Montenegro, Laura Nyman 1953-
MONTENEGRO, Laura Nyman 1953-
PERSONAL: Born February 15, 1953, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Eugene (a minister) and Marion (an artist and dancer; maiden name, Gluck) Nyman; married Michael Montenegro (an artist), August 14, 1982; children: Sonya Elena, Nina Maria. Education: Attended School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1972-73; University of New Mexico, B.A., 1977, M.A., 1980. Politics: "I believe in true democratic principles and an individual's responsibility to the community."
ADDRESSES: Offıce—1700 Crain St., Evanston, IL 60202. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: New Mexico Arts Council, Santa Fe, artist in residence, 1982-85; National Louis University, Evanston, IL, adjunct professor of poetry, illustration, and bookmaking, 1987-88; Evanston Public Library, Evanston, children's services library assistant, graphic artist, storyteller, and muralist, 1988-95. Freelance artist and illustrator, 1990—. Zapato Puppet Theater, cofounder, 1982, performer and musician, 1982—.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
AWARDS, HONORS: Parent's Choice Honor Awards, 1991, for One Stuck Drawer, and 1995, for Sweet Tooth.
(And illustrator) One Stuck Drawer, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1991.
(And illustrator) Sweet Tooth, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
(With Melissa Musick Nussbaum) My First Holy Communion: Sunday Mass and Daily Prayers, edited by Gabe Huck, Liturgy Training Publications (Chicago, IL), 2001.
(And illustrator) A Bird About to Sing, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Two picture books.
SIDELIGHTS: Laura Nyman Montenegro once told CA: "Picture books are the most extraordinary art form: the interweaving of words in poetic form with visual images. I love the problems involved in the creation of a picture book: the unfolding of a dramatic story through the relationship of words and pictures, the limitations in the form, and the truth that, within these limitations of few pages and very little text, one discovers a universe of variations in structure, timing, mood, and shadings of tone.
"I find the process of writing and illustrating a book very mysterious. One begins with an idea and, as the story develops, many aspects of one's life emerge. You may even feel a powerful relationship to your past. This is what happened to me as I wrote One Stuck Drawer. As the story developed, I realized that Sophia, the main character, was a girl very much like my Hungarian grandma. She was spunky, imaginative, and independent. Oddly, as I drew the pictures, I actually heard the evocative, expressive tones of Eastern European music in my mind. I began to see that the story lived in the world of folk tales where objects ordinarily thought to be dead and inanimate are full of spirit and life.
"I am discovering that a picture book is a collage. It is a gathering of hundreds of elements: a tall, thin staircase that I climbed to get to my grandma's apartment; a scrap of conversation; the sound of rain hitting the rounded tin roof of a circus wagon. All of these are soaked up, arranged, rearranged, and composed into a story. The gestures, movements, expressions that one observes daily become the vocabulary of the story. A visual story is unfolding, as well as a verbal one, and the two contrast and harmonize with each other.
"It is a curious experience, when finished with a book, to look back to its very beginnings, to identify the seeds from which the book grew, to explore its evolution. Though One Stuck Drawer, Sweet Tooth, and A Bird About to Sing originated partly from actual events, I see my own daily, personal experiences clearly reflected throughout these events. The stories are largely drawn from my family's mask and puppet theater, the spontaneity of street theater, and the lively, imaginative world of poetry. The accordion, the violin, the dance, the charged energy of the cityscape are all within.
"That is what is so wonderful and compelling about this particular art form—picture books. In your life and in the many ordinary things you do each day are the seeds of thousands of stories. It is the transformation of these ordinary events into the extraordinary that is the magic of picture books."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 1991, p. 1805; February 15, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of A Bird About to Sing, p. 1075.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2003, review of A BirdAbout to Sing, p. 313.
New York Times Book Review, September 1, 1991.
Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1991, p. 89; April 3, 1995, p. 62.
School Library Journal, April, 2003, Beth Tegart, review of A Bird About to Sing, p. 133.
Smithsonian, November, 1991, p. 187.