Watson, Wendy (McLeod) 1942-
WATSON, Wendy (McLeod) 1942-
PERSONAL: Born July 7, 1942, in Paterson, NJ; daughter of Aldren Auld (an art editor, illustrator, and writer) and Nancy (a writer; maiden name, Dingman) Watson; married Michael Donald Harrah (an actor and opera singer), December 19, 1970; children: two, including Mary Cameron Harrah. Education: Bryn Mawr College, B.A. (magna cum laude; with honors; Latin literature), 1964; studied painting with Jerry Farnsworth, Cape Cod, MA, summers, 1961 and 1962, and drawing and painting at National Academy of Design, 1966 and 1967. Religion: Society of Friends (Quaker). Hobbies and other interests: Theater, music (plays the piano and cello), reading, gardening.
ADDRESSES: Home—Southern Vermont. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10001.
CAREER: Hanover Press, Hanover, NH, compositor and designer, 1965-66; freelance illustrator of books, 1966—.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fisherman Lullabies was included in the American Institute of Graphic Arts Children's Book Show, 1967-68; When Noodlehead Went to the Fair was included in the Printing Industries of America Graphic Arts Awards Competition, 1969; New York Times Outstanding Books citation, 1971, Children's Book Showcase award, Children's Book Council, 1972, and National Book Award finalist, Association of American Publishers, 1972, all for Father Fox's Pennyrhymes, which was also included in the American Institute of Graphic Arts Children's Book Show, 1972, and the Biennial of Illustrations, Bratislava, 1973.
FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Very Important Cat, Dodd (New York, NY), 1958.
(Editor) Fisherman Lullabies, music by sister, Clyde Watson, World Publishing (Cleveland, OH), 1968.
(Adapter) Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, TheHedgehog and the Hare, World Publishing (Cleveland, OH), 1969.
Lollipop, Crowell (New York, NY), 1976.
Moving, Crowell (New York, NY), 1978.
Has Winter Come?, Philomel (New York, NY), 1978.
Jamie's Story, Philomel (New York, NY), 1981.
The Bunnies' Christmas Eve, Philomel (New York, NY), 1983.
Christmas at Bunny's Inn: A Three Dimensional Advent Calendar with Twenty-four Windows and Doors to Open from December First to Christmas Eve, Philomel (New York, NY), 1984.
Little Brown Bear, Western Publishing (New York, NY), 1985.
Tales for a Winter's Eve (short stories), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1988.
Wendy Watson's Mother Goose, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1989.
Wendy Watson's Frog Went A-Courting, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1990.
Thanksgiving at Our House, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.
A Valentine for You, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.
Boo! It's Halloween, Clarion (New York, NY), 1992.
Hurray for the Fourth of July!, Clarion (New York, NY), 1992.
Happy Easter Day!, Clarion (New York, NY), 1993.
Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1994.
Holly's Christmas Eve, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Yeta Speevach, The Spider Plant, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1965.
A Comic Primer, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1966.
Love Is a Laugh, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1967.
The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, Stinehour Press (Lunenburg, VT), 1967.
Alice E. Christgau, Rosabel's Secret, W. R. Scott, 1967.
Paul Tripp, The Strawman Who Smiled by Mistake, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1967.
Edna Boutwell, Daughter of Liberty, World Publishing (Cleveland, OH), 1967.
Ogden Nash, The Cruise of the Aardvark, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1967.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry WadsworthLongfellow: Selected Poems, edited by Clarence Merton Babcock, Peter Pauper Press (Mount Vernon, VT), 1967.
Miska Miles, Uncle Fonzo's Ford, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1968.
The Best in Offbeat Humor, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1968.
Kathryn Hitte, When Noodlehead Went to the Fair, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1968.
Nancy Dingman Watson (mother), Carol to a Child, music by Clyde Watson, World Publishing (Cleveland, OH), 1969.
Louise Bachelder, compiler, God Bless Us, Every One, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1969.
The Jack Book, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1969.
Margaret Davidson, Helen Keller, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1969.
Mary H. Calhoun, Magic in the Alley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1970.
Mabel Harmer, Lizzie, the Lost Toys Witch, Macrae Smith (Philadelphia, PA), 1970.
Louise Bachelder, compiler, Happy Thoughts, Peter Pauper Press (Mount Vernon, VT), 1970.
How Dear to My Heart, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1970.
Clyde Watson, Father Fox's Pennyrhymes (verse; also see below), Crowell (New York, NY), 1971, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Life's Wondrous Ways, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1971.
America! America!, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1971.
A Gift of Mistletoe, Peter Pauper (Mount Vernon, NY), 1971.
Charles Linn, Probability, Crowell (New York, NY), 1972.
Clyde Watson, Tom Fox and the Apple Pie, Crowell (New York, NY), 1972.
Clyde R. Bulla, Open the Door and See All the People, Crowell (New York, NY), 1972.
Bobbie Katz, Upside Down and Inside Out: Poems forAll Your Pockets, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1973.
Nancy Dingman Watson, The Birthday Goat, Crowell (New York, NY), 1974.
Paul Showers, Sleep Is for Everyone, Crowell (New York, NY), 1974.
Clyde Watson, Quips and Quirks, Crowell (New York, NY), 1975.
Michael Holt, Maps, Tracks, and the Bridges ofKönigsberg, Crowell (New York, NY), 1975.
Nancy Dingman Watson, Muncus Agruncus: A BadLittle Mouse, Golden Press (New York, NY), 1976.
Clyde Watson, Hickory Stick Rag (verse), Crowell (New York, NY), 1976.
Florence Pettit, Christmas All around the House: Traditional Decorations You Can Make, Crowell (New York, NY), 1976.
Clyde Watson, Binary Numbers (nonfiction), Crowell (New York, NY), 1977.
Clyde Watson, Catch Me and Kiss Me and Say It Again (verse; also see below), Philomel (New York, NY), 1978.
Miska Miles, Jenny's Cat, Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.
Clyde Watson, How Brown Mouse Kept Christmas, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1980.
Jan Wahl, Button Eye's Orange, Warne (New York, NY), 1980.
Anne Pellowski, Stairstep Farm: Anna Rose's Story, Philomel (New York, NY), 1981.
Anne Pellowski, Willow Wind Farm: Betsy's Story, Philomel (New York, NY), 1981.
Clyde Watson, Applebet: An ABC, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1982.
Anne Pellowski, Winding Valley Farm: Annie's Story, Philomel (New York, NY), 1982.
Anne Pellowski, First Farm in the Valley: Anna's Story, Philomel (New York, NY), 1982.
Rebecca C. Jones, The Biggest, Meanest, Ugliest Dog in the Whole Wide World, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1982.
Clyde Watson, Father Fox's Feast of Songs (musical adaptations of poems from Father Fox's Pennyrhymes and Catch Me and Kiss Me and Say It Again), Philomel (New York, NY), 1983.
Anne Pellowski, Betsy's Up-and-Down Year, Philomel (New York, NY), 1983.
Carolyn Haywood, Happy Birthday from Carolyn Haywood, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
Elaine Edelman, I Love My Baby Sister (Most of theTime), Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1984.
Elizabeth Winthrop, Belinda's Hurricane, Dutton (New York, NY), 1984.
John Bierhorst, Doctor Coyote: A Native AmericanAesop's Fables, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.
Marcia Leonard, Angry, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.
Marcia Leonard, Happy, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.
Marcia Leonard, Scared, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.
Marcia Leonard, Silly, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.
Clyde Watson, Valentine Foxes, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1989.
B. G. Hennessy, A, B, C, D, Tummy, Toes, Hands, Knees, Viking Kestrel (New York, NY), 1989.
Clement Clarke Moore, The Night before Christmas, Clarion (New York, NY), 1990.
Clyde Watson, Love's a Sweet, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.
John Bierhorst, Is My Friend at Home?: Pueblo Fireside Tales, Farrar Straus (New York, NY), 2000.
Patricia Hubbell, Rabbit Moon: A Book of Holidays and Celebrations, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2002.
Clyde Watson, Father Fox's Christmas Rhymes, Farrar Straus (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: An author and illustrator of books for children under the age of ten, Wendy Watson is most often recognized for her artistic work, especially when it accompanies stories written by her sister, Clyde Watson. The sisters' award-winning collaboration Father Fox's Pennyrhymes was widely praised by critics, including New York Times Book Review contributor George A. Woods, who called the book "an American original." Watson has gone on to produce many more titles for young readers, a score of which are her own self-illustrated works, and the rest done in collaboration with writers such as her sister, her mother—the writer Nancy Dingman Watson—and other notable authors from Ogden Nash to Anne Pellowski.
Watson once told CA: "My parents provided, indirectly, a great deal of my basic training in drawing and books in general." Watson was born in New Jersey, but grew up on a farm in Putney, Vermont, with her seven siblings, her artist father, and writer mother. Surrounded by animals—goats, horses and chickens—Watson also grew up in the company of art, for her father, Aldren, had his studio on the third floor of the house. Books were present everywhere as well, including those published by her mother, Nancy. Watson's "cheerful, homey illustrations reflect this rural upbringing," according to a contributor for Children's Books and Their Creators.
Watson attended Bryn Mawr College, majoring in Latin literature and graduating in 1964. However, from the time she was a young child, she knew she wanted to become an illustrator; during her college summers and thereafter, she received formal training from Jerry Farnsworth, Helen Sawyer, and Daniel Greene both on Cape Cod and at the National Academy of Design in 1966 and 1967. Her father also helped in her art training. Following college graduation, Watson worked for a time at a small press in New Hampshire where she was a compositor and designer, learning much about typography and design that would be invaluable to her in her book-illustrating career. In 1970 Watson married the opera singer and actor, Michael Donald Harrah.
Watson's career as a professional author and illustrator got underway in 1958—when she was only sixteen—with the publication of the self-illustrated Very Important Cat. Throughout the 1960s, she went on to illustrate a score of titles by other others, until she made her name with Father Fox's Pennyrhymes, written by her sister, Clyde. This fox entertains his large family around the fire on wintry nights with rhymes, telling of love and family life, as well as topics including gluttony and the love of song. Watson's illustrations for her sister's title were warmly received by critics and helped win the book a nomination for a National Book Award as well as inclusion in the 1972 Children's Book Showcase. The contributor for Children's Books and Their Creators noted that "the pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations" for this book "depict the changing seasons of rural New England life and the chaos and warmth of family life."
The drawings for Father Fox's Pennyrhymes are typical of the artist's style. Having spent most of her life in Vermont, Watson creates illustrations that exude a New England country charm—"cheerful, old-fashioned illustrations," as one Publishers Weekly contributor characterized them in a review of A Valentine for You. "Her colors have a real integrity that seems to derive from the New England light," Christina Olson observed of Wendy Watson's Mother Goose in a New York Times Book Review article.
Another quality of many of Watson's illustrations is their attention to small details. A picture by Watson is often filled with objects and bustling with activity that catches the reader's eye. This aspect of her work is especially evident in books like Wendy Watson's Frog Went A-Courting. But while a Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "youngsters will enjoy seeking out the many droll details" in the illustrations, Olson, writing in New York Times Book Review, felt in this case that the "frenetic" nature of the pictures does not mesh well with the "rhythms of the text." But, for Olson, this was a small complaint when compared to the quality of the artist's work in general. "Wendy Watson is, after all," the critic concluded, "an illustrator who knows what she is doing. There is a sweetness in her work that is unfailingly appealing, and she produces thoughtful and well-made books."
Other collaborative efforts with her sister include such titles as Tom Fox and the Apple Pie, Catch Me and Kiss Me and Say It Again, How Brown Mouse Kept Christmas, Father Fox's Feast of Songs, Love's a Sweet, and the 2003 Father Fox's Christmas Rhymes. Most of these have a simple rhyming text, easily memorized by young readers or listeners, accompanied by Watson's watercolor illustrations which reveal an appreciation for family life and the fine details of childhood. A reviewer for Horn Book, for example, praised her "jolly, decorative illustrations" for Father Fox's Feast of Songs. Teaming up on her sister's collection of poems showing the ups and downs of love, Love's a Sweet, Watson supplies "lively colored pencil drawing that skip across the pages," according to Booklist's Kathy Broderick. A critic for Publishes Weekly found the artwork for that same title "sweetly misted but witty," as well as "serene and soothing."
Watson has also used her own rural background, growing up in a large, loving, and boisterous family, as inspiration for her illustrations for the works of Anne Pellowski about farm families in Wisconsin, including First Farm in the Valley: Anna's Story, Stairstep Farm: Anna Rose's Story, and Willow Wind Farm: Betsy's Story. With John Bierhorst, she has worked on a duet of books involving the Native American trickster, Coyote. The 1987 volume Doctor Coyote: A Native American Aesop's Fables presents a bevy of Aztec interpretations of Aesop's fables. Bierhorst returned to such Coyote tales with the 2001 title Is My Friend At Home?: Pueblo Fireside Tales, a compilation of seven trickster tales from the Hopi tradition. Rosalyn Pierini, writing in School Library Journal, felt that Watson's "child-centered, humorous illustrations enliven the text and lend a great deal of personality to these archetypal characters." Similarly, Horn Book's Nell D. Beram noted that Watson's cartoon-like illustrations "capture the spirit of these disarmingly absurd, unexpectedly touching tales." Rabbits take center stage in a collaborative effort with writer Patricia Hubbell for the 2002 Rabbit Moon: A Book of Holidays and Celebrations. Piper L. Nyman wrote in School Library Journal that the "adorable characters cavort over the spreads."
Watson has produced several books around the theme of holidays and celebrations. Christmas is featured in Clement Clarke Moore's traditional poem The Night before Christmas, an "utterly charming version," as a contributor for Publishers Weekly observed. Gathering several well-known rhymes and songs about love in A Valentine for You, Watson created "a fetching gift for a young Valentine," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. In Thanksgiving at Our House, she presents an original story which contains traditional songs and rhymes, along with full-page artwork in "a pleasantly cluttered book," as another Publishers Weekly contributor described the book. The extended family featured in that book prepares for the big feast, and Watson's illustrations manage to "capture the high-spirited anticipation," according to the same critic. Independence Day receives the same treatment in Hurray for the Fourth of July!, featuring the family in a "heartening portrait of a holiday celebration in a small American town," as a contributor for Publishers Weekly commented. Watson once again peppers her original tale with traditional rhymes and songs, as well as her own artwork. She reprises the same family in Happy Easter Day, as the clan prepares hot-cross buns and Easter eggs for the holiday. The birth of five kittens turns out to be the biggest Easter surprise of all. Virginia Opocensky, writing in School Library Journal, dubbed this effort "a delightful addition for holiday shelves," and further praised Watson's illustrations, which are "bustling with activity and details." An Entertainment Weekly contributor also lauded Watson's "jolly" illustrations in this same work.
Watson provides her own take on foxes in Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, a retelling of an old folk song about the fox who manages to go out at night to provide food for its young brood of kits, evading and eluding all the townsfolk who are soon in hot pursuit. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found Watson's adaptation a worthwhile addition, especially because of the artwork "that gives the classic a heft you can almost bite into." While Booklist's Mary Harris Veeder commented that Watson's illustrations "supply the motivation that sends [fox] out" in the evening, a Publishers Weekly reviewer suggested that "Watson's timeless illustrations offer abundant particulars to pore over."
With the self-illustrated 2002 Holly's Christmas Eve, Watson returns to holiday themes in a tale of a painted wooden ornament on the Christmas tree who goes in search of her missing arm. Holly is the most recent addition to the ornaments, but when the family cat crawls up the tree, Holly is knocked down, losing her arm in the process. The vacuum cleaner proceeds to gobble it up, but Holly, joined by other ornaments, including the Tin Horse and Cloth Bear, make an expedition to retrieve the lost arm. She finds the missing appendage and, with the help of Santa, manages to repair it. Once again, Watson scored a winner, both in text and artwork, according to the critics. In a School Library Journal review, Maureen Wade praised the "vivid, full page . . . artwork [that] captures the drama and satisfying ending." Booklist's Ilene Cooper also commended Watson's illustrations, which have "the exuberance and simplicity of children's own art." And a Kirkus Reviews critic focused on the text, noting that though the story is "simple," Watson blends "amusing characters" and a "folksy narrative voice . . . into a satisfying, if unusual, Christmas Eve tale."
From foxes to chaotic and happy families, Watson has portrayed a myriad of characters and activities in her warm, family-oriented tales and illustrations. Blending humor and traditional scenes, Watson has created a body of work praised by critics and honored by awards committees. Watson's "honest, often wise stories and detailed country illustrations are full of joy and life," concluded the contributor for Children's Books and Their Creators.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Booklist, March 1, 1993, Deborah Abbott, review of Happy Easter Day!, p. 1233; September 1, 1994, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, p. 47; August, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Sleep Is for Everyone, p. 1904; December 1, 1998, Kathy Broderick, review of Love's a Sweet, p. 668; September 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Holly's Christmas Eve, p. 247.
Entertainment Weekly, March 11, 1994, review of Happy Easter Day!, p. 72.
Horn Book, October, 1971, p. 474; January, 1989, p. 64; March-April, 1993, review of Father Fox's Feast of Songs, p. 232; September-October, 2001, Nell D. Beram, review of Is My Friend Home?, p. 600.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1994, review of Fox WentOut on a Chilly Night, p. 1418; November 1, 2002, review of Holly's Christmas Eve, p. 1627.
New York Times Book Review, August 15, 1971, George A. Woods, review of Father Fox's Pennyrhymes, p. 8; May 27, 1990, Christina Olson, "Children's Books," p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1990, review of WendyWatson's Frog Went A-Courting, p. 60; September 14, 1990, review of The Night before Christmas, p. 123; January 25, 1991, review of A Valentine for You, p. 56; July 25, 1991, review of Thanksgiving at Our House, pp. 52-53; March 9, 1992, review of Hurray for the Fourth of July!, p. 55; October 17, 1994, review of Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, p. 80; October 26, 1998, review of Love's a Sweet, p. 65.
School Library Journal, April, 1993, Virginia Opocensky, review of Happy Easter Day!, p. 116; August, 1997, Marsha McGrath, review of Sleep Is for Everyone, pp. 150-151; October, 1994, Roseanne Cerny, review of Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, p. 116; January, 1999, Marlene Gawron, review of Love's a Sweet, p. 122; September, 2001, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Is My Friend Home?, p. 211; June, 2002, Piper L. Nyman, review of Rabbit Moon: A Book of Holidays and Celebrations, pp. 97-98; October, 2002, Maureen Wade, review of Holly's Christmas Eve, pp. 64-65.
VisitingAuthors,http://www.visitingauthors.com/ (June 29, 2003), "Wendy Watson's Biography and Books."*