Freschet, Gina 1960–
Freschet, Gina 1960–
PERSONAL: Born March 9, 1960, in San Francisco, CA; daughter of Ferucio (an educator) and Berniece (an author) Freschet; married Steve Cieslawski (an artist), November 27, 1997. Education: School of Visual Arts (New York, NY), B.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—New York, NY.
CAREER: Children's book author and illustrator.
The Lute's Tune, illustrated by Steve Cieslawski, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
(Self-illustrated) Naty's Parade, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.
(Self-illustrated) Beto and the Bone Dance, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.
(Self-illustrated) Winnie and Ernst, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.
(Self-illustrated) Up and at 'Em with Winnie and Ernst, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
Feet Man and Mr. Tiny, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Author's work has been translated into Spanish.
Berniece Freschet, Bernard Sees the World, Scribner (New York, NY), 1976.
Berniece Freschet, Bernard of Scotland Yard, Scribner (New York, NY), 1978.
Berniece Freschet, Bernard and the Catnip Caper, Scribner (New York, NY), 1981.
Contributor of illustrations to various periodicals, including the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Psychology Today, and Ms.
SIDELIGHTS: Beginning her publishing career by illustrating picture-book texts written by her mother, Berniece Freschet, Gina Freschet's self-illustrated picture books include Naty's Parade, Beto and the Bone Dance, and several chapter books featuring best friends Winnie the possum and Ernst the otter. Praised by Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman as "appeal[ing] as much to adults … as to children" due to the "bright, detailed" watercolor illustrations and "eccentric woodland characters," Winnie and Ernst contains four short stories that introduce the two friends as they go to a birthday party, learn to bake nut bread, invite friends for a garden party, and learn to keep their spirits up despite a run of bad luck.
The duo's adventures continue in Up and at 'Em with Winnie and Ernst as the friends baby-sit a nest of unhatched eggs, enter their writing in a poetry contest, and explore the night sky with a telescope and good friends. Praising Up and at 'Em with Winnie and Ernst, Gillian Engberg wrote in Booklist that Freschet's "gentle humor and mildly madcap adventures will charm young children," while School Library Journal contributor Ann Knickerbocker cited the book's "sophisticated vocabulary" and "colorful illustrations." In her School Library Journal review Sue Morgan praised Freschet's animal friends as characters "in the grand tradition of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad," while a Kirkus Reviews critic predicted that Willie and Ernst "will join [James Marshall's] George and Martha in the ranks of fine literary friendships."
Naty's Parade, one of Freschet's first self-illustrated picture books, focuses on the Mexican dance festival of Guelaguetza. The festivities, including descriptions of music, color, and dance, are relayed to the reader via Naty, a young girl who is participating in the celebration dressed in a mouse costume. In her text Freschet skillfully conveys the "surrealism" of the "wild parade," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, blending the two to convey Naty's timidity after she gets separated from her father. Although her hometown seems strange and unfamiliar due to the festivities, Naty finds her father in time to join the festivities. Freschet's colorful illustrations combine with her text to leave readers resonating with the "melodies and bright hues" of a traditional south-of-the-border festival, according to the Kirkus Reviews writer. In Publishers Weekly a critic wrote appreciatively of Freschet's "dreamlike, folk-art-inspired imagery," noting that it pairs nicely with her "accessible travelogue" detailing the sights and sounds of this colorful Mexican carnival.
In Beto and the Bone Dance Freschet returns readers to Mexico for a story involving the country's celebration of the Day of the Dead—known in Mexico as el Dia de los Muertos. As Beto and his father wander the colorful marketplace gathering supplies for the festival, the boy wonders what gifts he can offer with his prayers for his recently deceased grandmother. Beto remains undecided until later that night. Falling asleep while waiting to participate in the midnight bone dance, the young boy dream that his grandmother's spirit is cradling him in her otherworldly arms. When he awakens, Beto realizes that the perfect gift is a picture he can draw himself, to show her how much he has grown in her absence. Writing in Booklist, Annie Ayres noted that "Freschet's festive illustrations add a happy sparkle to a simple story," and School Library Journal contributor Ann Welton called Beto and the Bone Dance "a sprightly, informative," and "slightly scary tale" featuring richly hued illustrations that give add a "reassuring and joyful" element.
In Feet Man and Mr. Tiny Freschet spins a humorous story about a man who loves to dance but becomes the brunt of many jokes due to the fact that he has enormous feet. Fortunately, a mis-step results in a fast friend after Mr. Tiny gets caught between Feet Man's giant toes. After Mr. Tiny encourages his oversized new friend to enter a contest sponsored by a shoe company, the two travel to a Florida beach as part of the prize. There Feet Man finds that large feet are definitely an asset when his ability to dance on the ocean water wins him an appreciative audience. In a review for Book-Loons.com, Hilary Daninhirsch wrote that the "major appeal" of Feet Man and Mr. Tiny is "the fun language used, including alliteration, repetition, and the occasional play on words." Also noting the slapstick humor underlying Freschet's moral—that it is our differences, not our similarities, that make us special—a Kirkus Reviews critic predicted that the author/illustrator's "affably absurd tale … will have kids grinning."
Freschet once commented: "My mother wrote children's books so I remember from an early age spending hours in the library and checking out dozens of books for her research and our pleasure. I remember writing and illustrating my first little book when I was in third grade, so I guess I was about nine years old. The book was about a horse, of course: a little black foal who would grow up to become a sort of Pegasus. I was under the influence of Walter Farley's Big Black Horse and Black Beauty at the time.
"While growing up, I continued writing and illustrating my own stories, often about virtuous maidens who loved unwisely and expired of unrequited affection. In my early teens, I was under the influence of Arthurian romances by Howard Pyle and admired the classics of Arthur Rackham, N.C Wyeth, Edmund Dulac, John Tenniel, and E.H. Shepard.
"Coming from a big, boisterous family, I often escaped by immersion in [Laura Ingalls Wilder's] 'Little House' books and was fascinated by the work of Garth Williams. As a lifelong admirer and collector of children's books, I'm delighted to be a creator of them as well. I only hope to be as imaginative as my idols."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2000, Helen Rosenberg, review of Naty's Parade, p. 1747; August, 2000, Isabel Schon, review of Naty's Parade, p. 2155; October 15, 2001, Annie Ayres, review of Beto and the Bone Dance, p. 401; October 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Winnie and Ernst, p. 327; March 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Up and at 'Em with Winnie and Ernst, p. 1202.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2001, review of Beto and the Bone Dance, p. 139.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2000, review of Naty's Parade, p. 382; October 1, 2001, review of Beto and the Bone Dance, p. 1422; October 1, 2003, review of Winnie and Ernst, p. 1224; March 1, 2005, review of Up and at 'Em with Winnie and Ernst, p. 286; April 15, 2006, review of Feet Man and Mr. Tiny, p. 405.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2000, review of Naty's Parade, p. 84; October 22, 2001, "Seasonal Celebrations," p. 79.
School Library Journal, June, 1992, Jane Marino, review of The Lute's Tune, p. 92; March, 2000, Ann Welton, review of Naty's Parade, p. 197; May, 2000, Maria Otero-Boisvert, review of Naty's Parade, p. 190; October, 2001, Ann Welton, review of Beto and the Bone Dance, p. 118; November, 2003, Sue Morgan, review of Winnie and Ernst, p. 94; March, 2005, Ann Knickerbocker, review of Up and at 'Em with Winnie and Ernst, p. 172; April, 2006, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Feet Man and Mr. Tiny, p. 106.
BookLoons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (December 10, 2006), Hilary Daninhirsch, review of Feet Man and Mr. Tiny.