Carlson, Nancy (Lee) 1953-
CARLSON, Nancy (Lee) 1953-
(Nancy L. Carlson)
PERSONAL: Born October 10, 1953, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Walter J. (a contractor) and Louise (a homemaker; maiden name, Carlson) Carlson; married John Barry McCool (a graphic designer), June 30, 1979; children: Kelly Louise, John Patrick, Michael Barry. Ethnicity: "Swedish." Education: Attended University of Minnesota—Duluth, 1972-73, and Santa Fe Workshop of Contemporary Art, 1975; Minneapolis College of Art and Design, B.F.A. (printmaking), 1976. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: "Physical fitness, running, biking, watching my children do sports, skiing. I am also a big figure skating fan."
CAREER: Artist, author, and illustrator, 1975—. Visiting artist at schools, including Bemidji State University, 1983, Minnetonka Schools, MN, 1985, and Minneapolis School of Art and Design, 1986. Lecturer and public speaker. Card buyer for Center Book Shop, Walter Art Center, 1977-80; arts and craft specialist for city of South St. Paul, MN, 1978; illustrator of greeting cards for Recycled Paper Products, 1982. Creator of CD-ROM products. Illustrator of calendars, mugs, T-shirts, posters, hats, and gift wrap. Exhibitions: "Commencement Exhibition," Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN, 1976; "New Works by Three Artists," Honeywell Plaza, Minneapolis, MN, 1980; "Drawings: Scandinavian Reflections," Dolly Fiterman Gallery, 1980; "Minnesota Women," WARM Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, 1981, 1982; Minnesota State Fair Art Exhibition, 1981; "American Art: The Challenge of the Land," Pillsbury World Headquarters, 1981; "Illustrator's Art," Inland Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, 1982; "Young Minnesota Artists," University Gallery, University of Minnesota, 1982; "Hausman Years: 1975-1982," Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN, 1982; "Original Art," Master Eagle Gallery, New York, NY, 1983, 1985; "Alumni Show," Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN, 1986; "The Art of Author Illustrator Nancy Carlson," American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 1989; "Metaphorical Fish," University Art Museum, 1990; "Children's Book Illustration," Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN, 1993; "Children's Book Illustration," Plymouth Church, Minneapolis, MN, 1994; "Whimsical World of Josie Winship and Nancy Carlson," Bloomington Art Center, Bloomington, MN, 1996.
AWARDS, HONORS: Drawing awards from Northshore Arts Festival, 1975, Minnesota State Fair Art Exhibition, 1981, Young Minnesota Artists, University of Minnesota, 1982, Women in International Design, 1983, and Minneapolis Graphic Design Association, 1985; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1985, for Louanne Pig in the Talent Show; Children's Choice Award, 1996, for Sit Still!
Harriet's Recital, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1982.
Harriet and Walt, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1982.
Harriet and the Roller Coaster, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1982.
Harriet and the Garden, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1982.
Harriet's Halloween Candy, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1982.
Loudmouth George and the Cornet, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1983.
Loudmouth George and the New Neighbors, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1983.
Loudmouth George and the Fishing Trip, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1983.
Loudmouth George and the Sixth-Grade Bully, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1983.
Loudmouth George and the Big Race, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1983.
Bunnies and Their Hobbies, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.
Louanne Pig in Making the Team, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.
Louanne Pig in the Mysterious Valentine, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.
Louanne Pig in the Perfect Family, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.
Louanne Pig in the Talent Show, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.
Louanne Pig in Witch Lady, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.
Bunnies and Their Sports, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
Arnie and the Stolen Markers, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
Arnie Goes to Camp, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.
I Like Me!, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.
Poor Carl, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
Arnie and the New Kid, Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
A Visit to Grandma's, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
Take Time to Relax, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
What If It Never Stops Raining?, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
Life Is Fun!, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
How to Lose All Your Friends, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
Arnie and the Skateboard Gang, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.
Sit Still!, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.
ABC, I Like Me!, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
Snowden, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
It's Going to Be Perfect!, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
Hooray for Grandparents' Day, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.
Harriet and George's Christmas Treat, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
How About a Hug?, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.
My Best Friend Moved Away, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.
Smile a Lot!, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There!, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.
It's Not My Fault, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.
My Family Is Forever, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
(As Nancy L. Carlson) Joyce Kessel, Halloween, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1980.
(As Nancy L. Carlson) Geoffrey Scott, Egyptian Boats, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1981.
(With Trina Schart Hyman, Hilary Knight, and Peter E. Hanson) Pamela Espeland and Marilyn Waniek, The Cat Walked through the Casserole and Other Poems for Children, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.
Susan Pearson, The Baby and the Bear, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
Susan Pearson, When the Baby Went to Bed, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
Rufus Klein, Watch Out for These Weirdos, Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
Susan Pearson, Lenore's Big Break, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
Jacqueline K. Ogburg, The Masked Maverick, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1994.
Rick Walton, What to Do When a Bug Climbs in Your Mouth and Other Poems to Drive You Buggy, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1995.
Also author of a play, Ted Just Ted, for Stages Theatre Company, and an adaptation of Hooray for Grandparents' Day.
ADAPTATIONS: The following books have been adapted for audiocassette: Harriet and Walt, Live Oak Media, 1984; Harriet's Recital (with filmstrip), Random House, 1984, Live Oak Media, 1985; Harriet and the Roller Coaster, Live Oak Media, 1985; Harriet and the Garden, Live Oak Media, 1985; Harriet's Halloween Candy, Live Oak Media, 1985; Loudmouth George and the Cornet, Live Oak Media, 1986; Loud-mouth George and the Fishing Trip, Live Oak Media, 1986; Loudmouth George and the Sixth-Grade Bully, Live Oak Media, 1986; Loudmouth George and the Big Race, Live Oak Media, 1986; Loudmouth George and the New Neighbors, Live Oak Media, 1987; Louanne Pig in the Talent Show, Live Oak Media, 1987; Louanne Pig in Witch Lady, Live Oak Media, 1987; Louanne Pig in the Perfect Family, Live Oak Media, 1987; Louanne Pig in Making the Team, Live Oak Media, 1987; I Like Me! ("Read Along" cassette series), Weston Woods, 1988, (with filmstrip), Weston Woods, 1988, and Puffin Books, 1997.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Henry's Show and Tell, for Viking.
SIDELIGHTS: Nancy Carlson is "the prolific author/illustrator of some of the most beloved characters in picture books," declared a critic for Kirkus Reviews. With over forty books published, Carlson has charmed young readers for more than two decades with a cast of warm and fuzzy animal characters and small humans who have big hopes and overcome a variety of fears. Critics claim her cartoon-like style is well suited to her gently humorous tales in which dogs, cats, pigs, frogs, and children all undergo typical childhood adventures and sometimes traumas, from learning to be optimistic to realizing the mistake of stealing. Throughout her work, Carlson's characters learn how to cope with a variety of challenging situations in stories that illustrate for young readers how to make the right decision. Reviewers often dub Carlson's books optimistic and upbeat; the author believes, as she noted on her Web site, Nancy's Neighborhood, "that life should be fun for everyone, but especially for children." In addition to her busy writing schedule—producing on average two books per year—Carlson also visits over 150 classrooms annually as a guest author and illustrator.
From the age of five, Carlson knew that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. A lifelong resident of Minnesota, she was raised in Edina, and had, as she noted on her author Web site, "a happy and fulfilling childhood surrounded by an outgoing family." Carlson attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, majoring in printmaking, and shortly after graduation, she began illustrating children's books.
Quickly realizing she would rather illustrate books that she had written herself, Carlson began combining her own pictures with stories and produced her first book, Harriet's Recital, in 1982. The book features a lovable canine that generally takes on more than she can handle. In the debut title, Harriet becomes a nervous wreck when her ballet teacher, Miss Betty, announces an upcoming recital. Though fearing she will forget every step of her dance routine, Harriet nonetheless builds up her courage for the big day. Carlson wrote four more books about Harriet, including Harriet's Halloween Candy, a tale about the negative effects of greed, in which the dog forgets all rules about the art of sharing. She hides all her treats so that not even her brother Walt can find them. Walt also makes an appearance in Harriet and Walt, a tale of winter fun. After the first big snowfall, Harriet is anxious to go outside and play, and even ends up having fun despite her mother's demand that she entertain her younger brother as well.
Another favorite of younger readers, Loudmouth George is featured in a quintet of his own books. In Loudmouth George and the Sixth-Grade Bully, the obstreperous rabbit is tormented by a bully until Harriet helps him find a way to stand up for himself and discourage the troublemaker from any future incidents. In Loudmouth George and the Big Race, George figures that, with a bit of practice, a two-mile race will be a cinch for him. However, after repeatedly delaying his training, George finds he is not as prepared for the race as he would like to be. When a family of pigs moves in next door in Loudmouth George and the New Neighbors, George intentionally ignores them, thinking that smelly pigs are beneath him. His other neighbors do not feel the same way, however, and enjoy the newly-arrived porcine family. Finally, after listening to the fun the others are having while playing outside, the bigoted bunny gives up and joins in, too, in this "gentle look at prejudice," according to Lee Bock in School Library Journal.
Louanne Pig, in turn, stars in her own series of five books. With Louanne Pig in the Talent Show, excitement is in the air with the advent of the school talent show. Louanne, however, feels that she has no talents to share, unlike all her friends who plan to show off their unique abilities. After deciding to stay home on the big night, she begins to wonder about all of the fun she will miss. In Louanne Pig and the Mysterious Valentine, the little porker becomes excited when a lovely valentine arrives, but she cannot figure out who sent it. With only a bit of green ink to guide her, Louanne must sort through all of her friends to find her secret admirer. Her friend Arnie the cat makes an appearance in Louanne Pig in Making the Team. With tryouts for the school's cheerleading team arriving fast, Louanne seeks out the help of Arnie, who in turn asks for her help with his football skills.
A cat who loves mice, Arnie eventually received a book of his own, Arnie and the Stolen Markers, in 1987. One day Arnie sees a set of markers for sale at Harvey's Candy and Toy Shop and decides that he must have them. However, since he has wasted all his allowance on candy and his spendthrift friend Louanne refuses to lend him any money, Arnie slips the markers under his shirt and out of the store. Once he returns home, Arnie's mother discovers his thievery and returns him to the store, where the owner makes Arnie work for the stolen marker set. "Brightly spirited characters" help Carlson convey the message to children that stealing is wrong without the author "didactically haranguing the impropriety of stealing" according to Cathy Woodward in School Library Journal.
In Arnie and the New Kid, Carlson's 1990 picture book, a boy named Philip, who is in a wheelchair, enters Arnie's school. Arnie leads the other children in teasing Philip about his physical disability, but when Arnie injures his leg and finds out how difficult maneuvering on crutches is, he begins to sympathize with Philip. Philip and Arnie begin a friendship that continues long after Arnie's cast is removed. Writing in School Library Journal, Ellen Fader praised the happy ending, as well as Carlson's "lighthearted treatment of a common situation." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books critic Deborah Stevenson applauded Carlson's illustrations, saying the characters complemented the text by "convey[ing] emotions that the text left unspoken."
While producing the "Arnie" series, Carlson also worked on other books to help youngsters calm their childhood fears and develop a healthy outlook on life. Take Time to Relax, the author's 1991 book, features a family of busy beavers who fill their every waking hour with activities from ballet classes and soccer games to tennis lessons and volleyball matches. When a terrible snowstorm prevents the beaver family from leaving their home, the ambitious family discovers that spending time alone with each other is more important than any other activity. A critic in Publishers Weekly liked the "hyperbole and humor" Carlson included in her text and noted that Take Time to Relax reinforces "an important message to today's over-programmed families."
Carlson followed Take Time to Relax with What If It Never Stops Raining?, another book that concentrates on children coping with their anxieties. Young Tim constantly worries about everything, even about a never-ending rain flooding his house. However, with his mother's support, Tim learns how to distinguish between worrying about real dangers, like falling off of the playground equipment, and needless anxiety about unfamiliar situations, like his new school bus driver getting lost. While admitting the ending is "a bit too tidy," a reviewer in Publishers Weekly said Carlson "proficiently handled" the delicate subject of how to quiet a child's irrational fears.
More gentle advice for kids comes in How to Lose All Your Friends, a tongue-in-cheek self-help book that tells kids how to push in line, tattle on others, and whine, complemented by "zippy" artwork that clearly distinguishes between "having fun and being mean," according to Booklist's Mary Harris Veeder. A Visit to Grandma's provides another lesson, this time about the positive effects of change. A rodent family visits grandmother, who has moved to Florida, and little Tina is disappointed at first because her pumpkin-piebaking grandma has been transformed into a sunglasses-wearing, aerobic-exercising lady. But soon Tina learns to appreciate this new and improved Grandma, even though the apron has been replaced with a jogging suit. "This subtle but important message is served up with jazzy trimmings," commented a contributor for Publishers Weekly, "and makes its point deftly."
Patrick is a hyperactive kid, featured in Sit Still!, whose mother decides to keep him busy with activities rather than treating his rambunctiousness with medicine. Reviewing the title in Booklist, Ilene Cooper thought the book would "cause some controversy." While noting that medication for children similar to Patrick is sometimes helpful, Cooper also predicted that "kids who are hyperactive will appreciate one of their own portrayed in a positive light." Less controversial is the self-confident pig in I Like Me! who makes a second appearance in ABC, I Like Me!, "a cheery companion book that celebrates the self," according to a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Each letter of the alphabet is used to affirm a positive quality about herself. "This concept book vibrates with bright colors, happy thoughts, and joie de vivre," announced Virginia Opocensky in School Library Journal. Booklist's Cooper had similar praise for the affirming alphabet book, concluding, "It's hard to be down around a book this up."
A little mouse is ready to begin school in Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!, in which "Carlson brings her vibrant brand of encouragement to bear," according to a contributor for Kirkus Reviews. Reviewing the same title in School Library Journal, Marianne Saccardi commented that "the classroom is a cheery, welcoming place, and the story will reassure youngsters who are both eager for and apprehensive about their first school experience."
Carlson did not forget her dog, bunny, and cat friends from the outset of her career. With Hooray for Grandparents' Day, Arnie makes a reappearance, though a sad one initially because he does not have anyone to bring to school on Grandparents' Day. When a librarian suggests that he just bring some adult he knows, Arnie discovers that the ones he chooses are all out of town. But when the day comes, other adults in Arnie's life make an appearance, lifting his spirits. Booklist's Cooper lauded "Carlson's goofy-looking animals-as-people," whom she felt were "quite appealing and lighten the story's mood." Harriet the dog and George the bunny are likewise reprised in Harriet and George's Christmas Treat. When the two see Mrs. Hoozit leaving the grocery shop at the outset of the holiday season, they figure they will need to avoid her in the future, for it is time for her awful fruitcakes. They manage to stay out of her path all week, but on Christmas Eve brother Walt is cajoled in for a visit, only to run outside praising Mrs. Hoozit's fudge. By the time Harriet and George arrive, however, the fudge is all gone, but still Mrs. Hoozit has a treat for them: she saved a fruitcake from last year. A reviewer for School Library Journal commended Carlson for the expressions on her characters, which "are great fun." A Publishers Weekly contributor similarly called the book "a holiday joke that feasters young and old can appreciate." Booklist's Denise Wilms also found the book pleasing, describing it as "a light, amusing Christmas treat."
More positive, upbeat messages are offered in Smile a Lot! and There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There! In the first book, a frog narrator demonstrates that when you are feeling down, the best thing you can do is put a smile on your face. Smiles can work on bullies and moms, the frog advises. "Carlson knows how to make dry humor work for three-year-olds," wrote a contributor for Kirkus Reviews, while a writer for Publishers Weekly also praised the title, noting that "Carlson goes beyond 'grin and bear it' to give readers a glimpse of karmic justice; in exchange for his upbeat attitude, the frog is justly rewarded." And Shelle Rosenfeld, writing in Booklist, similarly commented, "Employing a characteristically charming animal cast, Carlson touts the best way to get through life's ups and downs."
With her 2002 There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There!, Carlson provides a subtle response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This "reassuring picture book," as Kathy Broderick described it in Booklist, features a young girl who looks out her window at the world to discover that it is not as scary as it seems. There may be big, frightening dogs and thunderstorms, but there are also just as many compensating joyous things in the world. Shelley B. Sutherland, writing in School Library Journal, felt that Carlson "hits just the right note" in sharing with children their power "to choose between facing frightening things or hiding from them."
Hitting the right note is what Carlson has consistently done in her picture books, according to reviewers. From tales of talkative rabbits and outgoing cats and dogs, to stories of little boys and girls facing their worst fears, Carlson's tales present valuable life lessons without resorting to didacticism. Humor and colorful illustrations are considered the trademarks of her work.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 1990, p. 1797; October 15, 1992, p. 438; January 1, 1993, p. 810; February 1, 1994, p. 1010; September, 1, 1994, Mary Harris Veeder, review of How to Lose All Your Friends, p. 49; June 1, 1995, p. 1782; April 15, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Sit Still!, p. 1445; April 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of ABC, I Like Me!, p. 1337; June 1, 1998, Helen Rosenberg, review of Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!, p. 1838; July, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of It's Going to Be Perfect!, p. 1885; June 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Hooray for Grandparents' Day, p. 1904; April 1, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of My Best Friend Moved Away, p. 1477; July, 2001, Ilene Cooper, How About a Hug?, p. 2017; October 1, 2001, Denise Wilms, review of Harriet and George's Christmas Treat, p. 323; September 15, 2002, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Smile a Lot!, p. 238; October 1, 2002, Kathy Broderick, review of There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There, p. 332.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1989, p. 143; May, 1990, Deborah Stevenson, review of Arnie and the New Kid, p. 209-210.
Five Owls, September, 1988, p. 8; May, 1990, p. 93; May, 1993, pp. 104, 122.
Horn Book Guide, spring, 1993, p. 23; spring, 1994, p. 28; spring, 1995, p. 28; fall, 1998, Christie Heppermann, review of It's Going to Be Perfect!, p. 286; spring, 1999, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Snowden, p. 25; spring, 2001, Frieda F. Bastian, review of Hooray for Grandparents' Day, p. 31.
Junior Bookshelf, April, 1993, p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1989, p. 460; May 15, 1990, p. 726; August 15, 1991, p. 1086; August 15, 1994, p. 1122; May 1, 1997, review of ABC, I Like Me!, pp. 717-718; May 15, 1998, review of It's Going to Be Perfect!, p. 735; May 15, 1999, review of Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!, p. 797; April 1, 2001, review of My Best Friend Moved Away, pp. 495-496; June 15, 2002, review of Smile a Lot!, p. 877; August 1, 2002, review of There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There!, pp. 123-124.
Magpies, March, 1992, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, October 9, 1987, p. 84; April 29, 1988, p. 74; September 9, 1988, p. 130; December 9, 1988, p. 61; December, 7, 1990, review of Take Time to Relax, p. 81; August 30, 1991, review of A Visit to Grandma's, p. 81; November 9, 1992, review of What If It Never Stops Raining?, p. 82; March 1, 1993, p. 58; July 26, 1993, review of Life Is Fun!, p. 70; October 8, 2001, review of Harriet and George's Christmas Treat, p. 63, review of How About a Hug?, p. 67; August 26, 2002, review of Smile a Lot!, p. 66.
School Library Journal, February, 1988, Cathy Woodward, review of Arnie and the Stolen Markers, p. 58; September, 1988, p. 154; June, 1990, Ellen Fader, review of Arnie and the New Kid, p. 97; August, 1991, p. 143; November, 1991, p. 90; February, 1993, p. 70; November, 1993, p. 76; August, 1995, p. 121; May, 1997, Elizabeth C. Fiene, review of I Like Me!, p. 87; June, 1997, Virginia Opocensky, review of ABC, I Like Me!, p. 85; August, 1998, Susan Knell, review of It's Going to Be Perfect!, p. 133; January, 1999, Sue Sherif, review of Snowden, pp. 79-80; July, 1999, Marianne Saccardi, review of Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!, p. 67; August, 2000, Sally R. Dow, review of Hooray for Grandparents' Day!, p. 144; June, 2001, Gay Lynn van Vleck, review of My Best Friend Moved Away, p. 105; October, 2001, review of Harriet and George's Christmas Treat, p. 63; December, 2001, Melinda Piehler, review of How About a Hug?, p. 97; October, 2002, Kathleen Simonetta, review of Smile a Lot!, p. 99; November, 2002, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There!, p. 112; February, 2003, Lee Bock, review of Loudmouth George and the New Neighbors, p. 96.
Times Educational Supplement, February 19, 1993, p. R2.
Nancy's Neighborhood,http://www.nancycarlson.com/ (May 19, 2003).