McPhail, David 1940–
McPhail, David 1940–
(David Michael McPhail)
Born June 30, 1940, in Newburyport, MA; son of Bernard E. (in sales) and Rachel (a secretary) McPhail; married Janis Lazarian, July 2, 1966 (divorced); married; second wife's name Mickey; children: (first marriage) Tristian, Joshua, Gabrian; (second marriage) Jaime; three stepchildren.
Author and illustrator of books for children. Illustrator, beginning 1967; author, beginning 1971. Worked variously as a guitarist in rock bands, as a factory worker, as a truck driver, and as a shipping clerk.
Fifty Books of the Year selection, American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1974, for Sailing to Cythera and Other Anatole Stories; Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book designation for illustration, 1975, for The Bear's Bicycle; Outstanding Books of the Year selection, New York Times, 1975, for One Winter Night in August, and Other Nonsense Jingles; Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1977, for Sailing to Cythera, and Other Anatole Stories, and 1979, for The Island of the Grass King; Book Show selection, American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1978, for Captain Toad and the Motorbike, and 1989, for Grandfather's Cake; Children's Choice selection, Children's Book Council/International Reading Association, 1980, for Pig Pig Grows Up; Best Books designation, School Library Journal, 1982, for Pig Pig Rides; Parents' Choice Award for Literature, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1982, for Great Cat; Children's Books of the Year selection, Child Study Association, 1985, for Farm Morning and The Dream Child; Children's Booksellers Choices Award, Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), 1998, for Edward and the Pirates; Best Books of the Year designation, Publishers Weekly, 1999, and Children's Booksellers Choices Award, ABC, 2000, both for Mole Music; Silver Honor Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 2000, for Sail Away; numerous child-selected awards, including Kentucky Bluegrass Award and Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award.
FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
In the Summer I Go Fishing, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1971.
The Glerp, Ginn (Lexington, MA), 1972, reprinted, Silver Burdett Press (Parsippany, NJ), 1995.
The Bear's Toothache, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1972.
Oh, No, Go (play), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1973.
The Cereal Box, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1974.
The Train, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1977.
The Magical Drawings of Moony B. Finch (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
Mistletoe, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.
Captain Toad and the Motorbike, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1978.
Yesterday I Lost a Sneaker and Found the Great Goob Sick, Ginn (Lexington, MA), 1978, reprinted, Silver Burdett Press (Parsippany, NJ), 1995.
Where Can an Elephant Hide?, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1979.
Grandfather's Cake, Scribner (New York, NY), 1979.
Those Terrible Toy-Breakers, Parents Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1980.
Bumper Tubbs, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1980.
Alligators Are Awful (and They Have Terrible Manners, Too), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1980.
Surprise!, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1981.
A Wolf Story, Scribner (New York, NY), 1981.
Great Cat, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.
That Grand Master Jumping Teacher Bernard Meets Jerome, the Great Jumping Glump, Frederick Warne (New York, NY), 1982.
Snow Lion, Parents Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Andrew's Bath, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1984.
Lorenzo, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.
Sisters, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1984.
The Dream Child, Dutton (New York, NY), 1985.
Farm Morning, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1985.
Adam's Smile, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987.
First Flight, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1987.
Something Special, Joy Street Books (Boston, MA), 1988.
David McPhail's Animals A to Z, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.
The Story of James, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.
(Reteller) Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Retelling of a Classic Tale, Heath (Lexington, MA), 1989.
Lost!, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.
The Party, Joy Street Books (Boston, MA), 1990.
Ed and Me, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1990.
Annie and Company, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.
Farm Boy's Year, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.
Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore (also see below), Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.
Ping Pong (adapted from a poem by Dennis Lee), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Mooney B. Finch, Fastest Draw in the West (sequel to The Magical Drawings of Moony B. Finch), Artists & Writers Guild (New York, NY), 1994.
Annie and Company, Holt (New York, NY), 1994.
Pigs Ahoy! (sequel to Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore), Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
(Reteller) Little Red Riding Hood, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
(Reteller) The Three Little Pigs, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
The Day the Dog Said, "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!," Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
Those Can-Do Pigs, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.
The Great Race, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
A Bug, a Bear, and a Boy, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
The Puddle, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.
The Day the Sheep Showed Up, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
Tinker and Tom and the Star Baby, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998.
A Bug, a Bear, and a Boy Go to School, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Mole Music, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
Drawing Lessons from a Bear, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
A Girl, a Goat, and a Goose, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
Big Pig and Little Pig, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Jack and Rick, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Piggy's Pancake Parlor, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
The Teddy Bear, Holt (New York, NY), 2002.
Rick Is Sick, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
My Little Brother, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Boy on the Brink, Holt (New York, NY), 2006.
Water Boy, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 2007.
Sylvie and True, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2007.
The Searcher and Old Tree, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2008.
"HENRY BEAR" SERIES; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Henry Bear's Park, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1976, reprinted with full-color illustrations, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
Stanley, Henry Bear's Friend, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1979.
Henry Bear's Christmas, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
"PIG PIG" SERIES; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Pig Pig Grows Up, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.
Pig Pig Rides, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.
Pig Pig Goes to Camp, Dutton (New York, NY), 1983.
Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album, Dutton (New York, NY), 1986.
Pig Pig Gets a Job, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
Pig Pig Rides Again, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.
"EMMA" SERIES; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Fix-It, Dutton (New York, NY), 1984, board-book edition, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Emma's Pet, Dutton (New York, NY), 1985.
Emma's Vacation, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987.
Emma in Charge, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
"EDWARD" SERIES; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Santa's Book of Names, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
Edward and the Pirates, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
Edward in the Jungle, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
"BIG BROWN BEAR" SERIES; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Big Brown Bear, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Big Brown Bear's Up and Down Day, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Big Brown Bear Goes to Town, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Big Brown Bear's Birthday Surprise, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.
The Sled, and Other Fox and Rabbit Stories (also see below), illustrated by John O'Connor, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Allston, MA), 2000.
The Blue Door: A Fox and Rabbit Story (sequel to The Sled, and Other Fox and Rabbit Stories), illustrated by John O'Connor, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Allston, MA), 2001.
Robert Brooks, The Run, Jump, Bump Book, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1971.
Alma Marchak Whitney, Leave Herbert Alone, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1972.
Nancy Willard, Sailing to Cythera and Other Anatole Stories, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1974.
Emilie Warren McLeod, The Bear's Bicycle, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1975.
X.J. Kennedy, One Winter Night in August and Other Nonsense Jingles, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1975.
Nancy Willard, Stranger's Bread, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1977.
Marjorie W. Sharmat, A Big Fat Enormous Lie, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.
Nanine Elisabeth Vallen, The Devil's Tale: Based on an Old French Legend, Scribner (New York, NY), 1978.
X.J. Kennedy, The Phantom Ice Cream Man: More Nonsense Verse, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.
Nancy Willard, The Island of the Grass King: The Further Adventures of Anatole, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1979.
Genie Iverson, I Want to Be Big, Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.
Nancy Willard, Uncle Terrible: More Adventures of Anatole, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1982.
Nancy Willard, The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1983.
Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
Mary Pope Osborne, Moonhorse, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
Tom Glazer, compiler and arranger, The Mother Goose Songbook, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.
Dennis Lee, The Ice Cream Store: Poems, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
Nancy White Carlstrom, Who Gets the Sun out of Bed?, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
Rosemary Wells, Night Sounds, Morning Colors, Dial (New York, NY), 1994.
Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, On a Starry Night, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Jean Mazzollo, Ten Cats Have Hats: A Counting Book, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
Kristin Avery, The Crazy Quilt, Goodyear Publishing (Los Angeles, CA), 1994.
Dee Lifeguard, Potatoes on Tuesday, Goodyear Publishing (Los Angeles, CA), 1995.
Kate McMullan, If You Were My Bunny, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
Margo Lundell, The Furry Bedtime Book: Lovey Bear's Story, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
Laura J. Numeroff, Why a Disguise?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Jan L. Waldron, Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
Claudia Mills, Gus and Grandpa, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1997.
Jan L. Waldron, John Pig's Halloween, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
Margot Austin, A Friend for Growl Bear, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Anne Carter, Tall in the Saddle, Orca Books (Custer, WA), 1999.
Holly Young Huth, Twilight, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.
Laura J. Numeroff and Wendy S. Harpham, The Hope Tree: Kids Talk about Breast Cancer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Florence McNeil Sail Away, Orca Books (Olympia, WA), 2000.
Dennis Lee, Bubblegum Delicious, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Steven MacDonald, Just Clowning Around: Two Stories, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
Liza Baker, I Love You Because You're You, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
Betsy Byars, Little Horse, Holt (New York, NY), 2001.
Pam Muñoz Ryan, Mud Is Cake, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
Catherine Anne Cullen, Thirsty Baby, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.
Kathleen Krull, editor, A Pot o' Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of Course) Blarney, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.
Eugene Field, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Betsy Byars, Little Horse on His Own, Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Lucy Floyd, A Place for Nicholas, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
Jennifer Belle, Animal Stackers, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
Laura Numeroff, When Sheep Sleep, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 2006.
Grace Maccarone, Peter Rabbit's Happy Easter, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
Albert Lamb, Sam's Winter Hat, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
Linda Ashman, When I Was King, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.
In Flight with David McPhail: A Creative Autobiography (nonfiction), Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1996.
Some of McPhail's books have been translated into Spanish. A collection of his manuscripts and sketches are housed in the Children's Literature Festival Gallery Collection, Keene State College, Keene, NH.
Leave Herbert Alone was released as a filmstrip and audiocassette by BFA Educational Media, 1975; Pig Pig Grows Up was released as a book and cassette by Live Oak Media, 1985, and as a filmstrip with cassette by Weston Woods, 2000; The Bear's Bicycle was released as a book and cassette by Live Oak Media, 1986; Emma's Pet was issued as a book and cassette by Live Oak Media, 1988; Pig Pig Rides was issued as a book and cassette by Live Oak Media, 1988; Mole Music was issued as a book and cassette by Live Oak Media, 2001. The Bear's Toothache was released on cassette by Random House; Where Can an Elephant Hide? was released as a filmstrip with cassette by Spoken Arts; The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon, Fix-It, and The Dream Child were issued as filmstrip with cassette by Random House. Favorite Author Collections, a selection of videos based on McPhail's works, was released by Live Oak Media, 1999. Mole Music was adapted as a ballet with original music by William Wade and choreography by Bill Hastings, and performed by the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet, Akron, OH.
A prolific and popular author and illustrator familiar to generations of preschoolers and primary graders, David McPhail creates inventive, attractive picture books, retellings, and beginning readers that range from quiet and reflective to wildly humorous. Know for his distinctive style, McPhail features pigs and bears among his large cast of picture-book characters. He also blends fact and fancy in books featuring human protagonists, in which children act out their imaginative fantasies by themselves, with their parents, or in dreams. Still other picture books are well-grounded in a child-sized reality; in My Little Brother, for instance, his "clear, beautiful, soft-toned, line-and-watercolor" illustrations bring to life "the realism and tenderness" in a loving family, according to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman. "Children of both genders will recognize themselves in McPhail's everyboys," Sophie R. Brookover concluded in her School Library Journal review of the picture book, and the author's illustrations "draw out undertones of humor, aggravation, and affection."
In addition to his independent stories, McPhail has also produced the "Pig Pig," "Emma," and "Big Brown Bear" book series. As an illustrator, he has provided art for the stories and poems of such well-known authors as Nancy Willard, Betsy Byars, X.J. Kennedy, Rosemary Wells, and Laura J. Numeroff, and has also illustrated his own retellings of time-honored fairy and folk tales.
McPhail was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and grew up surrounded by a loving extended family that also included his sister Sue and brothers Ben and Peter. As he once noted, "Times were hard in our neighborhood; nobody had that much. My mother did her best to encourage my sister, my two brothers, and myself. She always told us we could do anything we aspired to do." McPhail's father "held down several different jobs. It was his feeling that his children should first of all be able to make a living, that we should accept our lot in life and live with it. Sometimes, however, he would show us glimpses of the dreams and ambitions he had nurtured as a young man."
As McPhail once explained, "I always drew from the time I was a child. It was easy for me, but I never took it very seriously. Drawing was something I did for fun and, in my house, work and fun were not supposed to go together. Drawing was always there, however, waiting in the background." Looking to the works of others for guidance, he was influenced by magazine illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, Mark English, and Bernie Fuchs. Besides his drawing, McPhail enjoyed playing in the fields and woods near his home, where he pretended that he was Robin Hood.
McPhail's childhood echoes in several of his books, such as his "Edward" series, his books about budding artist Moony B. Finch, and in picture books such as Boy on the Brink. Reviewing the last-named title, about an imaginative young boy whose fishing trip sparks a fanciful dream, Horn Book contributor Joanna Rudge Long noted that "McPhail evokes waking adventures and dreams with equal aplomb in his signature style," while Connie Fletcher wrote in Booklist that the author/illustrator's "watercolor-and-ink paintings beautifully capture the juxtaposition of tame country life … with the surreal images of the child's wild, heroic dreams." "McPhail's dreamscapes pull the neat trick of being shadowy and lustrous at the same time," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer in a review of Boy on the Brink.
In junior high and high school, McPhail played baseball and basketball and aspired to the big leagues. When he heard singer Elvis Presley, he developed a new interest: rock and roll music. After graduation, he attended Boston's Vesper George University (now the Vesper George School of Art) on an art scholarship. He stayed only a year before quitting to perform professionally with his bands, the Story Tone Trio and the Reveliers. McPhail spent six years playing music, supporting himself by working in a factory and by entering small-business ventures with one of his brothers. After his interest in drawing was rekindled, McPhail enrolled at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, where he majored in graphics because the school did not then have an illustration program. "My work from the beginning was illustration. My paintings told stories and were not just landscapes or portraits," he later recalled.
McPhail spent three years at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, marrying Janis Lazarian during his last year. To support his family—the couple had three children, Tristian, Joshua, and Gabrian—he drove a truck and worked a part-time job that led him to rediscover children's literature. "My job was reorganizing the shipping of children's books to the Boston Public Library," McPhail recalled. "I used to spend lunch hour by myself reading in the corner of the warehouse. I had an employee discount on books, and bought so many books I nearly went broke. I especially loved [Maurice] Sendak." Several critics have noted Sendak's influence on McPhail and have compared the author/illustrators favorably. "Gradually," McPhail explained, "I realized that I wanted to write and illustrate books. So I screwed up my courage and wrote and illustrated a story of my own."
Quitting his job at the warehouse, McPhail took his book to Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin, where, although he was not able to sell that particular book, he received some freelance art work. In 1971, after several years spent illustrating textbooks, he produced his first picture book, In the Summer I Go Fishing, about a little boy who, unable to sell the fish he has caught, ultimately earns money by selling lemonade. A reviewer for Children's Books and Their Creators noted that, "even in McPhail's debut, a distinctive style is emerging: the illustrations contain an energy and inventiveness that remain a trademark of his work."
McPhail's first—and perhaps foremost—porcine character is Pig Pig. Debuting in Pig Pig Grows Up, the title character decides that he likes being a baby so much that he does not want to give up infant status. He insists on doing baby-like things, including wearing diapers and riding in a stroller. At the end of the story, Pig Pig rescues a real baby and decides that he is grown up after all. Writing in Horn Book, Ethel L. Heins called Pig Pig Grows Up "a hilarious picture book for the very young." In Pig Pig Rides, Pig Pig tells his mother that he plans to accomplish a number of astounding feats that day, such as driving a car, participating in a race, taking a rocket ship to the moon, and jumping over five hundred elephants on his motorcycle. A Books for Keeps critic commented that McPhail's interpretations of Pig Pig's escapades "are suitably spectacular … when contrasted with this endearing character's true means of transport." Pig Pig Goes to Camp finds the pig at Camp Wildhog, where he enjoys camp activities and makes friends with the frogs he meets there. In fact, he makes so many froggie friends that he gets sent home early with some of his new pals.
In Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album Pig Pig says a magic word and finds himself transported into one precarious situation after another until he says the magic word again. Pig Pig Gets a Job finds the little porker dreaming up some imaginative schemes to earn money, such as making mud pies, building houses, and taking care of circus animals, all of which his mother directs into manageable tasks, like making sandwiches, washing the car, and feeding the cat. Susan Hepler wrote in School Library Journal that McPhail's illustrations for Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album "increase visual excitement and highlight details which will carry even to the far reaches of story time." Appraising Pig Pig Gets a Job Deborah Abbott noted in Booklist that "McPhail's full-color artwork meshes perfectly with the tone and theme of his tongue-in-cheek story." Writing in Horn Book, Karen Jameyson stated of Pig Pig that the "pudgy protagonist is without question one of the most winsome pigs in children's literature."
A very large bear is the hero of McPhail's "Big Brown Bear" picture-book series, which is geared for beginning readers. A close friendship is created in Big Brown Bear's Up and Down Day, as the good-humored bear discovers a grey rat attempting to make a home out of one of the bear's bedroom slippers. Described by Booklist contributor Kathleen Odean as a "warm-spirited" story, Big Brown Bear Goes to Town finds Bear taking friend Rat on a trip to the hardware store, where he hopes to purchase the materials needed to waterproof Rat's leaky home. Although Rat is hurt by Bear's secretive behavior, when Bear presents his gift all problems between the two friends are solved. The author/illustrator's "signature pen-and-watercolor illustrations spill across the pages with charm and humor," noted Odean, and in School Library Journal Linda Zeilstra Sawyer noted that McPhail's art for the series exudes "a warm and welcoming feeling." Noting Big Brown Bear's Up and Down Day in particular, Ilene Cooper concluded in her Booklist review that "young children will respond to the simple theme of friendship found."
With the "Edward" series, McPhail features another of his most popular characters while celebrating the joys of both reading and the imagination. In the first book of the series, Santa's Book of Names, Edward is having difficulty with learning to read. On Christmas Eve, the boy finds the book belonging to Santa Claus that lists the names of the children to whom Santa will be delivering gifts. When Edward returns the book, Santa invites him to come aboard his sleigh and hold the book while he delivers his presents. However, while they are in the air, Santa drops his glasses into the sea; consequently, he cannot read the names in his book. It is up to Edward to sound out the words, which he does. The last gift in Santa's sleigh is a book for Edward, which he reads to himself on Christmas morning. A critic in Kirkus Reviews noted that "the novel twist on the popular scenario makes an engaging story that's sure to be a hit."
In Edward and the Pirates Edward has become a voracious reader. When he finds an old book about pirate treasure, he imagines himself at the helm of a pirate ship. Just then, the pirates come into his room and demand the book. Since it is a library book, Edward refuses to give the volume to them. The pirates kidnap Edward, but the boy is rescued by his mom and dad, who are dressed as Joan of Arc and Robin Hood, characters from stories Edward has been reading. Finally, the pirates reveal that they cannot read, and that they only wanted the book so that it could to be read to them. After hearing this, Edward honors their request. As a critic in Kirkus Reviews commented, Edward and the Pirates "is a wonderful adventure on the high seas of a child's imagination" in which "Edward and his large, faithful teddy are irresistible." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly added that "readers young and old will love the swashbuckling verve and intrepid adventures of this loving tribute to the power of books."
Edward in the Jungle finds the titular character taking his toy jungle animals into the backyard while he reads a book about Tarzan. Suddenly, Edward finds himself in the story, being pursued by a crocodile. Tarzan appears, rescues Edward, introduces the boy to his animal friends, and teaches the lad his famous cry. When he discovers that the crocodile has been captured by hunters, Edward uses his jungle yell to summon Tarzan's animal friends to the rescue. The grateful crocodile carries Edward to the opposite shore, allowing the boy to arrive at home in time for dinner. In Booklist, Michael Cart commented that McPhail's "implied message about adventuring with books is nicely integrated into the narrative" of Edward in the Jungle.
McPhail celebrates the power of music in Mole Music, a picture book that is regarded as one of the author/illustrator's most successful works. While watching a television program in his underground home, solitary Mole hears the strains of a violin for the first time. He is so impressed that he decides to send away for a violin of his own. Mole practices for years and gets progressively better; finally, he can make beautiful, powerful music. McPhail depicts the second part of his tale strictly through his illustrations, as Mole's music attracts birds, farmers, presidents, and queens. Even a pair of fighting armies lay down their arms to listen to Mole's lovely melodies. Since Mole practices underground, he does not see the effects of his music but simply plays for the love of it. Comparing the character of Mole with Arnold Lobel's beloved Frog and Toad, a Kirkus Reviews critic predicted that "Mole will easily win the affections of readers and inspire young hopes for a better world."
Several of McPhail's stories feature characters who like to draw. For example, in Drawing Lessons from a Bear, the bear narrator tells the story of how he became an artist. As a young cub, the bear discovered a passion for drawing when he began to scratch marks with his claw on the floor of his cave. He received encouragement from his mother and teachers and gained inspiration during visits to the local art museum. Now an adult, the bear realizes that, even after fame, prizes, and offers of mansions and fancy cars, his calling is best fulfilled in his forest den, drawing pictures and encouraging young cubs to draw. As a Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked, McPhail's "powerful message of personal affirmation … is one all parents will welcome and all children appreciate." Ken Marantz, writing in School Arts, called Drawing Lessons from a Bear a "great book for every early elementary classroom," while Susan Marie Pitard added in School Library Journal that Drawing Lessons from a Bear "will find a home anywhere."
Creativity and imagination can also be turned to more intellectual pursuits, as McPhail shows in Water Boy. A young boy begins to examine his fear of water— particularly of being sucked down the drain while in the bath—after learning from his mom that he is made of water. As the boy studies and explores the relationship between water and the many elements of his own life, he discovers a way to improve his environment in a "small gem of a book" that School Library Journal contributor Susan Moorhead dubbed "beautifully written, illustrated, and designed." In Booklist Randall Enos described Water Boy as an "ecological fantasy" and concluded that McPhail's story may inspire young readers to develop a "sense of wonder about the water they see in their own environment." Noting that Water Boy "drifts gently into magical realism," a Kirkus Reviews writer expressed appreciation for the story's gentle humor and its "luminously colored" illustrations.
In Flight with David McPhail: A Creative Autobiography is a picture-book autobiography about life as an artist. McPhail discusses his early years, explains how the ideas for some of his books came about, and describes his writing and studio routine. He also outlines the steps involved in illustrating a book for publication, taking it through the stages of final production. In a Horn Book review, Nancy Vasilakis called In Flight with David McPhail "distinctive for [its] attractiveness, accessibility, and clear focus" before concluding that the volume is "superior and inspirational."
Discussing his career, McPhail once noted: "Some of my stories relate to my own childhood or, in some small way, to my children, who play a role in my work. Their influence on my drawing has been considerable and, in some subtle way, the books they like tend to inspire me." Although he is an author, McPhail does not consider himself to be a writer. "Writing for me is purely inspirational," he once admitted. As he recalls in In Flight with David McPhail: "I've always loved to draw. I loved to draw when I was a young child, and I still love to draw as a middle-aged man. I've drawn thousands—even tens of thousands—of pictures, sometimes the same one over and over, but I still love doing it." McPhail limits himself to a book a year, or maybe one every two years, "so that I will be able to take the time I need and make the pictures truly special. For me, the most important thing is the process, not the results. If the day ever comes when I find making books either boring or tedious, I hope I have the wisdom to quit and find another line of work. But the way things are going, I don't see that happening any time soon. I love to write and draw pictures, and I get paid to do it. You can't beat that!" In assessing his life and career, McPhail once commented: "I feel each day is an adventure and each book is a new beginning."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
McElmeel, Sharon L., 100 Most Popular Picture Book Authors and Illustrators, Libraries Unlimited (Englewood, CO), 2000.
McPhail, David, In Flight with David McPhail: A Creative Autobiography, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1996.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Booklist, November 15, 1990, Deborah Abbott, review of Pig Pig Gets a Job, p. 87; April 1, 2002, Michael Cart, review of Edward in the Jungle, p. 1334; May 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of The Teddy Bear, p. 152; June 1, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of Mud Is Cake, p. 1743; August, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of Piggy's Pancake Parlor, p. 161; April 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Sisters, p. 1403; April 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Thirsty Baby, p. 1400; September 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Henry Bear's Christmas, p. 135; November 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Big Brown Bear's Up and Down Day, p. 602; February 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, p. 978; March, 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Rick Is Sick, p. 1309; June 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of My Little Brother, p. 1744; May 15, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Emma in Charge, p. 1666; May 15, 2006, Connie Fletcher, review of Boy on the Brink, p. 51; June 1, 2006, Kathleen Odean, review of Big Brown Bear Goes to Town, p. 88; February 15, 2007, Randall Enos, review of Water Boy, p. 84.
Books for Keeps, January, 1987, review of Pig Pig Rides, p. 7.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2003, Elizabeth Bush, review of Henry Bear's Christmas, p. 117.
Horn Book, December, 1980, Ethel L. Heins, review of Pig Pig Grows Up, pp. 635-636; July-August, 1986, Karen Jameyson, review of Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album, p. 443; November-December, 1990, Ethel R. Twichell, review of Pig Pig Gets a Job, p. 765; September-October, 1996, Nancy Vasi- lakis, review of In Flight with David McPhail: A Creative Autobiography, p. 609; May-June, 2006, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Boy on the Brink, p. 298.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1986, review of Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album, p. 635; December 1, 1993, review of Santa's Book of Names, p. 1277; April 1, 1997, review of Edward and the Pirates, p. 559; February 1, 1999, review of Mole Music, p. 235; April 15, 2000, review of Drawing Lessons from a Bear, p. 564; May 15, 2002, review of Piggy Pancake's Parlor, p. 737; August 1, 2003, review of Big Brown Bear's Up and Down Day, p. 1020; November 1, 2003, review of Henry Bear's Christmas, p. 1318; March 1, 2004, review of Rick Is Sick, p. 227; June 1, 2005, review of Emma in Charge, p. 640; April 15, 2006, reviews of Boy on the Brink and Big Brown Bear Goes to Town, p. 411; March 1, 2007, review of Water Boy, p. 228.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1987, review of Pig Pig Goes to Camp, p. 79; February 10, 1997, review of Edward and the Pirates, p. 82; January 13, 2002, review of Thirsty Baby, p. 58.
School Arts, October, 2000, Ken Marantz, review of Drawing Lessons from a Bear, p. 64.
School Library Journal, May, 1986, Susan Hepler, review of Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album, p. 82; May, 2000, Susan Marie Pitard, review of Drawing Lessons from a Bear, p. 149; June, 2002, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Piggy's Pancake Parlor, and Helen Foster James, review of The Teddy Bear, both p. 103; August, 2002, Cheryl Scheer, review of The Day the Sheep Showed Up, p. 57; October, 2003, Linda Israelson, review of Henry Bear's Christmas, p. 66; May, 2004, Christine E. Carr, review of Rick Is Sick, p. 120; June, 2004, Sophie R. Brookover, review of My Little Brother, p. 114; December, 2004, Ginny Gustin, review of Mole Music, p. 58; May, 2005, Linda Zeilstra Sawyer, review of Big Brown Bear Goes to Town, p. 94; June, 2005, Kristine M. Casper, review of Emma in Charge, p. 122; May, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of Boy on the Brink, p. 94; April, 2007, Susan Moorhead, review of Water Boy, p. 112.
David McPhail Home Page,http://www.davidmcphail.com (October 27, 2007).
Education World Web site,http://www.educationworld.com/ (February 12, 2003), Linda Starr, review of Mole Music.
Scoop Online,http://www.friend.ly.net/scoop/ (February 12, 2003), "David McPhail."