Wilson, Sarah 1934-
WILSON, Sarah 1934-
PERSONAL: Born October 8, 1934, in Syracuse, NY; daughter of Homer Arthur (an engineer) and Elizabeth (an artist; maiden name, Remington) Turpin; married Herbert Eugene Wilson (an architect), September 30, 1956; children: Leslie Anne, Robert Murray. Education: University of Madrid, Diploma de estudios Hispanicos, 1955; Ohio University, B.A., 1956.
CAREER: Denver General Hospital, Denver, CO, medical social worker, 1963-64; Laguna Pre-School and Laguna Beach School of Art & Design, Laguna Beach, CA, and Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA, art teacher, 1965-77; freelance artist and illustrator, 1977—. Co-owner of Art Workshop West, Los Angeles, CA, 1971-73; worked as a workshop leader and as a resource teacher in the public schools of Orange County, CA. Work exhibited at museums and galleries in southern California.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (past regional adviser), Bay Area Illustrators for Children, Virginia Kittredge Crosley Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Don Freeman memorial grant, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1982.
FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
I Can Do It! I Can Do It!, Quail Street (Newport Beach, CA), 1976.
Beware the Dragons!, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.
Muskrat, Muskrat, Eat Your Peas!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
The Day That Henry Cleaned His Room, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
Three in a Balloon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
Uncle Albert's Flying Birthday, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
June Is a Tune That Jumps on a Stair, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Garage Song, illustrated by Bernie Karlin, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Christmas Cowboy, illustrated by Peter Palagonia, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
Good Zap, Little Grog, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.
Hats, illustrated by Mary Mayberry, Wright Group (Bothell, WA), 1996.
Disney Babies On the Go, layouts by Orlando de la Paz, illustrated by Ron Cohee and Adam Devaney, Mouse Works (New York, NY), 1997.
What Do People Do?: A Learn-About Book, illustrated by Josie Yee, Joshua Morris Publishing (Westport, CT), 1997.
The Guide Dog, illustrated by Graham Meadows, Wright Group (Bothell, WA), 1997.
Going to the Bank, illustrated by Damon McPhail, Wright Group (Bothell, WA), 1997.
Going to the Hairdresser, illustrated by Damon McPhail, Wright Group (Bothell, WA), 1997.
(With Susan Hood) The Curious Little Lamb, illustrated by Josie Yee, Reader's Digest (Pleasantville, NY), 1997.
Spotty Can't Sleep, illustrated by Thompson Brothers, Reader's Digest (Pleasantville, NY), 1997.
A Baby's Got to Grow, illustrated by Peter Panas, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
What Should Eddie Pack?, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken and Jim Durk, Joshua Morris Publishing (Westport, CT), 1998.
Sleepytime Farm, illustrated by Susan Calitri, Reader's Digest (Pleasantville, NY), 1999.
Love and Kisses, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
George Hogglesberry: Grade School Alien, illustrated by Chad Cameron, Tricycle Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.
Big Day on the River, illustrated by Randy Cecil, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.
A Nap in a Lap, illustrated by Akemi Gutierrez, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.
Elizabeth Rush, The House at the End of the Lane, Green Tiger (La Jolla, CA), 1982.
Phyllis Hoffman, Baby's First Year, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.
Elizabeth Winthrop, Sledding, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
Phyllis Hoffman, We Play, Harper (New York, NY), 1990.
Author and illustrator of "The World of Food," a weekly newspaper column for children in the Valley Times, 1981; illustrator of "The Letter Bear," a monthly subscription letter for children, 1982-86.
SIDELIGHTS: Author and illustrator Sarah Wilson is noted by critics for her children's books full of quirky characters and downright silly situations. "Humor is something I'm drawn toward in artwork and in the world in general," Wilson once told CA. In her thirty books for children, Wilson has had much opportunity to practice her particular blend of humor: from a little boy who finally cleans his room, to an alien facing his first day in school on Earth, she treats young readers to playful interpretations of everyday childhood events. Her use of a humorous perspective on topics such as eating peas and growing up allows children to view common situations from a reassuring distance, remark reviewers. In both narrative and verse, Wilson charts the daily lives of children and has proven herself an able illustrator, preparing the artwork for other authors, as well as illustrating seven of her own titles. She has also authored a score of titles illustrated by others.
Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1934, Wilson was an only child who early on discovered the joys of art. "I've always loved children's books and illustrations from the time my mother read to me as a small child," Wilson once told CA. From the age of four, she began putting together her own self-illustrated booklets, held together by paper clips. She had her first art lesson at the age of seven, an experience that added to her fertile imagination. "There was something very appealing to me about being able to carry art around in my pockets and enjoy it in a compact form," Wilson once reported. By the time she was in the fifth grade, her output had increased so much that a teacher told her she should consider becoming a children's author and illustrator when she grew up.
With her father in the Navy, Wilson and her family moved frequently, attending several different elementary schools and three high schools. Far from being a liability, this constant moving aided Wilson's artistic growth, allowing her to see how color and expression changed with the varying climates and surroundings. A very special place for her, in the midst of all her moving, was her grandparents' rambling house in New York state which she often visited. Full of curios from around the world, an attic packed with old junk, and a massive basement, this house filled her with amazement and ideas.
Wilson spent a year abroad in college, studying at the University of Madrid in 1955. Returning to Ohio University, she graduated the following year and also married. Two children soon followed and then time spent as a social worker and art teacher. In 1976, she published her first picture book, I Can Do It! I Can Do It! featuring her own illustrations. She also began writing and illustrating a weekly newspaper column and a monthly newsletter for children. Artwork for other authors occupied the early part of her career. Working with Phyllis Hoffman, she illustrated bothBaby's First Year and We Play. Reviewing the first title, a miniature chronicle of a baby's first year of life, Anna Biagioni Hart, writing in School Library Journal, pronounced the work "pretty," further noting that the colorful cover to the book "will easily move this one off the shelves." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly also praised Wilson's "gently humorous and always affectionate" illustrations in this same work. A day at nursery school is portrayed in We Play, mostly as seen through Wilson's "action-filled pictures," according to Horn Book's Carolyn K. Jenks. And working with author Elizabeth Winthrop, Wilson contributed artwork to Sledding, a verse celebration of sled riding. Ann Stell, reviewing the title in School Library Journal, drew attention to Wilson's "animated, cheerful watercolor illustrations" in this title.
Branching out on her own, Wilson has self-illustrated a variety of tales. Muskrat, Muskrat, Eat Your Peas! deals with the typical situation of a finicky eater. However, in Wilson's take on this subject, Muskrat feels badly that he does not want to eat peas at the Pea Picnic, and after friends and family encourage him to eat them, they finally relent and serve him up some spaghetti. "Peas are rarely treated with such charm and good humor as in Wilson's spirited tale," declared Jeanne Marie Clancy in School Library Journal. Clancy further lauded Wilson's "fresh" and "humorous illustrations," and felt that the book was "an excellent read-aloud choice." Beth Herbert, writing in Booklist, thought that parents might think twice about Wilson's solution to a finicky eater but still found the story "amusing" and the illustrations "bustling" as well as "packed with whimsical conversational balloons." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded, "Simple problem, cheerfully presented, aptly solved."
Wilson presents a historical footnote in her Three in a Balloon, the true story of how a rooster, a sheep, and a duck were the first air passengers, sent up in a 1793 hot-air balloon experiment. Wilson retells the situation in "lilting verse with an enticing cadence," according to Booklist's Phillis Wilson, as the animals look amazed down at Earth. Wilson also praised the "gracefully shaded watercolors," pronouncing the entire effort "a delightful, high-flying trip." Likewise, May Lou Budd called the book "a glorious flight of fantasy (and fact!)," in a School Library Journal review. Budd commended Wilson's "irresistible" illustrations and the use of verbal imagery in the "engaging text" that would make "imaginations . . . soar." Less impressed with the text, Maeve Visser Knoth, writing in Horn Book Guide, still felt the illustrations allow young children "a real sense of this flight." More flight happens in Uncle Albert's Flying Birthday, in which a tired baker makes a silly mistake. When he uses soap powder instead of flour for Uncle Albert's birthday cake, he sends the party revelers on an air-born excursion, hoisted aloft by soap bubbles. Anne Irish dubbed this book a "slapstick fantasy" in Horn Book Guide, while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called it a "Poppinesque romp," further praising the "gently humorous pictures."
More humor is served up in The Day That Henry Cleaned His Room, about a little boy who gives his room a good scrub for the first time in a year. So momentous is the event that television reporters gather for the breaking news, the army is on hand to help cart away the mess, and scientists abound, ready to help him sort out his various animals and study the strange growth on his walls. When all is done, Henry feels so lonely in his sterile room that he cannot go to sleep until his animal friends come back, carrying loads of junk with them. Booklist's Stephanie Zvirin praised this "delightful narrative" for its "clever, bouncy text," and Horn Book's Ethel R. Twichell found that "both pictures and text treat the messy-room problem with riotous exaggeration." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the same title a "hilariously hyperbolic look at an all-too-familiar chore [that] is sure to be a favorite with kids."
Wilson presents thirty-one short verses about everyday events in June Is a Tune That Jumps on a Stair, a "sunny and appealing" book, according to a critic for Publishers Weekly. This self-illustrated title is both "gentle and playful," the same reviewer observed. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews was also favorably impressed with the collection of verse with its "deft phrasing and lilting cadences." Nancy Seiner of School Library Journal added to the positive reviews, applauding the "playful watercolors" and concluding that youngsters "may embrace poetry if they begin with a book like this one."
Increasingly, Wilson has collaborated with other illustrators on her books for young readers. She serves up more rhyming text in Garage Song, in which a young boy stops at a garage to fill up his bike tire and then sticks around to experience all the activity there. Juliann Tarsney commended "the energetic rhythm of Wilson's rhyming text" in Booklist, and School Library Journal's Nancy A. Gifford commented that Wilson's text produces "all the sounds, sights, and well-orchestrated action of a bustling service station." The circular nature of love is presented in Love and Kisses, in which a young girl kisses her cat, who kisses a cow, who kisses a goose, and so on until the kiss comes back to the little girl who originated it. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found this book "small, sweet, and silly," and Lisa Gangemi Krapp echoed the sentiment in School Library Journal, calling Love and Kisses a "lighthearted title." A Publishers Weekly reviewer further noted that Wilson's text "charts the travels of love unleashed."
Wilson has charted the world of aliens in a pair of other titles: Good Zap, Little Grog and George Hogglesberry: Grade School Alien. In the former book, she shows that children who live on other planets may well have the same sort of day as Earth children do. Employing rhyming verse with a wide array of made-up words for objects and animals on the alien planet, Wilson creates a "winsome fantasy," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Booklist's April Judge urged readers to "join the fun as you learn all about these strange but lovable creatures." Judge also lauded Wilson's "silly rhyming text." Similarly, Deborah Stevenson commented on Wilson's "nonsensetinged poem" in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, concluding that this bedtime story was "exotic but cozy." Another alien takes center stage in George Hogglesberry, a tale of the first day of school, with a twist. George has just arrived on Earth from the planet Frollop II and is afraid the kids at school will find his blue skin and absence of a nose weird. He tapes a nose on his face and hopes for the best; however, all the directions he gets before school become muddled in his head. He tells himself most definitely not to walk on the ceiling, as he does at home, or to turn himself into a tomato. But when he gets a part in the school play, his unusual talents come in handy. While a critic for Kirkus Reviews felt this story "doesn't ring true," Sally R. Dow, writing in School Library Journal, thought better of the book. Dubbing it an "off-beat" tale, Dow concluded that children experiencing something new "might find George's bizarre situation humorous and reassuring."
A further prose title from Wilson is the 2003 Big Day on the River, illustrated by Randy Cecil. Young Willie is anxious to be off on her own, rafting on the river. But when relatives intervene, loading her with absolutely essential material for her trip, the raft sinks. Pulling Willie out of the water and saving the raft, the relatives finally depart, leaving the young girl on her own, finally. Calling the story "sunny and silly," a reviewer for Publishers Weekly lauded this "lark of a tale" both for its "slapstick touches and Willie's independent spirit." Writing in School Library Journal, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan found Big Day on the River "a pitch-perfect picture book," adding that "Wilson's cheeky text sings."
"I feel very fortunate to be able to illustrate for children," Wilson once concluded to CA. "It's the audience I would most like to work for in the world, one that I admire and enjoy and find full of resourcefulness, daring, and an open, gentle heart. Too, I'm pleased (and still surprised, sometimes!) to have the chance to try and return some of the great pleasure I've had—and still have—from the well-loved children's books and illustrations of others."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 15, 1989, Beth Herbert, review of Muskrat, Muskrat, Eat Your Peas! p. 1830; March 15, 1990, Phillis Wilson, review of Three in a Balloon, p. 1462; October 15, 1990, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Day That Henry Cleaned His Room, pp. 452-453; December 1, 1991, Juliann Tarsney, review of Garage Song, p. 708; October 15, 1995, April Judge, review of Good Zap, Little Grog, p. 413.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1995, Deborah Stevenson, review of Good Zap, Little Grog, pp. 144-145.
Horn Book, May-June, 1990, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of We Play, p. 325; September-October, 1990, Ethel R. Twichell, review of The Day That Henry Cleaned His Room, pp. 595-596.
Horn Book Guide, fall, 1990, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of Three in a Balloon, p. 231; fall, 1991, Anne Irish, review of Uncle Albert's Flying Birthday, p. 247; fall, 1999, Sheila M. Geraty, review of Love and Kisses, p. 2424.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1989, review of Muskrat,Muskrat, Eat Your Peas! p. 922; June 15, 1992, review of June Is a Tune That Jumps on a Stair,p. 788; December 15, 1998, review of Love and Kisses, p. 1805; October 1, 2002, review of George Hogglesberry: Grade School Alien, pp. 1483-1484.
Magpies, March, 1996, Anne Hanzl, review of GoodZap, Little Grog, pp. 27-28.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 1988, review of Baby'sFirst Year, p. 70; May 11, 1990, review of The Day That Henry Cleaned His Room, p. 259; June 14, 1991, review of Uncle Albert's Flying Birthday, pp. 56-57; June 22, 1992, review of June Is a Tune That Jumps on a Stair, p. 61; September 20, 1993, review of Christmas Cowboy, pp. 34-35; September 4, 1995, review of Good Zap, Little Grog, pp. 68-69; December 3, 2001, review of Love and Kisses, pp. 62-63; January 13, 2003, review of Big Day on the River, p. 59.
School Library Journal, January, 1989, Anna Biagioni Hart, review of Baby's First Year, p. 64; August, 1989, Jeanne Marie Clancy, review of Muskrat, Muskrat, Eat Your Peas, p. 134; November, 1989, Ann Stell, review of Sledding, p. 96; March, 1990, May Lou Budd, review of Three in a Balloon, p. 202; September, 1991, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of Uncle Albert's Flying Birthday, p. 244; January, 1992, Nancy A. Gifford, review of Garage Song, p. 101; July, 1992, Nancy Seiner, review of June Is a Tune That Jumps on a Stair,p. 71; October, 1993, Jane Marino, review of Christmas Cowboy, p. 49; January, 1996, Judith Constantinides, review of Good Zap, Little Grog, pp. 98-99; February, 1999, Lisa Gangemi Krapp, review of Love and Kisses, p. 94; December, 2002, Sally R. Dow, review of George Hogglesberry, pp. 112-113; April, 2003, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, review of Big Day on the River, p. 144.*