Beck, Ian 1947–

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Beck, Ian 1947–

(Ian Archibald Beck)

PERSONAL:

Born August 17, 1947, in Hove, Sussex, England; married Emma Gabrielle Stone, May 7, 1977; children: two sons, one daughter. Education: Attended Brighton College of Art, 1963-68.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—West London, England. Agent—Hillary Delamare, The Agency, Ltd., 24 Pottery La., Holland Park, London W11 4LZ, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Illustrator and author. Commercial illustrator of record jackets, greeting cards, calendars, and interior design elements, 1968-82; children's book illustrator, 1982—. Saturday Express (magazine), gardening column illustrator.

MEMBER:

Art Workers Guild, Chelsea Arts Club, Double Crown Club.

AWARDS, HONORS:

W.H. Smith Illustration Award shortlist; Right Start magazine Best Toy Gold Award, for Home before Dark, Lost in the Snow, and The Happy Bee; Ownagata prize (Japan) for Home before Dark.

WRITINGS:

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Little Miss Muffet, Oxford (New York, NY), 1989.

Hansel and Gretel, Doubleday (London, England), 1990.

Emily and the Golden Acorn, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1992.

The Teddy Robber, Barron's Educational (Hauppauge, NY), 1993.

Five Little Ducks, Holt (New York, NY), 1993.

The Orchard ABC, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Ian Beck's Picture Book, Deutsch (London, England), 1994.

Away in a Manger: A Christmas Carousel Book, Orion Children's Books (London, England), 1994.

Oxford Nursery Book, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1995.

ABC, Walker Books (London, England), 1995.

(Reteller) Peter and the Wolf, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1995.

Tom and the Island of Dinosaurs, Doubleday (London, England), 1995.

Poppy and Pip's Bedtime, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996.

Poppy and Pip's Walk, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996.

(Reteller) Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.

(Reteller) Cinderella, Doubleday (London, England), 1999.

Blue Book, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

Green Book, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

The Oxford Nursery Story Book, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

Alone in the Woods, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Home before Dark, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Teddy's Snowy Day, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002, published as Lost in the Snow, Scholastic (London, England), 2002.

The Happy Bee, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.

Little Red Riding Hood, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.

The Three Little Pigs, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.

Chicken Licken, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003.

The Tortoise and the Hare, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003.

(Reteller) The Christmas Story, Doubleday (London, England), 2003.

Kitten Cat, Scholastic (London, England), 2003.

Kitten Cat: Rainy Day Play, Hippo (London, England), 2004.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2004.

The Elves and the Shoemaker, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

The Princess and the Pea, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, Boy Adventurer, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2006, published as The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2008.

ILLUSTRATOR:

Sarah Williams, editor, Round and round the Garden, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Ruth Thomson, My Bear: I Can … Can You?, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1985.

Ruth Thomson, My Bear: I Like … Do You?, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1985.

Deborah Manley, Baby's First Years, Conran Octopus (London, England), 1985.

Sarah Williams, editor, Ride a Cock Horse, 1986.

Margot Coatts, Edible Architecture, Libanus Press (Marlborough, England), 1987.

Sarah Williams, editor, Pudding and Pie, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1989.

Rose Impey, reteller, Read Me a Fairy Tale: A Child's Book of Classic Fairy Tales, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993, published as The Orchard Book of Fairy Tales, Orchard (London, England), 1993.

Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1996.

Adèle Geras, reteller, The Random House Book of Opera Stories, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Antonia Barber, Noah and the Ark, Picture Corgi (London, England), 1998.

Philip Pullman, Puss in Boots: The Adventures of That Most Enterprising Feline, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.

Berlie Doherty, reteller, The Nutcracker, Doubleday (London, England), 2002.

Angela McAllister, Digory the Dragon Slayer, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Marni McGee, Winston the Book Wolf, Walker (New York, NY), 2006.

Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

Angela McAllister, Digory and the Lost King, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2007.

J.M. Trewellard, Butterfingers, D. Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2007.

ADAPTATIONS:

Peter and the Wolf was adapted for audiobook by Corgi Audio. Lost in the Snow was adapted as a British television special, 1998. The Secret History of Tom Trueheart was adapted for audiobook, read by John Curless, HarperChildren's Audio, 2007. Film rights to the series were sold for adaptation as a series of animated films produced by Suppertime Entertainment.

SIDELIGHTS:

During his prolific career as an author and illustrator, Ian Beck has created dozens of picture books for young people ranging in age from toddlers to preteens. Beck's usual medium is watercolor, enhanced by pen-and-ink cross-hatching that adds dimension and texture. While many of his works are retellings of traditional fairy tales, he has also illustrated picture dictionaries and board books for the youngest children, original self-illustrated stories, and middle-grade novels such as The Secret History of Tom Trueheart.

Beck's books for young children include The Orchard ABC, which Sue Smedley dubbed an "impressive" primer in her School Librarian review. The Orchard ABC uses fairy-tale characters to explain letter sounds, while Ian Beck's Picture Book serves as a large-scale introduction to first objects and words. Reviewers found much to like about Ian Beck's Picture Book which features common vocabulary such as weather, movement, and animal words. Although Brian Alderson, writing in the Times Educational Supplement, cited Beck's "highly traditional" illustration style, he concluded that this "unaffected plainness is quietly satisfying." Moreover, a Junior Bookshelf contributor noted the "unusual" manner in which Beck portrays each object, and Books for Keeps critic Andrew Kid praised Beck's ability to unify Ian Beck's Picture Book by using a young girl and her teddy bear as central characters.

Like fairy tales, nursery rhymes are a staple in a child's literary diet, and Beck feeds this hunger with his illustrated nursery rhymes. Some of these books contain a single work, such as Hushabye Baby and Pudding and Pie with their accompanying recordings, as well as Little Miss Muffet and Five Little Ducks. In Little Miss Muffet, Beck's modern-day Miss fends off the spider using magical objects. He also employs a new twist in the counting rhyme Five Little Ducks. While most often the ducks simply disappear one by one, in this tale, which Booklist critic Kay Weisman voted a "good story hour choice," they are rescued from the fox that has captured them. Compiling over seventy tales, The Oxford Nursery Book provides a wealth of riddles, rhymes, and tongue twisters as well as longer poems suitable for preschool through second-grade audiences. A number of critics viewed the work favorably, Magpies contributor Joan Zahnleiter describing the illustrations as "appealing" and a Books for Keeps critic praising the "nostalgic" quality of Beck's watercolor art. In School Librarian, Joan Nellist approved The Oxford Nursery Book highly, predicting that it would improve the reader's vocabulary and encourage young imaginations.

Beck mines the richness of the fairy-tale tradition in illustrated books such as Peter and the Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, The Elves and the Shoemaker, and The Princess and the Pea. Peter and the Wolf includes a recording of the tale read by Beck and accompanied by Russian classical composer Sergei Prokofiev's music of the same title. While a Junior Bookshelf critic considered the work "mainstream," Alderson praised it highly on a number of counts, including its illustration and narration. "Beck rounds out his performance with a completeness that he has not achieved so well before," the critic concluded.

Teddy bears take center stage in many of Beck's original self-illustrated stories, including board books for the very young and picture books such as The Teddy Robber, Home before Dark, Alone in the Woods, and Teddy's Snowy Day. In The Teddy Robber, a giant in search of his missing teddy, steals Tom's teddy bear. When he tries to find his teddy, Tom discovers the truth—the giant is not menacing after all—and helps the giant recover his own missing comfort toy. Writing in Books for Keeps, a reviewer noted that Beck's story effectively illustrates that poverty is the root of stealing, while School Librarian contributor Antonia Hebbert viewed The Teddy Robber as a story of a child "dealing with danger." Putting interpretations aside, a Books for Children reviewer simply called it "marvelous and highly entertaining."

Like The Teddy Robber, Home before Dark, Alone in the Woods, and Teddy's Snowy Day each deal with a toy bear who becomes separated from its caring young owner. In Home before Dark, Lily's bear slips from a stroller during a walk in the park and overcomes numerous obstacles to get home by the girl's bedtime, while Alone in the Woods finds a girl's bear soaring up into the sky, attached to a kite, only to land amidst a teddy bear picnic. In Teddy's Snow Day, the bear topples off a window ledge, only to be found and returned by Santa Claus himself. In Booklist, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, described Home before Dark as a "sweet tale," and Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist that Beck's "simple story, childlike character, and appealing artwork make [Teddy's Snowy Day] … a natural for young children."

Other original stories by Beck include Emily and the Golden Acorn, in which a giant oak tree is transformed via a girl's imagination into a sailing ship that whisks away Emily and her brother. The children's voyage into adventures makes for a "rip-roaring" story, according to a Books for Keeps critic. Sadly, a severe storm topples the tree, leaving only a golden acorn as a promise of future voyages. In Books for Keeps, a contributor described another original story by Beck, Tom and the Island of Dinosaurs, as a "rip-roaring yarn" about an island inhabited by dinosaurs and a girl named Katy who sends a message in a bottle asking for help for herself and the dinosaurs. Tom goes to the rescue and, according to School Librarian reviewer Teresa Scragg, a "wonderful adventure story" ensues.

Geared for older readers, The Secret History of Tom Trueheart marked Beck's first novel-length work. Called "a charming twist on fairy tales" by School Library Journal contributor Kim Dare, the book introduces a twelve-year-old boy who is the youngest of seven brothers living in the Land of Story. The brothers work for the Story Board, and play roles in the various stories the board operates. On his birthday, Tom discovers that his six brothers—all named Jack—have been kidnapped by a creature intent on ending stories absolutely and for all time. In tracking down his brothers, Tom winds his way through the stories they were part of, meeting such characters as Snow White and Rapunzel along the way. Although noting that the book is light on action, a Kirkus Reviews writer concluded that "Beck's fluid writing keeps the plot from dragging," and a Publishers Weekly contributor praised "Beck's thoroughly entertaining device." In addition to being adapted as an audiobook, The Secret History of Tom Trueheart inspired a sequel, Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories.

Beck's work in children's books has involved creating artwork for texts by other writers, such as Rose Impey's Read Me a Fairy Tale: A Child's Book of Classic Fairy Tales, Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussy Cat, and J.M. Trewellard's Butterfingers, the last which is distinguished by Beck's "charming black-and-white silhouette illustrations," according to Booklist contributor Debbie Carton. For Philip Pullman's fairly-tale retelling Puss in Boots: The Adventures of That Most Enterprising Feline. Beck's artwork brings to life the story of a youngest son who, upon his father's death, only inherits the family cat. But what a cat it is! According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Beck's illustrations "keep things percolating visually" with their detail, borders, and dialogue balloons. Calling the book "funny and hip," Susan Hepler predicted in School Library Journal that Puss in Boots will appeal to readers young and old alike.

Beck commented about several elements of his career to CA: "Regarding Inspiration: All sorts of things and minor incidents happening in real life, overheard conversations, a throw-away phrase, an incident in a news broadcast, a scene from a film, a piece of music: they all go into the mix that makes up my inspiration. After that it really is good old fashioned gardening work. First nurturing the idea, watering it like a seed in a pot and allowing it to grow, in secret at first, in the warm dark place in the imagination where ideas germinate and develop. When it has finally grown daring, to tackle it and prune it; cut it back with a sharp pair of shears. The editing process is one I enjoy particularly. I tend to write long and then shorten and trim with a good and sympathetic editor. I find that having confidence and trust in my editor is the most important thing in the after life of the book.

"Regarding My Working Methods: I work at home in the back part of the front room of my suburban house in West London. I am close to the river Thames and the wide green spaces of Richmond deer park. I have always worked in the chaos of family life, I would probably not work as well in the splendid isolation of a garden building or separate studio. I have the great pleasure of seeing my children grow and develop, and have shamelessly stolen their experiences from them to fuel my books. I write in long hand in boring A4 refill pads, often on the long train journeys (I do not and cannot and have never driven a car) I often take while visiting schools and libraries all over the UK. I then type the results into the computer, and then add and subtract accordingly.

"Drawings are made on the other side of the same room. I work in watercolour and ink on good watercolour paper and in a very traditional way. I rough everything out on detail paper and when I am happy with the composition I transfer the result to the watercolour paper and colour it in adding the final pen lines at the end to key everything together.

"I am married with three grown up children, my wife is Emma, daughter of the distinguished wood engraver, letter cutter, and landscape painter Reynolds Stone, CBE RDI."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1993, Kay Weisman, review of Five Little Ducks, p. 1968; January 15, 1994, Janice Del Negro, review of Read Me a Fairy Tale: A Child's Book of Classic Fairy Tales, p. 926; December 15, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Peter and the Wolf, p. 706; October 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Owl and the Pussycat, p. 355; March 1, 2001, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Home before Dark, p. 1285; August, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of The Oxford Nursery Treasury, p. 2125; October 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Teddy's Snowy Day, p. 332; December 1, 2007, Debbie Carton, review of Butterfingers, p. 38.

Books for Keeps, May, 1990, review of Little Miss Muffet, p. 11; July, 1991, review of The Teddy Robber, p. 7; November, 1993, review of Five Little Ducks, p. 9; January, 1995, review of Emily and the Golden Acorn, p. 7; November, 1995, review of Tom and the Island of Dinosaurs, p. 9; January, 1996, review of Peter and the Wolf, p. 7; May, 1996, Stephanie Nettell, reviews of Poppy and Pip's Bedtime and Poppy and Pip's Walk, p. 24; November, 1996, review of The Oxford Nursery Book, p. 7; March, 1997, Andrew Kidel, review of Ian Beck's Picture Book, p. 17; March, 2001, review of The Oxford Nursery Treasury, p. 19.

Books for Your Children, fall, 1989, review of Teddy Robber, p. 2; fall, 1990, review of Hushabye Baby, p. 2; summer, 1990, L. Craig, review of Pudding and Pie, p. 7.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2001, review of Puss in Boots: The Adventures of That Most Enterprising Feline, p. 32.

Economist (London, England), November 26, 1994, review of Ian Beck's Picture Book, pp. 145-146.

Junior Bookshelf, December, 1994, review of Peter and the Wolf, pp. 198-199; June, 1995, review of Ian Beck's Picture Book, p. 93.

Kirkus Reviews, April, 1993, review of Five Little Ducks, p. 452; July 15, 2001, review of Puss in Boots, p. 1033; November 1, 2002, review of Teddy's Snowy Day, p. 1610; January 15, 2007, review of The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, p. 70; July 15, 2007, review of Butterfingers.

Magpies, March, 1993, Mandy Cheetham, review of Emily and the Golden Acorn, p. 27; March, 1996, Joan Zahnleiter, review of The Oxford Nursery Book, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, March 12, 2001, review of Oxford Nursery Treasury, p. 93; March 26, 2001, review of Home before Dark, p. 91; June 25, 2001, review of Puss in Boots, p. 72; September 23, 2002, review of Teddy's Snowy Day, p. 38; February 12, 2007, review of The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, p. 89.

School Librarian, May, 1989, Audrey Ricks, review of Little Miss Muffet, p. 53; May, 1990, Antonia Hebbert, review of The Teddy Robber, p. 58; February, 1994, Teresa Scragg, review of Tom and the Island of Dinosaurs, p. 15; May, 1995, Janet Sumner, review of Ian Beck's Picture Book, pp. 57-58; May, 1995, Sue Smedley, review of The Orchard ABC, p. 58; May, 1996, Joan Nellist, review of The Oxford Nursery Book, p. 56; summer, 1999, Vida Conway, review of Lost in the Snow, p. 73; spring, 2001, Sarah Merrett, review of Alone in the Woods, p. 17.

School Library Journal, March, 1989, Reva Pitch Margolis, review of Little Miss Muffet, p. 154; November, 1992, Carolyn Jenks, review of Emily and the Golden Acorn, p. 65; February, 1994, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Read Me a Fairy Tale, pp. 94-95; November, 1995, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Peter and the Wolf, p. 87; December, 1996, Judith Gloyer, review of The Owl and the Pussy Cat, p. 98; March, 2001, Piper L. Nyman, review of Home before Dark, p. 192; July, 2001, Helen Foster James, review of The Oxford Nursery Treasury, p. 92; August, 2001, Susan Hepler, review of Puss in Boots, p. 172; October, 2002, Jessica Snow, review of Teddy's Snowy Day, p. 98; February, 2007, Kim Dare, review of The Secret Life of Tom Trueheart, p. 115.

Times Educational Supplement, January 6, 1995, Brian Alderson, "Orange Bears and Hectic Ducks"; December 1, 2000, review of Puss in Boots, p. 22; July 21, 2006, Fiona Lafferty, review of The Secret of Tom Trueheart, Boy Adventurer, p. 29.

ONLINE

Ian Beck Home Page,http://www.tomtrueheart.com (June 15, 2008).

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