Sorensen, Henri 1950-

views updated

Sorensen, Henri 1950-

PERSONAL:

Born February 18, 1950, in Århus, Denmark; son of Svend Åge (a glazier) and Maren Marie Sorensen; married Lise Winther (a college teacher); children: Mathilde Therese, Alexandra Beatrice. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Attended University of Århus, 1974-80, and Academy of Fine Arts in Århus, 1980-83.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Risskov, Denmark. Agent—Barbara S. Kouts, P.O. Box 560 Bellport, NY 11713. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Freelance illustrator, 1985—. Worked as a glazier and at a film company making graphics and models.

WRITINGS:

SELF-ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOKS

New Hope, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1995.

Your First Step, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NH), 1996.

ILLUSTRATOR:

Alvin Tresselt, Sun Up, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1991.

Sheila Cole, When the Rain Stops, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1991.

Alvin Tresselt, The Gift of the Tree, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1992.

Ann W. Dodd, Footprints and Shadows, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.

Ruth Horowitz, Mommy's Lap, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1992.

Nancy W. Carlstrom, What Does the Rain Play, Macmillan Children's Book Group (New York, NY), 1993.

Jeff Shepard, I Know a Bridge, Macmillan Children's Book Group (New York, NY), 1993.

Harriett Diller, Grandaddy's Highway, Caroline House (Honesdale, PA), 1993.

Laura K. Melmed, I Love You as Much …, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1993.

Jane B. Mason, River Day, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1994.

Elaine Moore, Deep River, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.

Gary D. Schmidt, editor, Robert Frost (poetry for young people), Magnolia (New York, NY), 1994.

Laura K. Melmed, Prince Nautilus, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1994.

Maryann N. Weidt, Daddy Played Music for the Cows, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1995.

Bruce Coville, My Grandfather's House, BridgeWater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 1996.

Jean Van Leeuwen, A Fourth of July on the Plains, Dial Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Florence Mary Fitch, A Book about God, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1998.

Jonathan London, Hurricane, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1998.

Melmed, Jumbo's Lullaby, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1999.

Carmen Deedy, The Yellow Star, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2000.

Patricia Austin, The Cat Who Loved Mozart, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2001.

Tobi Tobias, Wishes for You, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Myron Uhlberg, The Printer, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2003.

Christopher Nye, The Old Shepherd's Tale, Housatonic Press (Great Barrington, MA), 2004.

John McCutcheon, Christmas in the Trenches, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Danish-born Henri Sorensen is an author-illustrator whose host of credits have made him one of the most sought-after children's picture book illustrators. His landscapes, family scenes, and nature paintings using watercolor, oil, and pastels "suggest a formality of portraiture that is not usually seen in children's books," noted Ruth K. MacDonald in School Library Journal. Such painterly concerns reflect Sorensen's own development and training as an artist.

"As a child I lived near the Art Museum in Århus," Sorensen once told CA. "I went there once or twice a week to look at the paintings from the golden age of Danish painting, which I admired very much. I think that my interest in naturalism and impressionism was formed at that time. When I was a teenager, I was more interested in the non-figurative, abstract expression, but later my interest in naturalism reappeared.

"I knew that I couldn't live as a naturalistic artist in Denmark because it was considered very old fashioned. So after school I was educated as a glazier in my father's company, and later I worked in another company for some years. In my spare time, I always painted. I decided to study art history and went to college and university. During my studies at university, I found more and more pleasure in painting and less in the theoretical studies, so I decided to study art at the Academy. I had a lot of pleasure painting every day for the next three years. My main interest then, as now, was impressionistic painting. After finishing the Academy, I worked in a film company where I made graphics and models, but mostly studied lighting. I then discovered that there was a market for my kind of art in advertising and publishing and started working as a freelance illustrator in 1985."

Sorensen illustrated his first children's book in 1991 for a reprint of Alvin Tresselt's Sun Up, the lyrical story of a day on a farm, originally published in 1949. Martha Topol, writing in School Library Journal, said that Tresselt's "title is given new life by a newcomer to the field … Each expansive page glows with a light so pure that readers can almost feel the heat of the pulsing sun and be relieved once the rain arrives … Sorensen's naturalistic oil paintings help children feel a part of this special day-by-day world." Sorensen provided new illustrations for another Tresselt original, The Gift of the Tree. "Color tones reflect the seasons, as they are softly muted in fall and winter; more vivid in spring and summer," noted Diane Nunn in a School Library Journal review, adding: "These illustrations are far more vibrant than those in the previous edition." Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan noted the "beautiful woodland paintings stretching across … large, double-page spreads."

Among Sorensen's collaborations are two fact books—Anne Westcott Dodge's Footprints and Shadows and Jeff Shepard's I Know a Bridge. Footprints and Shadows tells very young readers where footprints and shadows go. Emily Melton, reviewing the title in Booklist, thought that the reason the book would appeal to children "is Sorensen's beautifully rendered illustrations, done primarily in soothing, gently washed tones of gold, rust, and blue that emphasize the natural beauty of the seasons." Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper echoed these comments in reviewing I Know a Bridge: "The book's most striking feature is the handsome pictures, some in two-page spreads that fill the pages."

Another of Sorensen's collaborators is Laura Krauss Melmed, with whom he has produced three books. Their first effort, I Love You as Much …, uses simple rhymes to express how both human and animal mothers feel about their babies. In Booklist Janice Del Negro commented on Sorensen's "more than agreeably pleasant watercolors" in this book, and MacDonald wrote in School Library Journal, "Sorensen's paintings are large and bright, spanning double-page spreads and extending to the edge of each page." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called attention to the "grace and drama of Sorensen's light-filled, softly hued impressionistic illustrations," and Lisa Shea, reviewing the title in the New York Times Book Review, observed that the "light-drenched, golden-toned pictures exert a hypnotic effect on both reader and listener."

Further collaborative efforts with Melmed include Prince Nautilus and Jumbo's Lullaby. Prince Nautilus is an original fairy tale using a good sister-bad sister theme. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly said that "Melmed's fluid, poetic style feels very much at home in the fairy-tale genre, and Sorensen echoes her eloquence in impressionistic acrylics—his sweeping scenes enhance the story's timeless air." Donna L. Scanlon noted in School Library Journal that "Sorensen's double-spread illustrations soar across the pages and are infused with light, evoking the heat of the sun and the glare of the sea"; and Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson wrote that "Sorensen's acrylic paintings are accomplished with gusto." Jumbo's Lullaby is a bedtime book featuring elephants. "Sorensen dips his brush in the quieter shades of the Serengeti—misty gray-blues, ochre, moss green—for realistic, nuanced animal portraits that reinforce the underlying theme of mother love," commented Sybil Steinberg in a Publishers Weekly review.

Intergenerational themes provide the focus for many of the books Sorensen has illustrated. A new baby and possible sibling jealousy is at the center of Ruth Horowitz's Mommy's Lap. Writing for Booklist, Del Negro commented on Sorensen's watercolors as "warm and expressive, featuring a traditional family in sun-drenched rooms filled with books and plants." Reviewing the same title in School Library Journal, Mary Lou Budd noted: "Realistic watercolor illustrations dramatically portray the emotions of the text." Another of Sorensen's books with an intergenerational theme is Granddaddy's Highway by Harriet Diller in which an imaginary road trip brings Maggie and her grandfather together. Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist: "Sorensen's … watercolor paintings, both realistic and dreamy, capture the country outside, rushing by in the dark, and also the loving bond between the travelers." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "Sorensen's painterly illustrations handsomely contrast the grandeur of nature with true-to-life portraits of attractively ordinary folk."

Elaine Moore's Deep River and Jane B. Mason's River Day are also Sorensen-illustrated stories about girls and their grandfathers. Reviewers applauded Sorensen's renderings of nature in both titles. Reviewing Deep River, a contributor to Publishers Weekly observed: "Sorensen's lush, sunlit acrylic paintings set a serene summer-day mood, while his cool blues and leafy greens issue a pleasant invitation to the natural world." Writing about River Day in School Library Journal, Harriet Fargnoli said that Sorensen's acrylic paintings "are rich in color, and in several one can almost feel the water's wetness, the eagle's shadow, and the hand-lettered name on the canoe." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Sorensen's illustrations in River Day "breathtaking," and added: "[T]hey confer grace and intelligence on an otherwise merely serviceable entry."

Sorensen has also used his talents to illustrate poetry. His work accompanying the text of Nancy White Carlstrom's What Does the Rain Play? was called "lavish" and "painterly" by a Publishers Weekly contributor, while in Booklist Melton called them "eye-catching, with bold colors and strong lines soothingly muted to a misty, washed-clean, rain-drenched look." Sorensen also illustrated a collection of Robert Frost's poems and the inspirational verses in Florence Mary Fitch's A Book about God. Susan Dove Lempke called attention to the illustrator's work for the Fitch book saying: "Sorensen's oil paintings capture the majesty evoked by the text, their spaciousness and rich texture filling every page to the edges."

"The thing that means most to me when I read a manuscript is the mood," Sorensen once told CA. "I always see the mood of the pictures in my head before I start illustrating. Moods are difficult to show in layouts. Therefore I prefer to do the finished illustrations at once—and change or redo them if necessary—rather than be stuck with a layout that might hinder the creativity and inspiration, resulting in lifeless illustrations."

Sorensen has self-illustrated some books as well. In the first of these, New Hope, he tells the story of young Jimmy who is visiting his grandfather in the town of New Hope. Jimmy loves to hear his grandfather's story about the founder of the town, Lars Jensen, who came to New York from his native Denmark and proceeded with his family across America by covered wagon. When a broken axle prompted him to stop in Minnesota, he settled there. Sorensen displays the growth of New Hope from a single cabin to a bustling town with a railroad and many shops, and the arrival of new settlers and offspring. One of these offspring is Jimmy's grandfather, the great-great-grandson of Lars himself.

"The text is simple and straightforward," commented Nancy Palmer in a School Library Journal review of New Hope. In Booklist Rochman called Sorensen's first solo effort an "archetypal immigration story." Margaret A. Bush, writing in Horn Book, noted: "Family and place are intertwined in a handsome chronicle about the history of a small town…. An immensely appealing book that celebrates small-town Americana and allows children to make personal connections in comprehending the idea of history." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "[Sorensen's] first time out as a writer, speaks volumes about the growth of America, family lineage, and national pride with a fluid tale…. Adding scope and atmosphere to Sorensen's straightforward, affecting narrative are vigorous acrylic paintings."

In another solo effort, Your First Step, Sorensen presents the first steps of babies, both animal and human. A wolf pup plays in the morning sun and an English otter slides down a bank. Set around the globe at the same moment, the visual vignettes also introduce young readers to the relationship of the Earth to the sun. "Lovely, glowing paintings, soft yet precise, are the drawing card in this picture book," reported Booklist contributor Julie Corsaro.

Sorensen once commented to CA: "When I illustrate a book, I always hope that my illustrations will appeal both to grownups and to children. I'm often surprised to see how much children notice and how important colors are to them. They themselves are extremely good narrative illustrators. Therefore, I disagree with those who think that you have to simplify the mode of expression when illustrating children's books."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Gift of the Tree, p. 1605; December 1, 1992, Emily Melton, review of Footprints and Shadows, p. 674; April 1, 1993, Emily Melton, review of What Does the Rain Play?, pp. 1436-1437; April 15, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Mommy's Lap, p. 1523; May 1, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of Granddaddy's Highway, p. 1602; September 1, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of I Love You as Much …, p. 69; November 15, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of I Know a Bridge; June 1, 1994, Annie Ayres, review of River Day, p. 1842; November 15, 1994, Lauren Peterson, review of Prince Nautilus, p. 613; December 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Robert Frost, p. 669; June 1, 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of New Hope, p. 1789; October 1, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of Daddy Played Music for the Cows, p. 327; June 1, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of My Grandfather's House, p. 1730; August, 1996, Julie Corsaro, review of Your First Step, p. 1909; May 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of A Fourth of July on the Plains, p. 1582; August, 1998, Karen Simonetti, review of Hurricane!, p. 2015; April 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of A Book about God, p. 1416.

Horn Book, May-June, 1995, Margaret A. Bush, review of New Hope, pp. 330-331.

New York Times Book Review, January 30, 1994, Lisa Shea, review of I Love You as Much …, p. 27; July 28, 1996, Judith Viorst, review of My Grandfather's House, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, February 1, 1993, review of Granddaddy's Highway, p. 95; March 22, 1993, review of What Does the Rain Play?, p. 78; August 23, 1993, review of I Love You as Much …, p. 68; January 24, 1994, review of River Day, p. 55; May 9, 1994, review of Deep River, p. 72; July 4, 1994, review of Prince Nautilus, p. 63; May 15, 1995, review of New Hope, p. 72; May 19, 1997, review of A Fourth of July on the Plains, p. 75; July 20, 1998, review of Hurricane!, p. 220; September 20, 1999, Sybil Steinberg, review of Jumbo's Lullaby, p. 86.

School Library Journal, May, 1991, Martha Topol, review of Sun Up, p. 84; June, 1992, Diane Nunn, review of The Gift of the Tree, p. 111; May, 1993, Mary Lou Budd, review of Mommy's Lap, p. 86; July, 1993, Jacqueline Elsner, review of What Does the Rain Play?, pp. 56-57; March, 1994, Ruth K. MacDonald, review of I Love You as Much …, p. 206; May, 1994, Harriet Fargnoli, review of River Day, p. 100; October, 1994, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Prince Nautilus, p. 94; July, 1995, Nancy Palmer, review of New Hope, p. 69; June, 1996, Kathy Piehl, review of Your First Step, p. 110; May, 1997, Martha Rosen, review of A Fourth of July on the Plains, p. 116; May, 1999, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of A Book about God, p. 105.

ONLINE

Henri Sorensen Illustration,http://www.illustrations.dk (April 11, 2007).