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Macdonald, Suse 1940-

MacDONALD, Suse 1940-

PERSONAL: Given name rhymes with "news"; born March 3, 1940, in Evanston, IL; daughter of Stewart Y. (a professor) and Constance R. McMullen; married Stuart G. MacDonald (an architect), July 14, 1962; children: Alison Heath, Ripley Graeme. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Attended Chatham College, 1958-60; University of Iowa, B.A., 1962; also attended Radcliffe College, Art Institute, and New England School of Art and Design.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—4646 Robbins St., San Diego, CA 92122. Agent—Phyllis Wender, 38 East 29th St., New York, NY 10016.

CAREER: United Press International, New York, NY, executive secretary to the picture editor, 1964; Caru Studios, New York, NY, textbook illustrator, 1964-69; MacDonald & Swan Construction, South Londonderry, VT, architectural designer, 1969-76; freelance advertising artist, 1982-85; author and illustrator, 1986—.

MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Graphic Artists' Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS: Editor's Choice citation, Booklist, Best Books of the Year citation, School Library Journal, and Pick of the Lists citation, American Booksellers Association, all 1986, Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers, and Caldecott Honor Award, American Library Association, both 1987, all for Alphabatics; Gold Medal for preschool book, National Parenting Publication Awards, for Nanta's Lion: A Search-and-Find Adventure.

WRITINGS:

SELF-ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOKS

Alphabatics (Junior Literary Guild selection), Bradbury (New York, NY), 1986.

(With Bill Oakes) Numblers, Dial (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Bill Oakes) Puzzlers, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Bill Oakes) Once upon Another, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.

Space Spinners, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.

Sea Shapes, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1994.

Nanta's Lion: A Search-and-Find Adventure, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.

Peck, Slither and Slide, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1997.

Elephants on Board, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1999.

Look Whooo's Counting, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Here-a-Chick, Where-a-Chick?, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

ILLUSTRATOR

Hank de Zutter, Who Says a Dog Goes Bow-Wow?, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.

Jean Marzollo, I Love You: A Rebus Poem, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Jean Marzollo, I See a Star, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Suse MacDonald's children's books use bright, imaginative illustrations to illustrate simple stories and concepts for preschoolers. Her first book, Alphabatics, is also one of her most successful, having been honored as a runner-up for the prestigious Caldecott Award and numerous other accolades. Aimed at children between two and five years old, it uses two-page spreads to transform letters into images. In Puzzlers, which she wrote with Bill Oakes, colorful collages of numbers introduce concepts such as widest, tallest, facing, back-to-back, and so on. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the illustrations and declared that "the fun-filled presentation . . . will teach children in an encouraging way."

MacDonald and Oakes collaborated again on Once upon Another, which features two stories, one reading from front to back, the other from back to front. The stories are retold versions of favorite old fables, "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The Lion and the Mouse," and the characters are represented by abstract forms created from torn paper. The book is "brilliant in color, conceptions, and design," noted a Kirkus Reviews writer, who also called it "a feast for the eye." Collages were featured again in Hank de Zutter's Who Says a Dog Goes Bow-wow?, illustrated by MacDonald. This book presents sixteen animals and tells how the sounds each makes are interpreted in various languages. A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that the book encourages global thinking and praised MacDonald's "expressive menagerie" depicted in "bursts of color."

In Sea Shapes MacDonald transforms basic shapes such as diamonds, ovals, and spirals into a variety of sea creatures. A left-hand page shows the transformation of a diamond into multiple fish scales, for instance, and the right-hand page shows the fish in its natural environment. The book also includes a glossary providing information about the creatures and their habitats. According to a Horn Book reviewer, "Ocean animals and simple shapes become a very elegant combination" in this book.

MacDonald's book Nanta's Lion: A Search-and-Find Adventure features a Masai girl searching for the lion that has been hunting her village's cattle. Nanta is unsuccessful, but attentive readers will find an image of the elusive lion in the book's final spread, built up gradually by the die-cut pages in what a Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed a "snazzy surprise ending."

Another animal-oriented book, Peck, Slither and Slide, encourages readers to guess which creature is pecking, slithering, or sliding. In comments to CA, MacDonald described it as "a playful concept book about animal behavior, action verbs, and visual discovery." The author rounded out the book with notes about the animals' size, habitat, and way of life. MacDonald described Elephants on Board as "a playful tale about a dozen elephants' trip to the circus. When their bus breaks down they decide that nearby mammoth construction equipment can get them there on time. A ride is found but not in the way they expect." In Look Whooo's Counting, she commented, "the reader joins wise old Owl on a moonlit flight and counts from one to ten by finding the number shapes hidden in the animals she encounters." And, MacDonald wrote, "Here-a-Chick, Where-a-Chick? takes young readers on a search for five little chicks. Lifting the flap on each page the reader finds a cat, two mice, three ducks, a cow, and two pigs. The chicks do turn up as a cute surprise on the last page."

MacDonald also illustrated two books by Jean Marzollo. MacDonald told CA: "I Love You: A RebusPoem is a simple poem for the very young reader, featuring commonplace pairings of child-friendly objects. Each item named and the refrain, 'I love you,' are featured as icons in the poem and then are incorporated into a larger picture on the facing page. I See a Star is a Christmas pageant story. Each page shows different children dressing for their parts in the play."

MacDonald once told CA:"After college I married, and my husband and I settled in New York City. I wanted to get a job using my artistic talents, but several years passed before I landed a position at Caru Studios, where I made illustrations for textbooks. I stayed there for five years.

"Then my husband and I moved back to the family farm in Weston, Vermont, and took over a construction company. We worked together in the construction business for ten years and raised two children. While both kids were young, we spent a lot of time at the farm pond, and I found myself searching, as I had when I was a child, among the reeds and beneath the surface to find out what lived there. I began making drawings and thinking once again about illustrating books.

"When our second child entered first grade, I decided to pursue that interest. I quit my job and went back to school. I drove back and forth between Vermont and Boston for four years, attending classes at Radcliffe, the Art Institute, the New England School of Art and Design, and other schools in the city. I took courses in all sorts of things, including illustration, silk-screening, paper making, sketching, drawing, design, topography, and writing. It is hard to pinpoint the time when I decided that children's book illustration was the field in which I wanted to concentrate my energies. My interests just seemed to lean in that direction.

"Eventually I enrolled in Marion Perry's classes in children's book writing and illustration at Radcliffe. It was then that I really became involved in children's books. After completing my studies, I bought an old house in South Londonderry, Vermont, in partnership with two other artists. We spent six months renovating the building and setting up six artist's studios, one for each of us and three which we rented. I put together a portfolio and began to look for work, in both advertising and the children's book field. My first assignments were paper sculpture for advertising. These kept me going financially as I began to make the rounds of the children's book publishers.

"The idea for Alphabatics emerged from the wealth of information which I gathered while taking topography in art school. In that course, we worked exclusively with letter forms, shrinking and expanding them and manipulating their shapes in various ways. I was intrigued by the process and felt there were possibilities in it for a book. It was several years, however, before I put my ideas down on paper. Once I did, the first editor I showed it to bought the idea, and I was on my way.

"Selling that book, which was my first, was very exciting. I love the picture book format and feel it offers challenging opportunities for creative illustration."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 1993, p. 1693; September 1, 1994, p. 46; April 15, 1995, p. 1506.

Horn Book, January-February, 1990, p. 55; November-December, 1994, review of Sea Shapes, p. 722.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1990, review of Once upon Another, p. 1005.

Publishers Weekly, August 25, 1989, review of Puzzlers, p. 63; August 10, 1990, p. 444; November 1, 1991, p. 80; January 25, 1993, review of Who Says a Dog Goes Bow-wow?, p. 86-87; April 24, 1995, review of Nanta's Lion: A Search-and-Find Adventure, p. 71; March 31, 1997.

School Arts, April, 1990, p. 61.

School Library Journal, October, 1989, p. 91; November, 1990, p. 96; October, 1991, p. 100; August, 1993, p. 156; November, 1994, p. 84; May, 1995, p. 86.

ONLINE

Go Places with Suse MacDonald,http://www.susemacdonald.com/ (January 24, 2004).

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