Burleigh, Robert 1936–
Burleigh, Robert 1936–
Born January 4, 1936, in Chicago, IL; married; children: three. Education: Graduated from DePauw University, 1957; University of Chicago, M.A. 1962.
Home and office—Chicago, IL. E-mail—[email protected] earthlink.net.
Author and artist. Worked for Society of Visual Education as a writer and artist. Exhibitions: Work has appeared in solo exhibitions, under pseudonym Burleigh Kronquist, at ARC Gallery, Chicago, IL, 1988; Southport Gallery, Chicago, 1988, 1995; Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, 1992, 1994; University Club, Chicago, 1994; IDAO Gallery, Chicago, 1998, 1999, 2000; DePauw University Gallery, Greencastle, IN, 2002; O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY, 2001, 2005; Riverside Arts Center, Riverside, IL, 2006. Work has appeared in group exhibitions at Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, IL, 1988; University of Nebraska Gallery, Omaha, NE, 1989; Greater Lafayette Art Museum, Lafayette, IN, 1992; Harper College Gallery, Palatine, IL, 2000; Ukrainian Institute of Art, Chicago, 2001, 2004; and Cumberland Gallery, Nashville, TN, 2004.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Orbis Pictus Award, 1992, for Flight; Notable Children's Book selection, American Library Association, Children's Choice selection, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, and 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing selection and Books for the Teen Age selection, both New York Public Library, all for Hoops.
A Man Named Thoreau, illustrated by Lloyd Bloom, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.
Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer, Philomel (New York, NY), 1991.
Who Said That? Famous Americans Speak, illustrated by David Catrow, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.
Hoops (picture book), illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, Silver Whistle (San Diego, CA), 1997.
Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic, illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.
It's Funny Where Ben's Train Takes Him, illustrated by Joanna Yardley, Orchard (New York, NY), 1999.
Hercules, illustrated by Raul Colón, Silver Whistle (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Edna, illustrated by Joanna Yardley, Orchard (New York, NY), 2000.
Messenger, Messenger, illustrated by Barry Root, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.
Lookin' for Bird in the Big City, illustrated by Marek Los, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
I Love Going through This Book, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Goal (picture book), illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest, Abrams (New York, NY), 2002.
Pandora, illustrated by Raul Colón, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
The Secret of the Great Houdini, illustrated by Leonid Gore, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Into the Air: The Story of the Wright Brothers' First Flight (picture-book biography), illustrated by Bill Wylie, Silver Whistle (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Into the Woods: John James Audubon Lives His Dream, illustrated by Wendell Minor, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor) Earth from Above for Young Readers, photographs by Yann Arthus Bertrand, illustrated by David Giraudon, Abrams (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor) Volcanoes: Journey to the Crater's Edge, photographs by Philippe Bourseiller, illustrated by David Giraudon, Abrams (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor) The Sea: Exploring Life on an Ocean Planet, photographs by Philip Plisson, illustrated by Emmanuel Cerisier, Abrams (New York, NY), 2003.
Amelia Earhart: Free in the Skies, illustrated by Bill Wylie, Silver Whistle (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Langston's Train Ride, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, Orchard (New York, NY), 2004.
American Moments: Scenes from American History, illustrated by Bruce Strachan, Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Seurat and La Grande Jatte: Connecting the Dots, Abrams (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Tiki and Ronde Barber) By My Brother's Side, illustrated by Barry Root, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Tiki and Ronde Barber) Game Day, illustrated by Barry Root, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Toulouse-Lautrec: The Moulin Rouge and the City of Light, Abrams (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Tiki and Ronde Barber) Teammates, illustrated by Barry Root, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Paul Cézanne: A Painter's Journey, Abrams (New York, NY), 2006.
(With Jorge Posada) Play Ball!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest, illustrated by Ed Young, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.
Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson: Against the Odds, illustrated by Mike Wimmer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
Napoleon: The Story of the Little Corporal, Abrams (New York, NY), 2007.
Fly, Cher Ami, Fly!: The Pigeon Who Saved the Lost Battalion, illustrated by Robert MacKenzie, Abrams (New York, NY), 2008.
Abraham Lincoln Comes Home, illustrated by Wendell Minor, Holt (New York, NY), 2008.
Clang-Clang! Beep-Beep!: Listen to the City, illustrated by Beppe Giacobbe, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2009.
One Giant Leap, illustrated by Mike Wimmer, Philomel (New York, NY), 2009.
(With Mary Jane Gray) Basic Writing Skills, Society for Visual Education (Chicago, IL), 1976.
The Triumph of Mittens: Poems, Boardwell-Kloner (Chicago, IL), 1980.
Colonial America, illustrated by James Seward, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1992.
Also writer and producer of over one hundred filmstrips and cassettes on educational subjects.
A writer of informational books of biography and history as well as a poet, Robert Burleigh is noted for introducing complex historical topics to young readers in an accessible and effective manner. Using a picture book format, the author presents facts about his sub- jects—most often notable Americans such as Henry David Thoreau, Charles Lindbergh, Harry Houdini, Admiral Richard Byrd, and Jackie Robinson—in simple language and present-tense narration. Burleigh favors clipped, staccato texts in both his prose and his poetry, a style credited with expressing the ideas, drama, and importance of each of his topics in an evocative fashion. Reviewers also note the successful marriage of the author's texts with the illustrations of such artists as Lloyd Bloom, Ed Young, and Wendell Minor.
Nineteenth-century writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau is the subject of Burleigh's first biography, A Man Named Thoreau. Considered a balanced overview of Thoreau's life and influence, the book addresses its subject's time at Walden Pond, his love for nature, his literary works, and his civil disobedience, among other topics. Burleigh presents Thoreau and his ideas by combining biographical facts with quotes from the philosopher's popular work Walden. Writing in School Library Journal, Ruth Semrau called A Man Named Thoreau a book that "unfolds new pleasures on every page" and deemed it an "exquisitely simple introduction to a difficult subject." David E. White observed in Horn Book that the quotations "interspersed throughout the text … are beneficial in capturing the essence of this noted figure." A reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books declared that to "have simplified concepts so much without distortion is a gift to the younger reader or listener."
In his picture book Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh, Burleigh describes Lindbergh's famous non-stop
flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Basing his text on the famed pilot's memoir The Spirit of St. Louis, Burleigh focuses on Lindbergh's journey undertaken at age twenty-five. Once again, the author is credited with successfully conveying a sophisticated concept, in this case the difficulty of, in the words of New York Times Book Review contributor Signe Wilkinson, "staying awake, alert and in charge of a plane and one's life for two days and a very long, lonely night before sleep" to an audience "too young to appreciate what pulling an all-nighter feels like." Horn Book reviewer Ann A. Flowers remarked that the text conveys Lindbergh's bravery, the drain on him personally, and the primitive state of his plane, all in "completely convincing detail." Burleigh's use of the present tense "keeps the reader in suspense from the moment the plane takes off until [its arrival in] Paris," the critic added, concluding that the book is a "pioneer example of the ‘right stuff,’ splendidly and excitingly presented." Burleigh's use of sentence fragments and single-sentence paragraphs "conveys the excitement of Lindbergh's historic flight," noted a critic in Kirkus Reviews, who called Flight a book "that brings new life to one of the stories of the century." Burleigh received the Orbis Pictus Award in 1992 for this work.
Shifting to sports, Burleigh crafts a picture-book look at one of baseball's most widely known heroes in Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth, while in two picture books of poetry, Hoops and Goal, he describes basketball and soccer in verses that simulate the action of the players and capture the excitement of the game. Filled with tactile imagery, Hoops and Goal outline the way the game feels to its players. "An ode to the game for older children, veteran players, and NBA fans," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer of Hoops, adding that Burleigh's "book will give language to teenagers' experience both on and off the court." A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that Goal uses soccer as a frame "to demonstrate the power of teamwork to achieve success," and concluded that Burleigh's book is "a real winner."
In his picture book Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic, Burleigh retells the explorer's incredible six-month stay alone in the Antarctic. Based on Byrd's daily journal, Black Whiteness includes detailed descriptions of Byrd's enduring hardships—subzero temperatures, continuous darkness with limited lighting equipment, and loneliness. "Burleigh's spare prose eloquently captures the spartan surroundings in which Byrd conducted daily meteorological studies," observed a critic in Kirkus Reviews, who concluded that the explorer's story is "severe, often depressing, and always riveting." A similar adventurous hero can be found in Into the Woods: John James Audubon Lives His Dream. Burleigh uses rhyming couplets to communicate Audubon's decision to give up a job in business in order to wander through the wilderness, painting and drawing the sights to be seen during his adventures. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote of Into the Woodsthat Audubon's "philosophy wafts through the volume like a summer breeze." A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book a "tribute" to Audubon and a "feast for bird lovers."
Burleigh is as comfortable writing about big cities as he is about wilderness explorers. Messenger, Messenger follows a bike messenger through his busy day, from waking up in his book-filled apartment to making deliveries throughout the city. At the book's end, the tired worker returns to his flat to be warmly greeted by his cat. Writing in Booklist, Gillian Engberg felt that the
picture book "beautifully captures the energizing pulse of urban life and satisfying work." In Lookin' for Bird in the Big City, a teenaged Miles Davis, trumpet in hand, makes music on the city streets as he goes in search of his hero, Charlie Parker. Once again, Burleigh employs poetic language and rhythms to convey the flavor of jazz music and the enthusiasm Davis feels for it. "Words and art harmonize in this creatively imagined account," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. School Library Journal contributor Mary Elam concluded that Lookin' for Bird in the Big City offers "a lovely and lyrical look at this all-American art form."
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Ancient Greece abounds with mythical tales about superhuman exploits and misadventures. Burleigh has brought two of these to younger readers with his Hercules and Pandora. In Hercules, the hero tests his mettle against supernatural challenges, culminating in his descent to the underworld to battle the three-headed dog, Cerberus. In Booklist Ilene Cooper liked the fact that Hercules uses "language that draws on the strength of its subject yet speaks in the lilt of poetry." In her Booklist review, Stephanie Zvirin felt that Hercules would inspire young readers to search for other ancient myths about Hercules and other Greek gods, calling the book a "beautiful retelling."
Pandora puts a human face to the curious woman who, according to Greek myth, unleashed all the world's ills by opening a container. In his version of the story, Burleigh uses verse to illuminate how Pandora's curiosity becomes an obsession, despite her understanding of the danger she faces opening the jar. In a School Library Journal review of the work, Patricia Lothrop-Green praised "the graceful drama that unfolds" in the story, concluding: "This Pandora is tempting." Gillian Engberg of Booklist found Pandora to be "another fine retelling of a Greek myth."
Burleigh offers middle-grade readers a detailed look at a favorite confection in Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest. This illustrated book covers many aspects of chocolate, from its history as a food of the Maya and Aztecs to its journey from cacao pod to candy bar. The author writes about the slave labor once used in the cacao and sugar industries, and about how Milton Hershey revolutionized the sale of milk chocolate from his factory in Pennsylvania. In a School Library Journal review, Augusta R. Malvagno praised the "delightful" book for its "kaleidoscope of fascinating information," while a contributor to Kirkus Reviews concluded that Chocolate is "a well-conceived and executed work on a subject of great interest."
Some critics have particularly praised Burleigh's The Secret of the Great Houdini. Here he explores Houdini's escape from a trunk hurled into deep water from the point of view of a youngster named Sam and his Uncle Ezra, who have joined a crowd to watch the feat.
While Sam and Uncle Ezra anxiously await Houdini's escape, Uncle Ezra tells Sam about Houdini's childhood and hardscrabble youth. Sam can hardly concentrate on what his uncle is saying, so terrified is he of the possibility that Houdini will drown. "Burleigh achieves immediacy by writing his poetic text in the present tense," observed Marianne Saccardi in School Library Journal. "Houdini is a fascinating figure for all ages," maintained a Kirkus Reviews critic. "This snapshot of one incredible feat … may spur further exploration, and inspiration." In her Booklist review, Gillian Engberg declared that the work "captures the mystique of its famous subject."
In Langston's Train Ride, Burleigh chronicles a significant episode in the life of Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes—a cross-country train ride during which he composed his famous poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." Wendy Lukehart, writing in School Library Journal, applauded the "well-crafted, first-person narration," and a Publishers Weekly contributor
stated that the work may prompt readers "to reach out for their dreams." Burleigh's Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest was described as "a stunning and lyrical ode to a contemplative man and his amazing achievement" by School Library Journal reviewer Be Astengo. The work examines the life of the Nepalese Sherpa who joined Sir Edmund Hillary as one of the first men to climb Mount Everest. In Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson: Against the Odds, Burleigh offers biographical information about the man who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier and depicts an electrifying moment from the 1955 World Series. "Burleigh's text features vivid, sharp images," noted GraceAnne A. DeCandido in Booklist.
Burleigh, who paints under the pseudonym Burleigh Kronquist, has also produced picture book biographies of celebrated French artists, illustrated with reproductions of their paintings. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the diminutive nineteenth-century painter, printmaker,
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draftsman, and illustrator, is the subject of Toulouse-Lautrec: The Moulin Rouge and the City of Light. "Burleigh confidently celebrates Lautrec's work and skill," observed Steev Baker in School Library Journal. In Paul Cézanne: A Painter's Journey, Burleigh examines the life of the famed post-impressionist. According to Regan McMahon in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Burleigh's excellent work is a complex portrait of a complex man, driven to paint no matter what other people thought of him and his art."
"While the subjects vary," Burleigh remarked on his home page, "my books are linked philosophically, stylistically and structurally by my wish to capture where possible the emotional intensity—the essence—of whatever the subject is."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of It's Funny Where Ben's Train Takes Him, p. 979; August, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Hercules, p. 2050; March 15, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Edna, p. 1377; May 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Messenger, Messenger, p. 1742, and Stephanie Zvirin, review of Hercules, p. 1758; February 15, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Lookin' for Bird in the Big City, p. 1152; June 1, 2001, Marta Segal, review of I Love Going through This Book, p. 1888; June 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Pandora, p. 1711; July, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of The Secret of the Great Houdini, p. 1854; January 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Into the Woods: John James Audubon Lives His Dream, p. 874; September 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Langston's Train Ride, p. 238; March 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Toulouse-Lautrec: The Moulin Rouge and the City of Light, p. 1194; February 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Paul Cézanne: A Painter's Journey, p. 94; June 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest, p. 97; December 15, 2006, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson: Against the Odds, p. 49; June 1, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of Napoleon: The Story of the Little Corporal, p. 94.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1985, review of A Man Named Thoreau, p. 63.
Horn Book, March, 1986, David E. White, review of A Man Named Thoreau, pp. 215-216; November, 1991, Ann A. Flowers, review of Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh, p. 752.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1991, review of Flight, p. 1086; December 1, 1997, review of Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic, p. 1773; February 1, 2001, review of Goal, p. 180; March 1, 2002, review of Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest, p. 330; May 1, 2002, review of Pandora, p. 650; June 15, 2002, review of The Secret of the Great Houdini, p. 876; January 1, 2003, review of Into the Woods, p. 58; September 15, 2004, review of By My Brother's Side, p. 909, and Langston's Train Ride, p. 911; February 1, 2006, review of Paul Cézanne, p. 128; March 1, 2006, review of Play Ball!, p. 237; May 15, 2006, review of Tiger of the Snows, p. 514; May 1, 2007, review of Stealing Home; May 15, 2007, review of Napoleon; June 15, 2008, review of Abraham Lincoln Comes Home; August 15, 2008, review of Fly, Cher Ami, Fly!: The Pigeon Who Saved the Lost Battalion.
New York Times Book Review, January 26, 1992, Signe Wilkinson, review of Flight, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, October 6, 1997, review of Hoops, p. 83; August 9, 1999, review of Hercules, p. 352; May 14, 2001, review of Lookin' for Bird in the Big City, p. 82; June 19, 2000, review of Messenger, Messenger, p. 54; June 4, 2001, review of I Love Going through This Book, p. 79; April 1, 2002, review of Pandora, p. 83; June 3, 2002, review of The Secret of the Great Houdini, p. 88; December 2, 2002, review of Into the Woods, p. 52; January 3, 2005, review of Langston's Train Ride, p. 54; January 9, 2006, review of Play Ball!, p. 53; December 11, 2006, review of Stealing Home, p. 69; June 5, 2006, review of Tiger of the Snows, p. 64.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 2006, Regan McMahon, "Touchdown Teamwork," review of Game Day, p. M6; June 25, 2006, "An Artist's Life Is No Easy Path," p. M4.
School Library Journal, January, 1986, Ruth Semrau, review of A Man Named Thoreau, p. 64; October, 1999, Nina Lindsay, review of Hercules, p. 135; April, 2000, Kate McClelland, review of Edna, p. 92; April, 2001, Lee Bock, review of Goal, p. 129; June, 2001, Marianne Saccardi, review of I Love Going through This Book, p. 104, and Mary Elam, review of Lookin' for Bird in the Big City, p. 104; April, 2002, Augusta R. Malvagno, review of Chocolate, p. 129; May, 2002, Patricia Lothrop-Green, review of Pandora, p. 134; July, 2002, Marianne Saccardi, review of The Secretof the Great Houdini, p. 85; September, 2002, Dona Ratterree, review of Into the Air, p. 241; January, 2003, Laurie von Mehren, review of Earth from Above for Young Readers, p. 150; February, 2003, Robyn Walker, review of Into the Woods, p. 128; November, 2004, Ann M. Holcomb, review of By My Brother's Side, p. 122; December, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of Langston's Train Ride, p. 127; May, 2005, Steev Baker, review of Toulouse-Lautrec, p. 146; January, 2006, Mary Hazelton, review of Game Day, p. 116; May, 2006, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Play Ball!, p. 97; June, 2006, Be Astengo, review of Tiger of the Snows, p. 134; November, 2006, Rachel G. Payne, review of Teammates, p. 117; January, 2007, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Stealing Home, p. 114; July, 2007, Ann W. Moore, review of Napoleon, p. 113.
Teacher Librarian, June, 2000, Jessica Higgs, review of Hercules, p. 54.
Robert Burleigh Home Page,http://robertburleigh.com (August 10, 2008).
Burleigh Kronquist Web site,www.burleighkronquist.com/ (August 10, 2008).