Bishop, Gavin 1946-
BISHOP, Gavin 1946-
PERSONAL: Born February 13, 1946, in Invercargill, New Zealand; son of Stanley Alan (a railway employee) and Doris Hinepau (McKay) Bishop; married Vivien Carol Edwards (a teacher and artist), August 27, 1966; children: Cressida, Charlotte, Alexandra. Ethnicity: "I am of European and Maori extraction." Education: University of Canterbury (New Zealand), Diploma of Fine Arts (with honors), 1967; Christchurch Teachers' College, diploma (with distinction), 1968. Politics: Liberal. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, movies, gardening (in fits and starts), traveling, food.
CAREER: Illustrator, author, educator. Linwood High School, Christchurch, New Zealand, art teacher and department chair, 1969-89; Christ's College, Christchurch, New Zealand, head of art department, 1989-1999; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, professor, 1996. UNESCO children's literature workshop leader in China, 1992, and Indonesia, 1997; judge for Noma Concours, Tokyo, Japan, 2003. Exhibitions: Bratislava Biennale, 1985, Premi Catalonia D' Illustracio, 1986, 1988.
MEMBER: New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN New Zealand Inc.), New Zealand Illustrators' Guild, Christchurch Book Festival Trust.
AWARDS, HONORS: Russell Clark Medal for Illustration, New Zealand Library Association, 1982, for Mrs. McGinty and the Bizarre Plant; New Zealand Children's Picture Book of the Year, New Zealand Government Publishers and New Zealand Literary Fund, 1983, for Mr. Fox; Grand Prix, Noma Concours, UNESCO and Kodansha International, 1984, for illustrations in Mr. Fox; Russell Clark Medal for Illustration finalist, New Zealand Library Association, 1988, for A Apple Pie, and 1991, for Katarina; AIM Award for Children's Picture Book of the Year, 1994, for Hinepau; New Zealand Post Picture Book of the Year shortlist, 1997, for Maui and the Sun: A Maori Tale, 2000, for The Video Shop Sparrow, 2001, for Stay Awake, Bear!, and 2002, for Tom Thumb: The True History of Sir Thomas Thumb; New Zealand Post Picture Book of the Year, New Zealand Children's Book of the Year, and Spectrum Print Award, all 2000, all for The House That Jack Built: Being the Account of Jack Bull, Esq., Who Sailed There from These Shores to a Land Far Away to Live There and Trade with the Natives of That Said Land Twelfth Day ofSeptember 1798; Margaret Mahy Lecture Award, New Zealand Book Council, 2000; New Zealand Post Children's Book of the Year Award, 2003, for Weaving Earth and Sky: Myths and Legends of Aotearoa; grant from the Arts Council of New Zealand.
FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Mrs. McGinty and the Bizarre Plant, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1981.
Bidibidi, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1982.
(Reteller) Mr. Fox, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1982.
(Reteller) Chicken Licken, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1984.
The Horror of Hickory Bay, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1984.
(Reteller) Mother Hubbard, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1986.
A Apple Pie, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1987.
(Reteller) The Three Little Pigs, Ashton Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.
Katarina, Random House (Auckland, New Zealand), 1990.
Hinepau, Ashton Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1993.
Maui and the Sun: A Maori Tale, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Little Rabbit and the Sea, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(Reteller) Maui and the Goddess of Fire, Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
(Reteller) The House That Jack Built: Being the Account of Jack Bull, Esq., Who Sailed There from These Shores to a Land Far Away to Live There and Trade with the Natives of That Said Land Twelfth Day of September 1798, Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1999.
(Reteller) The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1999, Shortland (Denver, CO), 2000.
Stay Awake, Bear!, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
(Reteller) Tom Thumb: The True History of Sir Thomas Thumb, Random House (Auckland, New Zealand), 2001.
(Reteller) Three Billy-Goats Gruff, Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 2003.
The Cracker Jack, illustrated by Jill Allpress, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Spider, illustrated by Peter Stevenson, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
There Is a Planet, illustrated by Andrew Trimmer, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Cabbage Caterpillar, illustrated by Jim Storey, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.
(Self-illustrated) Good Luck Elephant, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.
The Secret Lives of Mr and Mrs Smith, illustrated by Korky Paul, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.
I Like to Find Things, illustrated by Neil Vesey, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
(Illustrator) Joy Cowley, The Bears' Picnic, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
Jump into Bed, illustrated by Craig Brown, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1997.
It Makes Me Smile, illustrated by Emanuela Carletti, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1998.
Mice Like Rice, illustrated by Astrid Matijasevic, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1998.
(Self-illustrated) Rhymes with Ram, Lands End (Auckland, New Zealand), 1998.
Lucky Grub, illustrated by Jim Storey, Wendy Pye (Auckland, New Zealand), 1999.
Katherine O' Brien, The Year of the Yelvertons, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1981.
Kathleen Leverich, The Hungry Fox, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.
Joy Watson, Pets, Department of Education (Wellington, New Zealand), 1988.
Beverley Dietz, The Lion and the Jackal, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Jeffrey Leask, Little Red Rocking Hood, Ashton Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 1992.
Philip Bailey, reteller, The Wedding of Mistress Fox, North-South (New York, NY), 1994.
Kana Riley, A Moose Is Loose, Brown Publishing Network (Wellesley, MA), 1994.
Joy Cowley, The Video Shop Sparrow, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.
Joy Cowley, Pip the Penguin, Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 2001.
Robert Sullivan, Weaving Earth and Sky: Myths and Legends of Aotearoa, Random House (Auckland, New Zealand), 2002.
Joy Cowley, The Nice Little Tractor, Scholastic (Auckland, New Zealand), 2004.
Author of libretto for Terrible Tom, a ballet commissioned by Royal New Zealand Ballet Company, 1985, and Te Maia and the Sea-Devil, a ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet Company, 1986; author of scripts for TVNZ television series Bidibidi, broadcast November and December, 1990, and Bidibidi to the Rescue, broadcast November and December, 1991, both based on his book Bidibidi.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Text and illustrations for a Magicbook in collaboration with the HIT lab at Canterbury University.
SIDELIGHTS: Gavin Bishop is one of the most prolific and highly honored illustrator/authors in New Zealand. The winner of numerous awards for several of his forty-plus picture books and beginning readers in his native country, Bishop is noted for his attention to background details in pictures that augment, often humorously, the stories they accompany. In addition to providing illustrations that are considered colorful and lively, Bishop has made a name for himself as an effective reteller of such traditional tales as The Three Little Pigs, Mr. Fox, The House That Jack Built: Being the Account of Jack Bull, Esq., Who Sailed There from These Shores to a Land Far Away to Live There and Trade with the Natives of That Said Land Twelfth Day of September 1798, and Tom Thumb: The True History of Sir Thomas Thumb. Additionally, he has also established himself as an original storyteller, dealing in narratives that highlight the native Maori culture of his New Zealand homeland, such as Katarina and Maui and the Sun, and in pleasant animal tales for young readers, including the award-winning Little Rabbit and the Sea and Stay Awake, Bear!
Born in Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand, Bishop lived with his parents in his grandmother's little house "with a big rhododendron in front," as Bishop once told CA. He started school when the family moved to Kingston, "a tiny collection of houses at the end of the railway line from Invercargill," where they lived until he was eight. "At the single-teacher school in Kingston, there were only eleven pupils, and I was the only one in my class. Some days I got a ride to school on the back of a huge horse with two other kids. We had to climb the school gate to get onto its back," Bishop once recollected. "I had a dog called Smudge and a cat called Calla Callutsa, which was given to us by some Greek neighbors when they shifted to Wellington."
"In Kingston, we had no electricity or telephone, and we didn't have a car," Bishop continued. "Our radio ran on a car battery, but reception was poor because of the surrounding mountains. The Southland Times arrived spasmodically on the freight train from Lumsden. It was the Auckland Weekly news, though, that excited us all, with the pictures of the young Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953—the pageantry and the crown jewels."
At the age of eight, Bishop returned with his family to Invercargill, where he discovered the joys of a free library system and joined the public library. He was introduced to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit through an extract in a magazine when he was nine. "I have read it several times since and still find it a source of inspiration," Bishop once noted. Bishop knew since he was a small child that he would someday be an illustrator. "For as long as I can remember I've liked pictures and stories," Bishop told Barbara Murison in an interview reprinted on Bishop's Web site. "I knew that I wanted to be an artist from a very early age, and luckily I was encouraged by my parents and teachers to hold onto this idea. Books have always been a part of my life and I was read and sung to by my mother and grandmother when I was little."
At the age of eighteen, he enrolled at the Canterbury University School of Fine Arts in Christchurch to study painting. "I was fortunate to be a student there when Russell Clark, a well-known New Zealand illustrator, taught there," Bishop once recalled. Bishop has also noted, however, that his art school training caused a breach with a love of drawing representative objects which he has had since childhood. "When I went to art school I had to suspend that interest in drawing things—objects—animals, people, all those sorts of things, because it wasn't fashionable to draw anything in particular in art school," Bishop explained to Doreen Darnell in a Talespinner interview. "We had to paint abstract paintings—in fact, to paint anything that looked as though it had any sort of subject matter was called illustrative. And we were told very firmly to get rid of that from our school work, so it wasn't until some years after leaving art school that I found the courage to leave the abstract painting behind me and start painting images again. The basics are all much the same. It's just that I now allow myself to draw images."
After graduating with honors in painting in 1967, he spent a year at the Christchurch Secondary Teachers' College, and for the next thirty years, Bishop earned much of his living teaching art, twenty years at a high school in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the final ten years at Christ's College in that same city. "From early in my life, I wanted to be an art teacher," Bishop once reflected. The two interests which have remained constant throughout his life, Bishop has noted, are his love of teaching and children's literature. "Books, stories, and pictures have provided a lifelong fascination for me. Children's picture books in particular, with their intertwined rhythms of pictures and words combining to tell a story in an often deceptively simple way, have always interested me."
Bishop's first self-illustrated children's book, Mrs. McGinty and the Bizarre Plant, won the Russell Clark Medal for Illustration from the New Zealand Library Association. In this story, the butt of the neighborhood children's jokes becomes a local hero of sorts when the plant she buys at the store grows to enormous proportions, eventually attracting the attention of a team of botanists, who airlift the giant plant for their collection. Zena Sutherland of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books found this an "amusing" plot, but offered greater praise for Bishop's illustrations, calling them "boldly designed, usually dramatically composed, nicely detailed." A critic for Junior Bookshelf similarly singled out Bishop's artwork, stating that he "most effectively and subtly depicts the transformation of Mrs. McGinty's character and outlook." "I love gardening and growing things," the author once admitted. "My wife and I have times when we talk and read about nothing else. On other occasions, however, we avoid the garden for months on end."
Bishop followed this first effort with adaptations of traditional stories for children as well as original tales. His illustrations for Mr. Fox drew comparisons to Maurice Sendak from Marcus Crouch in Junior Bookshelf, and Margery Fisher of Growing Point likewise noted that Bishop's "idiosyncratic illustrations" add an element of "implied social satire" to the story that "lifts the folk-tale far away from its simple origins." Mr. Fox is based on an old Massachusetts chain story and tells the tale of Mr. Fox who is out walking one day and finds a bumblebee which he puts in his bag. He deposits this bag, in turn, with a woman and tells her not to open it. But of course she does, and once it is opened the bumblebee flies out and is promptly eaten by a red rooster. Mr. Fox continues his walk and visits various houses until he finally meets his match with another woman.
Bidibidi is an original tale about a high country sheep in New Zealand who grows tired and bored with her uneventful life and diet of mountain grass. Following the rainbow in search of adventure, she has excitement galore. Similarly, the "vigor and humor" of Bishop's illustrations steal the show, according to a reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book, in the author's retelling Chicken Licken, the tale of a chick who thinks the sky is falling when an acorn lands on her head. "The traditional tale may be slight," wrote Ralph Lavender in School Librarian, "but the superbly autumnal pictures make it into something which is quite special." A review of Bishop's Mother Hubbard garnered the following comment from Marcus Crouch of Junior Bookshelf: "Gavin Bishop's distinguishing mark, apart from his brilliant technique, is his attention to detail. . . . These pictures are for reading." And a Kirkus Reviews commentator, who began by noting that there is little need for another version of the story of The Three Little Pigs, concluded the review of Bishop's rendering by remarking, "Why not another version, if it's this good?"
Original tales are served up in several other Bishop offerings. The Horror of Hickory Bay takes place on a quiet summer day on Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. While the grownups rest after a holiday meal, a monster emerges from the sea. But young India Brown—modeled on Bishop's youngest daughter, Alexandra—and Uncle Atho and the dog Smudge team up to defeat the sea creature. A Apple Pie is a traditional English alphabet book based on an early Victorian rhyming version that follows one animal character after the other in pursuit of a slice of apple pie. With Katarina, Bishop tells a story closer to home. Based on the life of his great aunt, Katarina McKay, the picture book tells the story of a young Maori woman who, in the winter of 1861, leaves her tribal home in the North Island of New Zealand to travel and meet up with her Scottish husband on the South Island. A short time later, the white settlers begin to attack the Maori homeland in the North Island to win more land for European settlers, cutting off the woman's contact with her family. Only when her brother arrives does Katarina learn what happened to her people.
Bishop further explores the New Zealand and Maori experience in titles such as Hinepau, Maui and the Sun, and Maui and the Goddess of Fire. "Hinepau is a legend-like story that I named after my mother whose family were Maori/Scots," Bishop once explained to CA. The tale features a Maori woman with red hair and green eyes who is a weaver, but all of her weaving comes out backwards or inside out. Her tribe thinks she is a witch, and she is sent away to a lonely hut where she weaves all day. As if in punishment for this, the villagers are stricken by threat of death by starvation and thirst when a volcano covers all the surrounding countryside in ash. Hinepau then saves her villagers, however, making the ultimate sacrifice. In Maui and the Sun and Maui and the Goddess of Fire, Bishop adapts Maori legends about a trickster. In Maui and the Sun, the trickster always plays jokes on his older brothers, but nothing could equal the time he tries to capture the sun. Booklist's Julie Corsaro found the tale "simple and lively." Maui makes a return in Maui and the Goddess of Fire, in which the mischief-maker brings fire to his people. Indeed, this playful trickster was also responsible, according to legend, for inventing the barbed fishing hook, an eel trap, and strong rope. "I would in the future like to produce more work of a bicultural nature," Bishop once told CA. "New Zealand children should know and feel comfortable with their Maori heritage. Besides creating a better understanding of Maori-Pakeha values, a knowledge of Taha-Maori would provide a richer and more stimulating country in which to live."
Focusing on animal characters is the 1997 Little Rabbit and the Sea, the tale of a little bunny who has never seen the sea. All day long he thinks about the water, and at night he dreams he is sailing on a little boat in the midst of the big blue sea. Asking various relatives what the sea is like, he gets different answers from each. His curiosity grows and grows until one day a seagull takes him for a flight to see for himself. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found this story to be "a poignant and affirming tribute to the powers of imagination" whose illustrations "radiate a lustrous quality reminiscent of ceramic glaze."
Bishop commented to Murison that he still finds the "picture book format fascinating and [I] know that I will never exhaust all the ideas for books I would like to try." He further noted, "I'm very interested in seeing how far the traditional shape of a thirty-two page picture book can be pushed. I am also interested in using subject matter that is unexpected in this kind of book." Speaking with Doreen Darnell, he responded to a question of whether story or picture should come first in his books: "I've found through experience that you can get yourself into a lot of difficulties if you don't have a pretty definite shape of the story before you get started on the illustrations." Bishop further explained, "I might have a few ideas for some of the pictures, but I spend a lot of time on the story and once that's in a pretty finished state, then I can start playing around with the design of the book, and the illustrations. But if you get to a stage where you are still changing and working on the story, you can create a lot of extra work for yourself." Bishop also once explained to CA that he has drawn from personal experience for some of his projects. "I have become more and more interested in sifting through the memories of my own childhood in search of useful material for stories and ideas for pictures. The ballet libretto for Terrible Tom, commissioned by the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 1985, is loosely based on incidents from my early years in Invercargill."
Bishop has traveled extensively, not only throughout New Zealand, but also to many countries overseas—England, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Greece, Holland, Canada, and Malaysia. He has been to Japan four times, and in 1990, he and his youngest daughter took part in a cultural exchange on the island of Sakhalin in the Soviet Far East. In 1992, he went to Beijing and Shanghai at the invitation of UNESCO to give lectures and run workshops on children's literature. In 1997, he went to Indonesia to work again for UNESCO. He has visited the United States several times and in the spring of 1996 taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
It was while teaching in the United States that Bishop came up with the idea for The House That Jack Built. Because of its distinctive New Zealand theme, however, New York editors felt the book would do better in New Zealand. When he returned to New Zealand from his year at the Rhode Island School of Design, he showed an editor the idea and sold it immediately. One of his most popular books, The House That Jack Built gives this traditional rhyme a colonial flavor, by setting the action in New Zealand in 1798. Also, in Bishop's take on the tale, the tension between native Maori and the newcomers from Europe plays a central part in the action. The House That Jack Built went on to win several awards in New Zealand, including the New Zealand Post Picture Book of the Year and Book of the Year.
Working specifically for the American market, Bishop created Stay Awake, Bear!, the story of a bear who decides not to waste all his time hibernating. To stay awake, he turns up the radio, makes jam tarts, and watches videos. But when summer comes, the bear is so tired that he sleeps all through the season. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that this title "lacks the depth of imagination" of Little Rabbit and the Sea, but that it still "conveys a cozy mood with autumnal watercolor hues." School Library Journal critic Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan, however, found the tale "lively," predicting it would appeal to children who find napping "a waste of time." MacMillan also praised Bishop's artwork for expressing the "jovial characters" and their "delight in winter camaraderie."
Bishop told Murison that the work he does for the American market is different than what he creates for the New Zealand market. According to Bishop, "The American market . . . is a much more conservative one than ours." Speaking with Doreen Darnell, he noted that publishing in the United States is important to his career. "From a financial point of view, it can make being a writer and illustrator possible, because the print runs are much bigger and the potential income from those books is much greater."
Bishop has also had a go at retelling the Brothers Grimm tale Tom Thumb: The True History of Sir Thomas Thumb. In Bishop's version, he "has added episodes of his own which appeal more to the modern child's need for action," according to Margaret Kedian, writing in Magpies. Kedian lauded the book, calling the artwork "stunning," and further remarking that "Bishop has . . . excelled himself with the text" in this, his "best book so far."
"I like to think that books are such an efficient and convenient unit that they will always be around," Bishop concluded to Murison on the future of picture books. "They are so simple and mobile. . . . Theact of nursing a child and reading a much loved picture book seems to me to be such a natural human thing to do that something extraordinary will be needed to replace it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dunkle, Margaret, editor, The Story Makers, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Australia), 1987.
Gaskin, Chris, Picture Book Magic, Reed Publishing (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.
Marantz, Sylvia and Kenneth Marantz, Artists of the Page, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1992.
Booklist, May 1, 1996, Julie Corsaro, review of Maui and the Sun, p. 1508; December 1, 1999, John Peter, review of The Video Shop Sparrow, p. 709; August, 2000, Isabel Schon, review of Little Rabbit and the Sea, p. 2154.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1983, Zena Sutherland, review of Mrs. McGinty and the Bizarre Plant, p. 163; April, 1985, review of Chicken Licken, p. 141.
Faces: People, Places, and Cultures, January, 2001, review of Maui and the Sun, p. 46.
Growing Point, May, 1983, Margery Fisher, review of Mr. Fox, p. 4080; July, 1987, p. 4837.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1982, review of Mrs. McGinty and the Bizarre Plant, pp. 128-129; June, 1983, Marcus Crouch, review of Mr. Fox, p. 107; February, 1988, Marcus Crouch, review of Mother Hubbard, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1990, review of The Three Little Pigs, pp. 101-102.
Magpies, September, 1999; March, 2002, Margaret Kedian, review of Tom Thumb: The True History of Thomas Thumb, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, November 28, 1994, review of The Wedding of Mistress Fox, p. 61; October 20, 1997, review of Little Rabbit and the Sea, p. 74; March 20, 2000, review of Stay Awake, Bear!, p. 90.
School Librarian, June, 1985, Ralph Lavender, review of Chicken Licken, p. 133.
School Library Journal, November, 1985, p. 66; March, 1990, p. 188; December, 1994, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of The Wedding of Mistress Fox, pp. 122-123; July, 1996, Pam Gosner, review of Maui and the Sun, p. 77; December, 1997, Maura Bresnahan, review of Little Rabbit and the Sea, p. 81; December, 1999, Lisa Gangeni Krapp, review of The Video Shop Sparrow, p. 90; March, 2000, Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan, review of Stay Awake, Bear!, p. 178.
Talespinner, September, 1999, Doreen Darnell, "An Interview with Gavin Bishop," pp. 22-29.
Gavin Bishop Home Page,http://www.gavinbishop.com/ (May 20, 2003), Barbara Murison, "An E-mail Interview with Gavin Bishop."
New Zealand Book Council,http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/ (March 4, 2003), "Bishop, Gavin."