Wallace, Ian 1950-

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WALLACE, Ian 1950-

PERSONAL: Born March 31, 1950, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; son of Robert Amiens and Kathleen (Watts) Wallace; married Debra Wiedman. Education: Graduated from Ontario College of Art, 1973; graduate studies, 1973-74. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, movies, travel, dining out.

ADDRESSES: Home—184 Major St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2L3.

CAREER: Writer and illustrator of children's books. Staff writer and illustrator for Kids Can Press, 1974-76; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, information officer, 1976-80. Artist. Exhibitions: "Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance," Art Gallery of Ontario, 1986; "Once upon a Time," Vancouver Art Gallery, 1988; "Canada at Bologna," Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1990.

MEMBER: Writers Union of Canada, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP).

AWARDS, HONORS: Runner-up for City of Toronto Book Awards, 1976; "Our Choice" Selection, Children's Book Centre, 1977-81, Canada Council grants, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1987; Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire (IODE) Book Award, 1984, Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, 1984, International Board on Books for Young People Honor List citation, 1986, all for Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance; Ontario Arts Council grants, 1985, 1988; American Library Association Notable Book citation, 1987, and White Raven Award, International Youth Library, 1987, both for Very Last First Time; Mr. Christie Award and Elizabeth Mrazik Cleaver Award, both for The Name of the Tree; nominee from Canada for Hans Christian Andersen medal (illustration), 1994; Gibbon Medal short list, 1994, for Hansel & Gretel; IODE Book Award, 1997, for A Winter's Tale; and Smithsonian Notable Book, 1999, and IBBY Honour Book, 2000, both for Boy of the Deeps.



Julie News (self-illustrated), Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1974.

(With Angela Wood) The Sandwich, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1975, revised edition, 1985.

The Christmas Tree House (self-illustrated), Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1976.

Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance (self-illustrated), Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

The Sparrow's Song (self-illustrated), Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

Morgan the Magnificent (self-illustrated), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.

Mr. Kneebone's New Digs (self-illustrated), Groundwood (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

(Reteller) Brothers Grimm, Hansel & Gretel, Groundwood (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

A Winter's Tale, (self-illustrated), Groundwood (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.

Boy of the Deeps, (self-illustrated), DK Ink (New York, NY), 1999.

Duncan's Way, (self-illustrated), DK Ink (New York, NY), 2000.

The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, (selfillustrated), Groundwood (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

The Naked Lady, (self-illustrated), Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.


Jan Andrews, Very Last First Time, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003, published as Eva's Ice Adventure, Methuen (London, England), 1986.

Tim Wynne-Jones, The Architect of the Moon, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988, published as Builder of the Moon, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1989.

Celia Barker Lottridge, The Name of the Tree: A Bantu Folktale, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1990.

Teddy Jam, The Year of the Fire, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1993.

Bud Davidge, The Mummer's Song, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

W.D. Valgardson, Sarah and the People of Sand River, Groundwood (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.

Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian Books for Young People.

SIDELIGHTS: Canadian author/illustrator Ian Wallace has produced a number of award-winning selfillustrated picture books, including Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance, Morgan the Magnificent, A Winter's Tale, Boy of the Deeps, and Duncan's Way. One of Wallace's major themes is "the initiation process by which a child moves to understanding of self and the larger world," according to a contributor for St. James Guide to Children's Writers. Dealing with subjects such as young boys and girls from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds who are on the cusp of growing up, as well as with the aged poor in his own books, Wallace also is a talented illustrator of the works of other writers such as Tim Wynne-Jones. In a profile of the author/writer in Language Arts, Jon C. Stott noted, "As admirers of Ian Wallace's books know, they're not only beautiful and engaging, they're very carefully planned and structured. Reading one of them is a total experience."

Born on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in 1950, Wallace spent peaceful Sunday afternoons on family road trips, seeing how many trees of a certain species or how many cows he could count. "My first exposure to the world of art came not through pictures hung on gallery and museum walls," Wallace once told CA, "but through the picture books my brothers and I carted out of our local library." The stories he encountered in these books transported him out of provincial Ontario to exotic and not so exotic locales around the world. One of his favorite books from those years is Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and the image of Toad flying along in his orange bi-plane. "Just as important," Wallace continued to CA, "[these books] made us keenly aware of the fact that a painter was not merely somebody who, like our father, picked up a brush or roller and stroked or rolled it over the walls of our house whenever the rooms had grown tired around the edges. But rather, an artist was someone who made dreams real." By age thirteen, Wallace had decided that he wanted to be one such person himself. From a simple declaration, the impulse to become an artist continued to grow through Wallace's teenage years, in part nourished by his parents, and he spent hours alone with pencil and paper learning how to sketch.

After attending the Ontario College of Art, Wallace worked as a staff writer and illustrator for a Canadian children's book publisher. Ultimately such work led him to trying his hand at his own titles; The Sandwich and The Christmas Tree House are two early examples of his picture-book work. In the former title, young Vincenzo despairs about being teased for eating a mortadella and provolone sandwich, but is reassured by his father that it is okay to be different. Nick and his friend Gloria discover a tree house in The Christmas Tree House, and they think it is the work of Don Valley Rose, who everyone figures is an evil old witch. However, when Nick makes friends with the old eccentric, he learns that she is actually a kind person. Reviewing the artwork in that book, Stott commented that the "greypencil illustrations suggest the wintry settings and create a luminous quality which reflects the warmth of new friendship the children experience."

Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance, Wallace's next title, was six years in the works. "I cannot stress enough the value of time," Wallace told CA. "Time to allow the right words to come forth, time to allow the drawings to formulate in the head before they appear on the paper, and time to allow both to be as polished as a piece of rare jade." Chin Chiang is the story of a young boy who wants to participate in the Chinese New Year celebrations for the Year of the Dragon, yet his stage fright gets in the way. The boy is getting ready for his first dragon dance, but his shyness sends him fleeing the street and his grandfather for the rooftop of the local library. Here he meets an old lady named Pu Yee who assists him in learning the steps to the dance without him even knowing it. He is then able to return and take part in the dance and his place in his own cultural heritage, his fears of failure left behind.

Wallace's years of work paid off; critics were full of praise and the picture book won numerous awards. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Sandra Martin lauded the "astonishing panoply of 16 watercolor paintings" which are "subtle yet brilliantly colored." Martin was so impressed with the "authenticity and meticulous care" of the artwork that she remarked the illustrations "speak eloquently of centuries of Chinese heritage transplanted onto the Canadian West coast." Mingshoi Cai, writing in Children's Literature in Education, felt that same title "captures the spirit of young people who try to carry on the cultural tradition," while Lee Galda, writing in the Reading Teacher, praised the manner in which the book "explodes with a cacophony of sound and a crescendoing intensity of brilliant colours, resplendent with exquisite details of Westcoast Chinese culture."

The Sparrow's Song, Wallace's next self-illustrated title, is set in the Niagara Falls region where the artist grew up, but is transposed to the early years of the 20th century. Young Charles kills a sparrow and his sister Katie takes care of the baby sparrow left motherless by this cruel act. Together they both learn important lessons: she of forgiveness, and he of repentance, as they work together gathering food for the fledgling and teach it to fly. Carol Gerson, reviewing the book in Canadian Children's Literature, noted that "text and illustrations interact magically" in this picture book. The contributor for St. James Guide to Children's Writers also praised Wallace's "free flowing depictions of water, rocks, and trees [that] symbolize the ever-changing panorama of nature." Several reviewers also commented on the background of the gorge and Niagara falls in the illustrations which acts like a spiritual power for the young children.

The circus is the inspiration for Morgan the Magnificent, the tale of another little child, like Chin, frozen by stage fright. Morgan lives alone with her single father and dreams of being a circus performer, using the beams in the barn for her tightrope-walking stage. One day she sneaks off to the circus and into the tent of the star aerialist, Anastasia. There she puts on the woman's costume and climbs up to the highwire only to be petrified once she realizes what she has done and where she is. Ultimately saved by Anastasia and cajoled into performing her own act, Morgan is wiser at the end of her adventure, for she understands both her strengths and limitations. Wallace employs various viewpoints in his illustrations in order to bring the viewer into the action of the story, both from the perspective of the highwire itself looking down, and from the spectator on the ground looking up. Catherine Sheldrick Ross, reviewing Morgan the Magnificent in Canadian Literature, called attention to the "spare and dramatic" text, and to the fact that Wallace's golden-hued pictures "do not so much illustrate the text as extend and enrich it." Ulrike Walker, writing in Canadian Children's Literature, similarly found that the title is an "excellent, meticulously designed picture book." Walker also commented on the happy ending, brought about with the help of Anastasia: "The secure 'reality' of the father's farm world is happily mingled with Morgan's own dream world," Walker wrote.

During much of the late 1980s, Wallace concentrated on illustrating the books of others, including Architect of the Moon by Wynne-Jones, the Bantu tale, The Name of the Tree, Teddy Jam's The Year of the Fire, and Bud Davidge's The Mummer's Song. Reviewing The Name of the Tree in Reading Teacher, Galda praised Wallace's artwork, which works "beautifully to convey the mood of intense heat." According to Denia Lewis Hester in a School Library Journal review of that same title, "Wallace masterfully utilizes muted pinks, grays, and greens that bring to life the cracked, dry land that threatens the animals' very existence."

With the 1991 Mr. Kneebone's New Digs, Wallace returns to a theme initially worked in The Christmas Tree, namely the situation of the elderly poor in an urban environment. April Moth lives in a miserable oneroom flat with her dog, Mr. Kneebone. She grows so disgusted with the rat-infested place that she sets off to find better lodgings, and ends up in a cave in the park, at least safe from the big buildings of the city. She at last has found a bit of independence in the city, but it is a fragile independence. Lynn Wytenbroek, writing in Canadian Literature, praised Wallace's "wonderful pastel pictures . . . [which] help make the book come alive." Annette Goldsmith, writing in Quill and Quire, also commented on the "quite lovely" illustrations, but was less impressed with the book as a whole, calling it a "disappointment" for long-time fans. Theo Hersh, however, found more to like in the book in a Canadian Materials review, describing the artwork as "among Wallace's best," and further remarking that the "complex, unsettling book" was both "unusual" and "wonderful."

Adapting the work of the Brothers Grimm, Wallace provides his own take on a classic fairy tale in Hansel and Gretel, a work that "may well be his most ambitious book," according to Raymond E. Jones and Jon C. Stott in Canadian Children's Books: A Critical Guide to Authors and Illustrators. The same authors pointed out that with so many retellings of this classic tale, "the creator of a new version faces the challenge of providing pictures that both enhance the traditional meanings of the story and communicate new ones. Wallace succeeds admirably on both counts." Wallace's retelling remains true to the original tale in spirit, but does modernize and localize parts of it, making the father a poor Atlantic Coast fisherman. Jones and Stott found the illustrations for this book "the darkest of any in Wallace's books." Reviewing Hansel and Gretel in Booklist, Hazel Rochman found the retelling "sinister but not gruesome." School Library Journal's Judith Constantinides called the book a "brooding, surrealistic version of the classic fairy tale" and a "distinguished book to savor." Similarly, Patty Lawlor, reviewing the same title in Quill and Quire, concluded that "Wallace offers readers the opportunity to experience Hansel and Gretel in an intriguing and provocative picture-book format."

More uplifting material is presented in A Winter's Tale in which nine-year-old Abigail takes her first winter camping trip with her father and in the process helps to save a trapped fawn. Booklist's Linda Perkins found that "the story is a successful vehicle for Wallace's exquisite art," while Audrey Laski, writing in School Librarian, called it an "enchanting picture story." Deborah Stevenson, reviewing the work in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, thought the tale was "appealing," and a "rare outdoor rite-of-passage story about a girl." A young boy has his own rite of passage in Boy of the Deeps, in which young James goes to his first day of work in the Nova Scotian coal mines at the turn of the 20th century. This momentous day is made even more dramatic with a cave-in, which traps the boy and his father far beneath the earth. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that Wallace's "taut yet descriptive narrative appeals to the senses," while Booklist's Rochman noted that the illustrations in shades of "black, brown, and blue are lit with the flickering glow of miners' lamps in the dark." Quill and Quire's Hadley Dyer remarked that "Wallace is one of the few children's book illustrators unafraid to let sombre colours dominate," and went on to conclude that the book would appeal to anyone who appreciates that "rare combination of fine writing and illustration."

Another adolescent boy is featured in Duncan's Way, which recounts the way in which a boy helps his outof-work father. Duncan's family have long been fishermen in Newfoundland, but now the cod are not plentiful and after eighteen months of unemployment, something needs to be done. Duncan suddenly hits on the idea of using the family boat as a floating delivery van for a bakery. Linda Ludke, reviewing the work in School Library Journal, praised both the artwork, which "capture[s] the beauty of the landscape," and the text, which "eloquently conveys Duncan's anxiety." A contributor for Publishers Weekly also commended this simple tale: "Wallace creates some memorable portraits within this larger picture of a vanishing way of life."

Another rite of passage is served up in The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, set in the Yukon Territory. Josh and Gabe hear that a local trapper's amputated toe resides in a tobacco tin in the town's saloon, and conspire to get a look at it. First, however, they run into the trapper himself, who explains how his toe came to be frostbitten and subsequently amputated, and then he takes the youths to the saloon himself so they can get a look at it. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called this a "great" and "well-paced" story. Horn Book's Betty Carter likewise praised the "fast-moving plot and ample dialogue." Linda Berezowski, writing in Resource Links, found that Wallace's illustrations "complement the script and provide a strong visual setting for the story," and Lauren Peterson of Booklist also praised the artwork, noting that Wallace "adds to the fun [of this tall tale] with nicely rendered, superrealistic illustrations." And a contributor for Publishers Weekly called the book a "wry and absorbing initiation story."

In the 2002 publication, The Naked Lady, Wallace tells the semi-autobiographical story of his own beginnings as an artist. Young Tom takes a welcoming pie to the new neighbor, Pieter, and is shocked to see a statue of a naked lady in the man's yard. When the widowed sculptor informs Tom the statue is nude rather than naked, a friendship and mentorship begin between the lonely older man and the inquisitive farm boy, reflecting Wallace's own first teacher-student relationship as an artist. Reviewers responded warmly to this tribute. A contributor for Publishers Weekly applauded the "clean lines and uncluttered composition" of the artwork which in turn "reflect the directness and economy of the prose." The same reviewer called the book a "heartfelt tribute to the important role of mentors in any artist's life." Carolyn Janssen, reviewing the book in School Library Journal, likewise found the story to be "inspiring" as well as "appealing and enriching." And a contributor for Kirkus Reviews dubbed the tale "haunting" and "beautifully written and illustrated."

In an article for Five Owls, Wallace described his illustration process, and the importance of patience. "I always wait for the moment of revelation when I can smell the characters' blood in the media I am using, when I can see the tracks their history has left on the paper's tooth, and when I can watch them climb out of the dark and into the light of my studio. When that moment comes, I can finally say, 'So that's what that character or that situation is all about!'"

Jones and Stott concluded that Wallace is "one of Canada's major picture-book artists," and that his books "present a significant and strong vision of life. They emphasize not only the individual's successful quest for self-worth, but also the importance of individuals understanding themselves in relation to family, friends, community, tradition, and the powerful world of nature of which they are a part." Writing in St. James Guide to Children's Writers, Wallace explained his mission as a children's book author and illustrator. "In my work as an author I do not sit down to write stories, nor do I consciously choose stories to illustrate because they will be distinguished as being multicultural or Canadian or whatever flag one chooses to wave over them. I write or illustrate stories because first and foremost they are stories that will intrigue, inspire, and touch young readers. The characters who inhabit these tales are people who have earned my sympathy and are ones with whom I can empathize on a personal level. They are universal characters with universal emotions and universal experiences that make us human. They are characters who struggle, who test limits, and who endure. But most importantly they are characters who through the story go through some kind of change. At the end of a good story, a reader comes away with the confidence that the protagonist will never be the same and will treasure the memory. It is my hope that the reader of my books will never be the same either."



Children's Literature Review, Volume 37, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, edited by Bernice E. Cullinan and Diane G. Person, Continuum International (New York, NY), 2001.

Jones, Raymond E., and Jon C. Scott, Canadian Children's Books: A Critical Guide to Authors and Illustrators, Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000, pp. 459-565.

St. James Guide to Children's Writers, edited by Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Writers on Writing, Overlea House (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.


Booklist, June 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Hansel and Gretel, p. 1729; November 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Sarah and the People of Sand River, p. 496; October 15, 1997, Linda Perkins, review of A Winter's Tale, p. 417; March 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Boy of the Deeps, p. 1336; February 15, 2000, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Duncan's Way, p. 1122; June 1, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, p. 1744.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1998, Deborah Stevenson, review of A Winter's Tale, p. 180.

Canadian Children's Literature, number 57-58, 1990, Carole Gerson, review of The Sparrow's Song, pp. 135-136; number 60, 1990, Ulrike Walker, review of Morgan the Magnificent, pp. 113-114.

Canadian Literature, autumn, 1989, Catherine Sheldrick Ross, review of Morgan the Magnificent, pp. 246-247; autumn, 1992, Lynn Wytenbroek, review of Mr. Kneebone's New Digs, p. 162.

Canadian Materials, May, 1991, Joan McGrath, "Making Friends," pp. 153-156; March, 1992, Theo Hersh, review of Mr. Kneebone's New Digs, p. 85.

Children's Literature in Education, September, 1994, Mingshoi Cai, review of Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance, p. 169.

Emergency Librarian, September, 1990, review of Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance, p. 51.

Five Owls, May-June, 1999, Ian Wallace, "Waiting for the Raven," pp. 102-103.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 4, 1984, Sandra Martin, review of Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance; November 1, 1986.

Horn Book, May-June, 2002, Betty Carter, review of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, p. 323.

Horn Book Guide, spring, 2001, Carolyn Shute, review of Duncan's Way, p. 52.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1999, review of Boy of the Deeps, pp. 458-459; April 1, 2002, review of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, p. 501; October 1, 2002, review of The Naked Lady, p. 1483.

Language Arts, April, 1989, Jon C. Stott, "Profile: Ian Wallace," pp. 443-449.

Maclean's, December 9, 2002, review of The Naked Lady, p. 77.

Pubishers Weekly, September 23, 1996, review of Sarah and the People of Sand River, p. 76; April 26, 1999, review of Boy of the Deeps, p. 83; March 6, 2000, review of Duncan's Way, p. 110; March 18, 2002, review of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, p. 104; November 11, 2002, review of The Naked Lady, p. 63.

Quill and Quire, November, 1991, Annette Goldsmith, review of The Name of the Tree, p. 26; October, 1994, Patty Lawlor, review of Hansel and Gretel, pp. 40-41; March, 1999, Hadley Dyer, review of Boy of the Deeps, p. 67.

Reading Teacher, February, 1991, Lee Galda, review of The Name of the Tree, p. 411; April, 1992, Lee Galda, review of Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance, p. 635.

Resource Links, April, 2001, review of Duncan's Way, p. 49; June, 2002, Linda Berezowski, review of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, pp. 8-10.

School Librarian, spring, 1998, Audrey Laski, review of A Winter's Tale, p. 37.

School Library Journal, March, 1990, Denia Lewis Hester, review of The Name of the Tree, p. 209; June, 1990, p. 80; May, 1996, Judith Constantinides, review of Hansel and Gretel, p. 104; December, 1996, Sally R. Dow, review of Sarah and the People of Sand River, p. 108; December, 1997, Patricia Manning, review of A Winter's Tale, p. 102; July, 1999, Kathleen Whalin, review of Boy of the Deeps, p. 82; March, 2000, Linda Ludke, review of Duncan's Way, p. 219; April, 2002, Beth Tegart, review of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe, p. 159; November, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of The Naked Lady, p. 139.


Meet the Author/Illustrator: Ian Wallace (videotape), Meade Education Services, 1990.