Cecil's Story by George Ella Lyon; Best Book designation, Publishers Weekly, 1992, for Who Came down the Road? by Lyon; Carolyn Field Award, 1993, for Dreamplace by Lyon; Best Book designation, Booklist, 1999, for Letter to the Lake by Susan Marie Swanson; Best Books designation, Booklinks, 1999, both for Dad and Me and Book, by Lyon.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Dylan's Day Out, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1989, reprinted, Southpaw Books (Maplewood, NJ), 2006.

Mr. Mumble, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1990, reprinted, Southpaw Books (Maplewood, NJ), 2006.

Christmas Always …, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1991.

The Painter, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Dad and Me, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.

Emily's Art, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2001.

Matthew A, B, C, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.

Daisy 1, 2, 3, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2005.

Ivan the Terrier, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2007.

"SECOND-GRADE FRIENDS" SERIES; AND ILLUSTRATOR

(With Pamela Schembri) The Secret Lunch Special, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

(With Pamela Schembri) No More Pumpkins, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Pamela Schembri) The Veterans Day Visitor, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2008.

ILLUSTRATOR

Cynthia Rylant, All I See, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Cynthia Rylant, Soda Jerk (poems), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1990.

George Ella Lyon, Cecil's Story, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1991.

George Ella Lyon, Who Came down the Road?, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Cynthia Rylant, An Angel for Solomon Singer, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.

George Ella Lyon, Dreamplace, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.

SuAnn Kiser, The Catspring Somersault Flying One-handed Flip-Flop, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Susan Patron, Dark Cloud Strong Breeze, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

George Ella Lyon, Mama Is a Miner, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Megan McDonald, My House Has Stars, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.

George Ella Lyon, A Day at Damp Camp, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Angela Johnson, The Rolling Store, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Susan Marie Swanson, Getting Used to the Dark, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Susi G. Fowler, Circle of Thanks, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Marie Bradby, The Longest Wait, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Susan Marie Swanson, Letter to the Lake, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1998.

Gilda Berger, Celebrate!, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

George Ella Lyon, Book, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.

Katharine Kenah, The Dream Shop, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Liz Rosenberg, We Wanted You, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.

Mary Pope Osborne, Happy Birthday, America, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

George Ella Lyon, Mother to Tigers, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Joanne Ryder, My Mother's Voice, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

George Ella Lyon, No Dessert Forever!, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2006.

Coleen M. Paratore, Catching the Sun, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2008.

George Ella Lyon, Sleepsong, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2009.

Sidelights

Peter Catalanotto is an author and illustrator of children's books whose work was described by a Kirkus Reviews critic as "explosively joyful and expressive." In both his self-illustrated titles and the books he has illustrated for other authors, Catalanotto has built an impressive and distinctive body of award-winning work, teaming up with authors such as Cynthia Rylant and George Ella Lyon. As an essayist noted in Children's Books and Their Creators, "the imagery throughout Catalanotto's evanescent watercolors encases emotions and reflects ruminations while enhancing the texts and adding new dimensions to the stories." As the author/illustrator stated in an essay for the Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS), "I think the most successful picture books are when the words and pictures are wed to create something bigger and better than when separate."

"I grew up in a household in East Northport, Long Island, where four of the five children went to art schools in New York City," Catalanotto once told SATA. "I remember when I started school I was amazed to learn everybody didn't draw like my family." Catalanotto was, he admitted, a "shy child. Although I had a lot of friends, I most enjoyed solitude, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, or spending endless hours drawing. Comic book characters were my favorite things to draw, especially ‘Spider-Man.’"

After graduating from high school, Catalanotto enrolled at Pratt Institute, where he took classes in illustration, drawing, and painting. "It was at Pratt that I developed the watercolor technique I still use today," he added. "I think it's important for an artist to find a medium that

suits his/her personality. Watercolor allows me to stop and start without a lot of preparation. I can be loose or tight with my style with washes and rendering."

Graduation from Pratt in 1981, Catalanotto worked for newspapers, working predominately in black and white. Soon he started getting assignments from magazines such as Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Woman's Day, and Redbook. A job painting young-adult book jackets in 1984 led to an illustration project and his first picture-book project, All I See by Cynthia Rylant. "I became enamored with the process of creating paintings for an entire story," Catalanotto recalled. "The research included spending time on a lake, since this was the setting for the story. I spent thirteen hours in a rowboat, sketching and photographing the lake at all angles and times of the day. Seasick and sunburned, I started my sketches."

Catalanotto's first self-illustrated picture book, Dylan's Day Out, is done in black and white and details the adventures of a Dalmatian with a serious case of cabin fever. The book was well received and inspired Catalanotto to pursue further solo efforts in addition to the illustration work he was doing for other writers. His second solo title, Mr. Mumble, was inspired by his own shyness, "a feeling I think most people, especially children, can relate to," he noted. In Christmas Always … he tells a story of a girl who gets more visitors than she expects on Christmas Eve. "When my parents would have parties on Christmas Eve," Catalanotto recalled, "I was always sent to bed long before the party ended. This story is simply what I wished happened to me, instead of being in that bedroom all by myself."

Catalanotto's critically acclaimed picture book The Painter tells the story of a little girl whose father is a busy painter. She is forbidden to enter his studio, and outside of the studio he is usually too busy to give her his full attention. Finally, however, the pair works out a solution, and the girl is rewarded for her patience after dinner with entrance to the studio where she paints her own family portrait. The book was in part inspired by Catalanotto's own child, Chelsea, for whom his studio was off limits because it contained tools that were potentially harmful to a toddler. A Publishers Weekly critic remarked that The Painter "subtly attests to the joy inherent in the creation of both life and art," while in Kirkus Reviews a contributor wrote that Catalanotto's "loose fluid style focuses on important details" and results in a book that "is simply and beautifully done."

Another busy and distracted dad is at the heart of Catalanotto's Dad and Me. Tommy is looking forward to sharing the good news of Gemini IV—the first U.S. space walk—with his father. Rushing home from school, the boy dons a colander as a space helmet, but after he is reprimanded for wearing the colander at dinner, Tommy is sent to his room by his father. Finally, the boy re-connects with his father by giving his dad a newspaper photo of the astronaut with a photograph of his own face inserted in it. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that in Dad and Me "Catalanotto's watercolors deftly capture both Tommy's disappointment and his longing for adventure," while a Publishers Weekly contributor called the book's watercolor images "breathtaking."

Creativity is the focus of Emily's Art, a self-illustrated book inspired by Catalanotto's conversations with students at school presentations. In the story, Emily draws things the way she sees them. For example, to represent her mother's business in one picture, she draws her mother in several places while other family members remain in one place. When she draws her dog, she draws him with large ears, because he is a good listener. She submits the picture of her dog to a school competition. When the judge sees it and thinks Emily has painted a rabbit, the judge praises her, but when Emily explains it is her dog, the judge no longer likes her painting and gives someone else first place. "Catalanotto subtly conveys the value of creating art for art's sake in this tender picture book," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Marta Segal, writing in Booklist, called Catalanotto's illustrations for Emily's Art "stunning," while Wendy Lukehart concluded in School Library Journal that the "creative and heartfelt book is a masterpiece."

A rambunctious Jack Russell terrier is the star of Ivan the Terrier, a fanciful story featuring Catalanotto's gouache and watercolor art. In the story a narrator attempts to tell four traditional bedtime tales, but each effort is derailed when the energetic puppy inserts himself into the story. He startles the three Billy goats gruff, chases the three bears, discombobulates the three pigs, and distracts the gingerbread boy, until it finally becomes sleepy itself. The artist/storyteller exhibits a "keen understanding of terrier behavior and design," wrote a Kirkus Reviews writer, and in Booklist Ilene Cooper observed that in Ivan the Terrier Catalanotto "mixes the soft-edged fairy-tale world with a heady realism" in his humorous tale. Reviewing the imaginative picture book, School Library Journal critic Linda L. Walkins concluded of Ivan the Terrier that the dog's "expressive countenance will make readers chuckle and chortle with delight." In Publishers Weekly a reviewer wrote that the book's ingredients—"a dearth of words, a plethora of familiar storybook characters and a delicious pun in the title"—add up to a book sure to be "read-aloud favorite."

Catalanotto turns to the concept book with Matthew A, B, C, Daisy 1, 2, 3, and Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue. Illustrated with cartoon art, Matthew A, B, C centers on an entire classroom full of students named Matthew. Luckily, each Matthew has a last name beginning with a different letter, and that letter corresponds to a specific trait the boy has. For example, Matthew A. is affectionate, while Matthew N. is nearly naked, wearing only "briefs and a superhero cape" explained Christine M. Hepperman in Horn Book. In School Library Journal, Jody McCoy predicted that Matthew A, B, C will appeal to "Catalanotto's fans and those with a soft spot in their hearts for the quirky."

Set in a dog training school, Daisy 1, 2, 3 features twenty Dalmatians, all named Daisy, and each has a particular talent or trait that corresponds to a number. For example, Daisy 2 wears two name tags, Daisy 3 plays three different musical instruments, and Daisy 20 has fooled twenty fleas. Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue uses a similar strategy to teach youngsters about color. In the book a mama cat has sixteen kittens, and each kitten goes to live with someone who has a color matching the color of that kitten's fur. For example, the red kitten goes to live with a firefighter, the orange kitten lives with a basketball player, and the brown kitten's owner delivers parcels. Carolyn Phelan noted in Booklist that Daisy 1, 2, 3 has "plenty of visual humor," and Blair Christolon wrote in School Library Journal that Catalanotto's "canines exude winning personalities." According to a critic for Kirkus Reviews, in Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue Catalanotto "renders each lively, humorous scene in neutral tones," and closes his story with a "chromatic bash" as all the kittens are reunited.

In addition to picture books, Catalanotto turns to beginning readers in the "Second Grade Friends" books, a joint project with writer Pamela Schembri. In No More Pumpkins Emily and her class have studied pumpkins, made pumpkin art, and written pumpkin stories. Even though the orange squash has lost its charm, after her carved Jack o' lantern is damaged by friend Vinni just before the class open house, Emily is hurt and confused until she understands the feelings that prompted her friend's act. Comparing the series to popular beginning readers by Barbara Park and Patricia Reilly Giff, School Library Journal critic Kelly Roth added that Catalanotto's ink-wash illustrations for No More Pumpkins are "well done and expressive." Other volumes in the series include The Secret Lunch Special and The Veterans Day Visitor, the last described by Horn Book critic Robin L. Smith as a "welcome addition" to classroom discussions of the contributions of U.S. servicemen and women.

In addition to his original stories, Catalanotto has continued to do illustration work for other authors. As he explained at VisitingAuthors.com, "When I illustrate another writer's text, I want to extend the words by adding new ideas into the art…. I enjoy illustrating stories that are ethereal, airy, and emotional, not locked into a specific time and place."

Beginning an ongoing collaboration with writer Lyon, Cecil's Story contains a powerful, yet simple poem about a boy whose father goes off to fight in the U.S. Civil War. In Who Came down the Road? Lyon's story finds a curious boy and his mother discovering a pathway through the woods. Though the mother and son are contemporary, the people who have used the road before—whom the mother speculates about as they walk along—come from epochs as distant as the Civil War and the age of the mastodon. To illustrate Lyon's text for Dreamplace, Catalanotto traveled to Colorado to see Mesa Verde and the Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings. As he explained in SAAS, "The spirit of the Anasazi people … haunted me as I painted their stories. I walked in the same place as my characters." A Publishers Weekly acknowledged the artist's efforts, writing that Dreamplace provides "an atmospheric, shimmering glance" back in time highlighted by "Catalanotto's extraordinary watercolors."

Other collaborations with Lyon include Mother to Tiger, Sleepsong, and No Dessert Forever!, the last which follows the temper tantrum of an angry young girl. Mother to Tigers focuses on Helen Martini, who, with husband Fred Martini, started the first nursery at the Bronx Zoo in 1944. Fred Martini was a zookeeper, and when he began bringing home baby animals for extra care, Helen had a lot of love to give to the baby animals. Through her care, many newborns were given the chance to survive into adulthood. "Catalanotto adds a bold graphic dimension to the story," noted Margaret Bush in her review of Mother to Tigers for School Library Journal. A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that the book's "watercolor paintings are drenched in sunlight while charcoals and chalks on brown paper reinforce the 1940s context," and a Kirkus reviewer cited as "especially breathtaking" Catalanotto's paintings of "lion and tiger faces."

Reviewing SuAnn Kiser's The Catspring Somersault Flying One-handed Flip-Flop, a contributor to Publishers Weekly described Catalanotto's "sun-drenched watercolors … as lush and complex as ever." The artist depicts children of many different cultures in Megan McDonald's My House Has Stars in "watercolor paintings in soft, misty colors" that "reflect the awesome quality of the universe as viewed by youngsters throughout the world," according to Sally R. Dow in School Library Journal. Reviewing Susan Marie Swanson's Letter to the Lake, a Publishers Weekly reviewer enjoyed Catalanotto's "exquisite paintings," while Booklist reviewer Shelle Rosenfeld called the same work a "fine and visually astonishing book about the power of dreaming and memories."

The Longest Wait, a picture book by Marie Bradby, details the effects of a blizzard on an African-American family living in pre-industrial America. Also featuring a realistic setting, Liz Rosenberg's We Wanted You follows a young child from his adoption until he leaves his loving parents' home to attend college. Here Judith Constantinides complimented Catalanotto's "glowing illustrations" in her review for School Library Journal, and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that the "radiant paintings" in We Wanted You "form a kind of treasured photo album."

Working with Mary Pope Osborne, Catalanotto brings to life a home-town America setting in his artwork for Happy Birthday, America, while in Coleen M. Paratore's Catching the Sun his watercolor art enriches a story about a young boy's early-morning walk along the beach. Julie Cummins, in her Booklist review of Happy Birthday, America, commented that Catalanotto's choice of color "lends a candlelike glow to scenes," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews maintained that the picture book's "watercolor illustrations invoke summer." In another Kirkus Reviews appraisal, a critic wrote that the "muted watercolor illustrations" in Catching the Sun contribute to a story that is "warm and winning," while School Library Journal reviewer Susan Weitz dubbed the same picture book "peacefully illustrated" with art that is "always tranquil, [and] sometimes surprising in perspective and beauty."

"I feel very lucky that my job is something I love to do," Catalanotto concluded in SAAS. "My work is a constant challenge, and I grow as a writer and artist with every book. The most important thing I want children to know when I visit their school is this: if you love to write and draw, you can do it for life!"

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Silvey, Anita, editor Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995, p. 125.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 25, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998, pp. 37-52.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of My House Has Stars, p. 508; April 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Letter to the Lake, p. 1454; Sep- tember 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 236; December 1, 1998, Linda Perkins, review of The Longest Wait, pp. 669-670; July, 2001, Marta Segal, review of Emily's Art, p. 2018; July 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Matthew A, B, C, p. 1854; May 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Happy Birthday, America, p. 1605; November 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Daisy 1, 2, 3, p. 500; February 15, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue, p. 1984; September 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Secret Lunch Special, p. 134; August, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Ivan the Terrier, p. 81; August, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of No More Pumpkins, p. 62.

Five Owls, September-October, 1995, Cassie Whetstone, review of The Painter, p. 10.

Horn Book, May-June, 1994, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Dark Cloud Strong Breeze, p. 318; July-August, 2002, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Matthew A, B, C, p. 441; May-June, 2003, Betty Carter, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 369; September-October, 2006, Robin Smith, review of The Secret Lunch Special, p. 575; November-December, 2007, Tanya D. Auger, review of Ivan the Terrier, p. 664; September-October, 2008, Robin L. Smith, review of The Veterans Day Visitor, p. 579.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1995, review of The Painter, p. 1186; July 15, 1999, review of Dad and Me, p. 1131; January 15, 2002, review of We Wanted You, p. 108; February 1, 2003, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 236; April 15, 2003, review of Happy Birthday, America, p. 609; October 15, 2003, review of Daisy 1, 2 3, p. 1269; January 1, 2005, review of Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue, p. 50; July 1, 2007, review of No More Pumpkins; September 1, 2007, review of Ivan the Terrier; December 15, 2007, review of Catching the Sun.

Publishers Weekly, September 29, 1989, review of Dylan's Day Out, p. 65; July 13, 1990, review of Mr. Mumble, p. 53; January 25, 1993, review of Dreamplace, p. 86; July 26, 1993, review of The Catspring Somersault Flying One-handed Flip-Flop, p. 70; August 21, 1995, review of The Painter, p. 64; August 26, 1996, review of My House Has Stars, p. 97; April 20, 1998, review of Letter to the Lake, p. 65; September 21, 1998, review of The Longest Wait, p. 83; October 19, 1998, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 79; August 19, 1999, review of Dad and Me, p. 351; June 18, 2001, review of My House Has Stars, p. 83; July 2, 2001, review of Emily's Art, p. 75; October 15, 2001, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 74; December 10, 2001, review of The Dream Shop, p. 70; February 25, 2002, review of We Wanted You, p. 66; May 20, 2002, review of Matthew A, B, C, p. 64; December 23, 2002, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 71; November 6, 2006, review of No Dessert Forever!, p. 61; July 16, 2007, review of Ivan the Terrier, p. 162.

School Library Journal, September, 1990, Susan Powers, review of Mr. Mumble, p. 196; October, 1996, Sally R. Dow, review of My House Has Stars, pp. 102-103; May, 1998, Tana Elias, review of Letter to the Lake, p. 126; December, 1998, Pam Gosner, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 82; June, 1999, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Book, p. 119; June, 2001, Wendy Lukehart, review of Emily's Art, p. 105; April, 2002, Judith Constantinides, review of We Wanted You, p. 121; June, 2002, Jody McCoy, review of Matthew A.B. C., p. 91; March, 2003, Margaret Bush, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 220; December, 2003, Blair Christolon, review of Daisy 1, 2, 3, p. 111; March, 2005, Corina Austin, review of Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue, p. 168; September, 2007, Linda L. Walkins, review of Ivan the Terrier, and Kelly Roth, review of No More Pumpkins, both p. 160; June, 2008, Susan Weitz, review of Catching the Sun, p. 113.

ONLINE

SimonSays.com,http://www.simonsays.com/ (April 21, 2005), "Peter Catalanotto."

VisitingAuthors.com,http://www.visitingauthors.com/ (November 17, 2008), "Peter Catalanotto."

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Catalanotto, Peter 1959-

CATALANOTTO, Peter 1959-

Personal

Surname is pronounced "KA-ta-la-NOT-to"; born March 21, 1959, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Anthony (a printer) and Ella Virginia (a homemaker; maiden name, Lawrence) Catalanotto; married Jo-Ann Carrie Maynard (a photographer), August 8, 1989; children: Chelsea. Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Basketball, reading.

Addresses

Home 4331 Wismer Rd., Doylestown, PA 18901.

Career

Freelance illustrator in New York, NY, 1982-87; freelance writer and illustrator of children's books, 1987. Exhibitions: Work displayed with Mazza Collection, Findlay, OH; and at Keene State Gallery, Keene, NH. Included in permanent collection of Elizabeth Stone Gallery, Birmingham, MI, then Alexandria, VA.

Awards, Honors

Most Promising New Artist designation, Publishers Weekly, 1989; Best Book for Teens designation, American Library Association, 1990, for Soda Jerk; named Keystone Book (PA), 1991, for Cecil's Story; Best Book designation, Publishers Weekly, 1992, for Who Came down the Road?; Carolyn Field Award, 1993, for Dreamplace; Best Book designation, Booklist, 1999, for Letter to the Lake; Best Books designation, Booklinks, 1999, for Dad and; Me and Book; All I See and Dylan's Day Out both received Junior Literary Guild citations.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Dylan's Day Out, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1989.

Mr. Mumble, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Christmas Always , Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1991.

The Painter, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Dad and Me, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.

Emily's Art, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2001.

Matthew A. B. C., Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.

Daisy 1, 2, 3, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2005.

ILLUSTRATOR

Cynthia Rylant, All I See, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Cynthia Rylant, Soda Jerk (poems), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1990.

George Ella Lyon, Cecil's Story, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1991.

George Ella Lyon, Who Came down the Road?, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Cynthia Rylant, An Angel for Solomon Singer, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.

George Ella Lyon, Dreamplace, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.

SuAnn Kiser, The Catspring Somersault Flying One-handed Flip-Flop, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Susan Patron, Dark Cloud Strong Breeze, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

George Ella Lyon, Mama Is a Miner, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Megan McDonald, My House Has Stars, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.

George Ella Lyon, A Day at Damp Camp, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Angela Johnson, The Rolling Store, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Susan Marie Swanson, Getting Used to the Dark, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Susi G. Fowler, Circle of Thanks, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Marie Bradby, The Longest Wait, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Susan Marie Swanson, Letter to the Lake, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1998.

Gilda Berger, Celebrate!, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

George Ella Lyon, Book, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.

Katharine Kenah, The Dream Shop, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Liz Rosenberg, We Wanted You, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.

Mary Pope Osborne, Happy Birthday, America, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

George Ella Lyon, Mother to Tigers, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Sidelights

Peter Catalanotto is an author and illustrator of children's books whose work was described by a Kirkus Reviews critic as "explosively joyful and expressive." In both his self-illustrated titles and the books he has illustrated for other authors, Catalanotto has built an impressive and distinctive body of award-winning work, teaming up with authors such as Cynthia Rylant and George Ella Lyon and working with editor Richard Jackson of Orchard Books. As an essayist noted in Children's Books and Their Creators, "the imagery throughout Catalanotto's evanescent watercolors encases emotions and reflects ruminations while enhancing the texts and adding new dimensions to the stories."

It is this enhancement of text with pictures for which Catalanotto is especially known. As he stated in an essay for the Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS ), "I think the most successful picture books are when the words and pictures are wed to create something bigger and better than when separate."

As Catalanotto once told Something about the Author (SATA ), "I grew up in a household in East Northport, Long Island, where four of the five children went to art schools in New York City. I remember when I started school I was amazed to learn everybody didn't draw like my family." Catalanotto was, he admitted, a "shy child. Although I had a lot of friends, I most enjoyed solitude, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, or spending endless hours drawing. Comic book characters were my favorite things to draw, especially 'Spider-Man.'"

After graduating from high school, Catalanotto enrolled at Pratt Institute, where he took classes in illustration, drawing, and painting. "It was at Pratt that I developed the watercolor technique I still use today," he added. "I think it's important for an artist to find a medium that suits his/her personality. Watercolor allows me to stop and start without a lot of preparation. I can be loose or tight with my style with washes and rendering."

Graduation from Pratt in 1981, Catalanotto then started freelance illustrating, working initially for newspapers, where he did most of his painting in black and white. He then started getting assignments from magazines such as Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Woman's Day, and Redbook. A job painting the covers of young-adult book jackets in 1984 led, three years later, to the illustrator's association with Richard Jackson at Orchard Books. "I did a couple of jackets for Orchard Books," Catalanotto once explained to SATA. "The editor, Richard Jackson, offered me a picture-book manuscript, All I See, written by Cynthia Rylant. I became enamored with the process of creating paintings for an entire story. The research included spending time on a lake, since this was the setting for the story. I spent thirteen hours in a rowboat, sketching and photographing the lake at all angles and times of the day. Seasick and sunburned, I started my sketches. As the months on this project passed, Jackson and I became friends and had many discussions on writing and illustrating books for children."

This eventually led to Catalanotto's self-illustrated picture book, Dylan's Day Out, done in black and white and detailing the adventures of a Dalmatian with a serious case of cabin fever. The book was well received and inspired Catalanotto to pursue further solo efforts in addition to the illustration work he was doing for other writers. In 1989 came his second solo title, Mr. Mumble. As the artist once explained, "My own shyness as a child inspired this off-beat tale of one being misunderstooda feeling I think most people, especially children, can relate to. I tried to create a character I felt everybody knew, so when I'm approached and told 'Mr. Mumble is exactly like my grandfather,' I feel like I succeeded."

A third picture book followed, Christmas Always , a story of a girl who gets more visitors than she expects on Christmas Eve. "When my parents would have parties on Christmas Eve," Catalanotto recalled, "I was always sent to bed long before the party ended. This story is simply what I wished happened to me, instead of being in that bedroom all by myself."

Book illustration quickly became Catalanotto's creative focus. "I think writing and illustrating picture books suits my personality much more than simply illustrating book jackets and magazine articles," he once told SATA. "I can be quiet and subtle with my work while trying to catch someone's eye. A book jacket yells at you to take it off the shelf. An entire picture book slowly unfolds before you, almost inviting you to stay."

Meanwhile, Catalanotto was also doing illustration work for other authors. The illustrations for Cecil's Story began a long cooperative effort between Catalanotto and author George Ella Lyon. Lyon's powerful, yet simple poem about a boy whose father goes off to fight in the U.S. Civil War speaks of the boy's hopes and fears, leaving the imagery up to Catalanotto to create. "The images her words evoked in my mind were endless," Catalanotto recalled to SATA, "and I spent many nights editing and altering to create what I felt were the right ones."

Further collaborative efforts with Lyon followed. Who Came down the Road? tells of a curious boy and his mother who discover a pathway through the woods. Though the mother and son are contemporary, the people who have used the road beforewhom the mother speculates about as they walk alongcome from epochs as distant as the Civil War and the age of the mastodon. To illustrate Dreamplace Catalanotto traveled to Colorado to see Mesa Verde and the Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings. As he explained in SAAS, "The spirit of the Anasazi people haunted me as I painted their stories. I walked in the same place as my characters." A Publishers Weekly acknowledged the artist's efforts, writing that the book provides "an atmospheric, shimmering glance" back in time highlighted by "Catalanotto's extraordinary watercolors."

Lyon and Catalanotto also worked together on Mother to Tigers, which tells the story of Helen Martini, who, with her husband Fred, started the first nursery at the Bronx Zoo in 1944. Fred Martini was a zookeeper who began bringing home baby animals for extra care, which Helen gave them. Because some young animals could not be brought to the couple's apartment, Helen suggested opening a nursery right at the zoo. Though she had no professional training, she had a lot of love to give to the baby animals, and through her care many newborns were given a chance to survive into adulthood. "Catalanotto adds a bold graphic dimension to the story," noted Margaret Bush in her review for School Library Journal. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that Catalanotto's "watercolor paintings are drenched in sunlight while charcoals and chalks on brown paper reinforce the 1940s context," and in Kirkus a reviewer pointed out that the paintings are "especially breathtaking in the closeups of lion and tiger faces."

Catalanotto has gone on to illustrate the works of several other authors. As he explained at VisitingAuthors.com, "When I illustrate another writer's text, I want to extend the words by adding new ideas into the art. I enjoy illustrating stories that are ethereal, airy, and emotional, not locked into a specific time and place." Reviewing his work for SuAnn Kiser's The Catspring Somersault Flying One-handed Flip-Flop, a contributor to Publishers Weekly found the artist's "sun-drenched watercolors as lush and complex as ever." Writing in Horn Book about the artwork for Susan Patron's Dark Cloud Strong Breeze, Nancy Vasilakis commented that the illustrations possess "an unusual three-dimensional effect" that allows them to "really capture attention."

Portraying children of many different cultures in Megan McDonald's My House Has Stars, Catalanotto created "watercolor paintings in soft, misty colors" that "reflect the awesome quality of the universe as viewed by youngsters throughout the world," according to Sally R. Dow in School Library Journal. Reviewing Susan Marie Swanson's Letter to the Lake, a Publishers Weekly reviewer enjoyed Catalanotto's "exquisite paintings," while Booklist reviewer Shelle Rosenfeld called the same work a "fine and visually astonishing book about the power of dreaming and memories."

A mystical tale from the tundra is presented in Susi Fowler's Circle of Thanks, which describes how the rescuing of an otter sets off ever-increasing acts of benevolence among Arctic animals. Rosenfeld applauded Catalanotto's "beautiful watercolor illustrations" that "dramatically portray the ever-changing landscape of the Far North," while Pam Gosner noted in School Library Journal that the "artist uses unusual points of view to increase the drama and beautifully captures the love shared by the boy and his mother."

The Longest Wait, a picture book by Marie Bradby, details the effects of a blizzard on an African-American family living in pre-industrial America. Thomas's father determines to deliver the mail, blizzard or no, and the family waits in anticipation for him to return. When the determined postman becomes down with a fever following his deliveries, Thomas must again wait before he can go outside and enjoy the winter landscape, this time until his father's fever breaks. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that the artist's "dreamlike drawings" effectively portray the "family's anxiety" and suggest "both past and future events."

The Dream Shop, by Katharine Kennah, is set in a magical store filled with children shopping for their dreams. Unfortunately, the store also holds nightmares, and the two main characters accidently allow one to escape into the store. Though noting that the chaos caused by the nightmare might scare some readers, a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "Kenah and Catalanotto give readers a window-shopping tour that's worth the trip." Featuring a more realistic setting, Liz Rosenberg's We Wanted You follows a young child from his adoption until he leaves home to attend college. The story is narrated by his parents, who assure the boy throughout that he was the child they chose, and that he will always have their love. Although a Kirkus Reviews critic noted that the book does not always use "positive adoption language," Judith Constantinides complimented Catalanotto's "glowing illustrations" in her review for School Library Journal, and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that the book's "radiant paintings form a kind of treasured photo album."

For author Mary Pope Osborne, Catalanotto created a home-town America setting that captivated readers of Happy Birthday, America. In Osborne's story a young boy and his family all gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, going together to parades, a dance performance, a carnival, and finally, the fireworks. Julie Cummins, in her Booklist review, commented that Catalanotto's choice of color "lends a candlelike glow to scenes," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews maintained that "Catalanotto's watercolor illustrations invoke summer."

Catalanotto's self-illustrated titles have also continued to win critical acclaim. The Painter tells the story of a little girl whose father is a busy painter. She is forbidden to enter his studio, and outside of the studio he is usually too busy to give her his full attention. Finally, however, the pair works out a solution, and the girl is rewarded for her patience after dinner with entrance to the studio where she paints her own family portrait.

The Painter was in part inspired by Catalanotto's own child, Chelsea, for whom, as a toddler, his studio was off limits because of all the potentially harmful tools that were used and stored there. A Publishers Weekly critic remarked that the picture book "subtly attests to the joy inherent in the creation of both life and art." A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Catalanotto for creating "sparkling watercolors" in which his "loose fluid style focuses on important details" and results in a book that "is simply and beautifully done." Cassie Whetstone concluded in Five Owls that the author/illustrator "draws a circle with a line of love that connects the mother, father, daughter, and dog and unites them into a unit that we know as a family."

Another busy, distracted dad is at the heart of Dad and Me. Tommy is looking forward to sharing the good news of Gemini IVthe first U.S. space walkwith his father. Rushing home from school, the boy dons a colander as space helmet. Returning from the office, dad is far from amused when he sees his son. Reprimanded for wearing the colander at dinner, Tommy is sent to his room. Finally, Tommy makes his father reconnect with a child's world by giving him a newspaper photo of the astronaut with a photograph of his own face inserted in it. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that "Catalanotto's watercolors deftly capture both Tommy's disappointment and his longing for adventure," while a Publishers Weekly contributor called Catalanotto's watercolors "breathtaking."

Creativity is the focus of Emily's Art. On SimonSays.com, Catalanotto explained that the concept for the book developed through conversations he had with students at school presentations. "To most, [being a good artist] means 'drawing things the way they really look.' I believe, and teach that there are many ways to draw, and everyone draws differently," he explained. In his book, Emily draws things the way she sees them. For example, to represent her mother's business in one picture, she draws her mother in several places while the rest of the family are only in one place. When she draws her dog, she draws him with large ears, because he's a good listener. She submits the picture of her dog to a school competition. When the judge sees it and thinks Emily has painted a rabbit, the judge praises her, but when Emily explains it is her dog, the judge no longer likes her painting and gives someone else first place. "Catalanotto subtly conveys the value of creating art for art's sake in this tender picture book," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Marta Segal, writing in Booklist, called Catalanotto's illustrations "stunning," while Wendy Lukehart concluded in School Library Journal that the "creative and heartfelt book is a masterpiece."

With Matthew A. B. C. Catalanotto began a series of concept books. In addition, as he commented in the Simon and Schuster Web site, the book "marks a return to my cartooning roots." The alphabet book centers on an entire classroom full of students named Matthew. Luckily, each Matthew's last name begins with a different letter, and his letter corresponds to a specific trait he has: for example, Matthew A. is affectionate, while Matthew N. is nearly naked, wearing only "briefs and a superhero cape" explained Christine M. Hepperman in Horn Book. In School Library Journal, Jody McCoy wrote that the book would appeal to "Catalanotto's fans and those with a soft spot in their hearts for the quirky." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "the artist's often wacky depictions offer kids plenty of laughs."

Catalanotto uses a similar concept to explore numerals in Daisy 1, 2, 3. Set in a dog training school, the book features twenty dalmatians, all named Daisy, each of which has a particular talent or trait that corresponds to a number. For example, Daisy 2 wears two name tags, Daisy 3 plays three different musical instruments, and Daisy 20 has fooled twenty fleas. Carolyn Phelan noted in Booklist that the book has "plenty of visual humor," and Blair Christolon wrote in School Library Journal that Catalanotto's "canines exude winning personalities."

An additional concept book, Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue, uses a similar strategy to teach youngsters about color. In the book each animal in a group of kittens goes to live with someone who has a color matching the color of that kitten's fur. For example, the red kitten goes to live with a firefighter, the orange kitten lives with a basketball player, and the brown kitten's owner delivers parcels. According to a critic for Kirkus Reviews, "the artist renders each lively, humorous scene in neutral tones," but closes the book in a "chromatic bash" as all the kittens are reunited.

"I feel very lucky that my job is something I love to do," Catalanotto concluded in SAAS. "My work is a constant challenge, and I grow as a writer and artist with every book. The most important thing I want children to know when I visit their school is this: if you love to write and draw, you can do it for life!"

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Silvey, Anita, editor Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995, p. 125

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 25, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998, pp. 37-52.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 1988, p. 83; October 1, 1989, p. 346; November 1, 1996, p. 508; April 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Letter to the Lake, p. 1454; September 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 236; December 1, 1998, pp. 669-670; July, 2001, Marta Segal, review of Emily's Art, p. 2018; July 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Matthew A. B. C., p. 1854; May 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Happy Birthday, America, p. 1605; November 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Daisy 1, 2, 3, p. 500.

Five Owls, September-October, 1995, Cassie Whetstone, review of The Painter, p. 10.

Horn Book, May-June, 1994, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Dark Cloud Strong Breeze, p. 318; July-August, 2002, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Matthew A. B. C., p. 441; May-June, 2003, Betty Carter, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 369.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1995, review of The Painter, p. 1186; July 15, 1999, review of Dad and Me, p. 1131; January 15, 2002, review of We Wanted You, p. 108; February 1, 2003, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 236; April 15, 2003, review of Happy Birthday, America, p. 609; October 15, 2003, review of Daisy 1, 23, p. 1269.

New York Times Book Review, June 3, 1990, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, September 29, 1989, p. 65; July 13, 1990, p. 53; January 25, 1993, review of Dreamplace, p. 86; July 26, 1993, review of The Catspring Somersault Flying One-handed Flip-Flop, p. 70; August 21, 1995, review of The Painter, p. 64; August 26, 1996, p. 97; April 20, 1998, review of Letter to the Lake, p. 65; September 21, 1998, review of The Longest Wait, p. 83; October 19, 1998, p. 79; August 19, 1999, review of Dad and Me, p. 351; June 18, 2001, review of My House Has Stars, p. 83; July 2, 2001, review of Emily's Art, p. 75; October 15, 2001, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 74; December 10, 2001, review of The Dream Shop, p. 70; February 25, 2002, review of We Wanted You, p. 66; May 20, 2002, review of Matthew A. B. C., p. 64; December 23, 2002, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 71.

School Library Journal, September, 1990, p. 196; October, 1996, Sally R. Dow, review of My House Has Stars, pp. 102-103; May, 1998, p. 126; December, 1998, p. 81; December, 1998, Pam Gosner, review of Circle of Thanks, p. 82; June, 1999, p. 119; June, 2001, Wendy Lukehart, review of Emily's Art, p. 105; April, 2002, Judith Constantinides, review of We Wanted You, p. 121; June, 2002, Jody McCoy, review of Matthew A. B. C., p. 91; March, 2003, Margaret Bush, review of Mother to Tigers, p. 220; December, 2003, Blair Christolon, review of Daisy 1, 2, 3, p. 111.

ONLINE

SimonSays.com, http://www.simonsays.com/ (April 21, 2005), "Peter Catalanotto."

VisitingAuthors.com, http://www.visitingauthors.com/ (June 10, 2005), "Peter Catalanotto."*

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