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Martin, Francesca 1947–

Martin, Francesca 1947–

PERSONAL: Born February 8, 1947, in Oxford, England; daughter of Gavin (in colonial service and banking) and Erica (an operator of a dress shop; maiden name, Sivewright) Green; married Derek Martin (in insurance business), October 6, 1975; children: Charlotte. Education: North London Polytechnic, degree in building and design. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Roman Catholic.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—124 Goldhurst Ter., London NW6 3HR, England.

CAREER: Writer, freelance designer, illustrator, and painter of murals and furniture.

AWARDS, HONORS: Short-listed for Kate Greenaway Medal, British Library Association, 1993, for The Honey Hunters: A Traditional African Tale.

WRITINGS:

(And illustrator) The Honey Hunters: A Traditional African Tale (juvenile), Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.

Clever Tortoise: A Traditional African Tale, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

ILLUSTRATOR; JUVENILE

Mirabel Cecil, Lottie's Cats, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1990.

Peter Hansard, Jig, Fig, and Mrs. Pig, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: Francesca Martin is a writer and illustrator whose works often derive their inspiration from the rich creative world of traditional African storytelling. In Martin's self-illustrated The Honey Hunters: A Traditional African Tale, she retells a traditional folktale from the Ngoni people of Africa. The story recalls a time long ago when animals lived peacefully together, and when honey, not meat, was their favorite food. One day a honey guide leads a young boy and a group of animals in search of the sweet nectar. When they find the hive, the hungry animals fight over the honey to be shared, beginning the animal conflicts that continue to this day. The author's simple tale is accompanied by her "intricate, detailed paintings … of a countryside bursting with natural life" noted Janice Del Negro, a reviewer for Booklist. A writer for Publishers Weekly praised Martin's artwork, particularly how the "verdant colors alternate cool, lush jungle scenes with brighter depictions of sun-baked African landscapes." "Martin's opulently decorative watercolors, the flora and fauna are depicted with loving care," stated a Kirkus Reviews critic. Chris Routh, a writer for the School Librarian, declared the "beautifully designed picture book … a must for primary classrooms and libraries."

Martin's self-illustrated Clever Tortoise: A Traditional African Tale, recounts the tribulations of the residents of Lake Nyasa when two heavyweights, Elephant and Hippopotamus, become threatening and start bullying the smaller animals. The smaller creatures despair of being able to do anything about the arrogant larger animals, but Clever Tortoise comes up with a scheme designed to deflate their egos and put them in their place. He challenges Elephant and Hippopotamus to an individual contest of tug-of-war, with an outcome designed to bring peace back to the lake. The story unfolds on a theme designed to appeal to young children, that "a small creature's brain can overcome a larger animal's brawn," observed Donna L. Scanlon in the School Library Journal.

Francesca Martin once commented: "I grew up in East Africa, and remember days without being hurried, having unorganized time to watch, to climb rocks and trees—until I was eight and went to boarding school. It is from those wonderfully happy preschool days that I remember the scenes which I now like to paint: the colors and light, the insects and plants. This is especially true for The Honey Hunters and Clever Tortoise.

"As an adult," Martin commented, "I love looking at children's books and wondering at the illustrations. I was delighted when I had the chance to illustrate my own books, and I hope to share my own joy of childhood in the pictures."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1992, Janice Del Negro, review of The Honey Hunters: A Traditional African Tale, p. 602; June 1, 1995, Kathy Broderick, review of Jig, Fig, and Mrs. Pig, p. 1785; May 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Clever Tortoise: A Traditional African Tale, p. 1757.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1992, review of The Honey Hunters, p. 1314.

Publishers Weekly, October 12, 1992, review of The Honey Hunters, p. 78.

School Librarian, November, 1992, Chris Routh, review of The Honey Hunters, p. 142.

School Library Journal, September, 2000, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Clever Tortoise, p. 221.

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