Blackall, Sophie

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Blackall, Sophie

Personal

Born in Australia; immigrated to United States, 2000; married; children: two.

Addresses

Home and office—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Illustrator.

Awards, Honors

Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award, 2003, for Ruby's Wish, by Shirin Yim Bridges; Society of Illustrators Founders Award, 2005.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Twenty Party Tricks to Amuse and Amaze Your Friends, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1997.

ILLUSTRATOR

Leith Hillard, A Giraffe for France, Watermark Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1998.

Shirin Yim Bridges, Ruby's Wish, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall, Meet Wild Boars, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.

Annie Barrows, Ivy and Bean, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Annie Barrows, Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Phillis and David Gershator, Summer Is Summer, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Annie Barrows, Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Cari Best, What's So Bad about Being an Only Child?, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.

Deborah Noyes, Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secrets of Silk out of China, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Sidelights

After growing up in Australia, illustrator Sophie Blackall moved to the United States in 2000, where her unique art is enjoyed by many young fans. She was honored with the Ezra Jack Keats Award for New Illustrator in 2002 for the artwork she created for her debut picture-book project, Shirin Yim Bridges' Ruby's Wish. Since then, Blackall has brought to life the texts of several other authors, among them Cari Best, Meg Rosoff, and Phillis and David Gershator. In addition to her book illustration, she also contributes artwork to periodicals such as the New York Times and creating animation for British television commercials.

Before tackling her first picture-book project, Blackall both wrote and illustrated Twenty Party Tricks to Amuse and Amaze Your Friends. Here art and text combine to instruct readers in tricks such as floating a needle, seemingly transforming water into wine, and fitting a hardboiled egg into a narrow-necked glass bottle. She turned to a younger audience to illustrate A Giraffe for France, which was published while Blackall was still living in Australia. The move to the United States, which Black- all made accompanied by her husband and young children, coincided with her decision to expand her work in picture books. After making the rounds of New York City publishers, she was approached by Chronicle Books as one of three illustrators they were considering for Ruby's Wish. As Blackall recalled to Communication Arts contributor Maria Piscopo, the publisher "had each of us illustrate the same passage…. It was a Chinese story and there were so many possible ways to approach it visually. In the end I decided to make the picture I would want to see."

In Ruby's Wish readers meet a young girl growing up in China during the first part of the twentieth century. Curious and intelligent, Ruby loves the color red. She also loves learning and dreams of attending college, even though this is a path traditionally followed by men. Fortunately, in Bridges' semi-autobiographical tale, Ruby's wise grandfather recognizes her talent and supports her enrollment at a Chinese university. In a review of the book, Jody McCoy wrote in School Library Journal that in Blackall's "exquisite" opaque watercolor art "the beauty of Asian art and motifs is captured page after page." Noting that the strong bond between grandfather and granddaughter is at the core of Ruby's Wish, a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Blackall conveys th[is] … special relationship in subtle ways" in her art.

Paired with the upbeat rhyming text of the Gershators' Summer Is Summer, Blackall's "whimsical watercolor illustrations feature a dreamy world of fantasy and reality," noted School Library Journal contributor Marge Loch-Wouters. Rosoff's humorous picture book Meet Wild Boars also benefits from the illustrator's work; this time her "hulking, hairy boars … make a wonderful visual articulation of and counterpoint to Rosoff's arch, mock-cautionary prose," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. "Blackall's roll-on-the-ground-in-laughter illustrations" bring to life Rosoff's ill-mannered but "disgustingly delightful group," concluded Ilene Cooper in Booklist, while School Library Journal contributor Mary Elam accorded special praise to "the artist's attention to detail" in Meet Wild Boars.

Through her art, Blackall also brings to life Annie Barrows' easy-reading chapter book Ivy and Bean as well as several sequels. Writing that the art in Ivy and Bean "captures the girls' spirit," Cooper added that the illustrations "take … the book to a higher level." Appraising Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go in School Library Journal, Adrienne Furness cited Blackall's "expressive illustrations," and Sharon R. Pearce wrote in the same publication that artist's "humorous drawings add to the fun" that plays out in Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2002, Linda Perkins, review of Ruby's Wish, p. 608; March 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Meet Wild Boars, p. 1287; April 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Ivy and Bean, p. 42; April 15, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Summer Is Summer, p. 51; October 15, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go, p. 44; July 1, 2007, Kay Weisman, review of Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record, p. 58.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2002, review of Ruby's Wish, p. 49; June, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Ivy and Bean, p. 440.

Communication Arts, July, 2007 (illustration annual), Maria Piscopo, "Getting Published—Myth or Reality?"

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Ruby's Wish, p. 1217; April 15, 2005, review of Meet Wild Boars, p. 481; May 1, 2006, review of Ivy and Bean, p. 454; May 15, 2006, review of Summer Is Summer, p. 518; September 15, 2006, review of Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go, p. 946.

Publishers Weekly, August 19, 2002, review of Ruby's Wish, p. 88; March 28, 2005, review of Meet Wild Boars, p. 78; May 15, 2006, review of Ivy and Bean, p. 72.

School Library Journal, February, 2003, Jody McCoy, review of Ruby's Wish, p. 102; July, 2005, Mary Elam, review of Meet Wild Boars, p. 82; June, 2006, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of Summer Is Summer, p. 122; July, 2006, Eve Ottenberg Stone, review of Ivy and Bean, p. 68; February, 2007, Adrienne Furness, review of Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go, p. 84; July, 2007, Sharon R. Pearce, review of Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record, p. 67.

ONLINE

Sophie Blackall Home Page,http://www.sophieblackall.com (August 8, 2007).