Married; children: one son. Education: California State University, Long Beach, B.F.A., 1992.
Commercial artist and illustrator. Clients include Health Net, Hilton Hotels, Land's End, and Unocal. Lecturer at schools.
Graphic Artist's Guild.
Recognition of Merit Award, George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, 2000; Pura Belpre Honor Award, 2002.
Joy Cowley, Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey, Scholastic Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Carolivia Herron, Nappy Hair, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
Caryn Yacowitz, Pumpkin Fiesta, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Gary Soto, Big Bushy Mustache, Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.
Liesel Moak Skorpen, We Were Tired of Living in a House, Putnam's (New York, NY), 1999.
Verna Aardema, Koi and the Kola Nuts: A Tale from Liberia, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1999.
Julius Lester, What A Truly Cool World, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Marisa Montes, Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Kristi T. Butler, Rip's Secret Spot, Green Light Readers/Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
John Coy, Vroomaloom Zoom, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2000.
Judy Giglio, The Tapping Tale, Green Light Readers/Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
Roni Schotter, Captain Bob Sets Sail, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2000.
Arnold Adoff, Daring Dog and Captain Cat, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2001.
Pam Muñoz Ryan, Mice and Beans, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2001.
Julius Lester, Why Heaven Is Far Away, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2002.
Elizabeth Swados, Hey You! Come Here!, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Darcy Pattison, The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Roni Schotter, Captain Bob Takes Flight, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.
Dietlof Reiche, I, Freddy: Book One in the Golden Hamster Saga, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2003.
Marisa Montes, Who's That Girl?, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2003.
Marisa Montes, A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2003.
Dietlof Reiche, Freddy in Peril: Book Two in the Golden Hamster Saga, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2004.
Marisa Montes, Please Don't Go!, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2004.
Marisa Montes, No More Spanish, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2004.
Eliza Thomas, The Red Blanket, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2004.
Robert L. McKissack, Try Your Best, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Dietlof Reiche, Freddy to the Rescue: Book Three in the Golden Hamster Saga, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 2005.
Darcy Pattison, Searching for Oliver K. Woodman, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including American Prospect, Latina, Buzz, Los Angeles Times, and Hispanic Business.
A California-based commercial artist whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and client publications, Joe Cepeda has also established himself as a respected picture-book illustrator since providing artwork for Gary Soto's The Cat's Meow in 1995. Continuing to work with Soto, Cepeda has also created series of oil and acrylic paintings to illustrate books by authors such as Marisa Montes, Robert L. McKissack, and Julius Lester, and has enlivened the texts of German writer Dietlof Reiche's multi-volume "Golden Hamster Saga" and Darcy Pattison's imaginative picture-book series featuring the journey of a wooden doll named Oliver K. Woodman.
Beginning with I, Freddy, Reiche's quick-typing hamster protagonist tells the story of his life with a succession of humans, his friendship with a household cat named Sir William and the sometimes annoying pet guinea pigs Enrico and Caruso, and his desire to read and write. Describing Cepeda's illustrations in I, Freddy as "spare yet comical," a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that the illustrator's "line art reveals endearing views of Freddy and some inventive shots of his surroundings."
The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman provides Cepeda even more latitude; Pattison's text is composed entirely of the letters and postcards sent by the many people who help a wooden doll travel from a North Carolina woodworker to his twelve-year-old niece, Tameka Schwarz, in California. Beginning with a map of the United States, Cepeda follows the doll's journey as it is aided by what Horn Book reviewer Barbara Bader dubbed a series of "good-natured caricatures" ranging from elderly tourists to farmers to teen travelers. In Booklist Shelle Rosenfeld called Cepeda's oil-over-acrylic paintings "vibrant, textured, rainbow-hued, with a mostly cheerful multicultured cast," and Bader praised the artistry in The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman as "virtuoso narrative illustration."
Cepeda's job as an illustrator has paired him with several long-time writers, such as Soto, as well as with first-time picture-book writers such as Carolivia Herron, whose Nappy Hair Cepeda illustrated in 1997. A rhythmic tale about a young black girl named Brenda, who has amazingly curly hair, Herron's book contains several story threads that a Publishers Weekly contributor noted could confuse some readers. According to the critic, the illustrator's "vibrant paintings help pull together the text's disparate strands," and reinforce the personality of the main character, Brenda. "Cepeda's vibrant, folk-art style paintings have a strong sense of color, form, and design," added Booklist reviewer Julie Corsaro. Praising the illustrations Cepeda created for Soto's Big Bushy Mustache, Michael Cart noted in Booklist that the artist's "vibrantly colored" works "find and expand the heart and the humor" of Soto's text.
Many of Cepeda's picture-book credits feature texts with Latino themes. In Pumpkin Fiesta, for example, Caryn Yacowitz's story about Old Juana's success at growing the largest pumpkin in town despite a neighbor's efforts to sabotage her success is enlivened by what a Publishers Weekly contributor described as Cepeda's "festive palette" and his creation of "energetic, slightly skewed characters" that encourage readers to turn the page. Mice and Beans by Pam Muñoz Ryan, about Rosa Maria's preparations for her grandchild's seventh birthday and the mice who take their small share, "Cepeda adds detail and expression to the smallest objects," according to Mary Elam in School Library Journal, while in Kirkus Reviews a critic noted that "color-drenched scenes stuffed with detail make Rosa Maria's world a pleasure-giving place."
Notable among Cepeda's picture-book works are Julius Lester's What a Truly Cool World, which presents Lester's version of the creation tale about how God created the world. The story is based on a story collected by Zora Neale Hurston that appeared in Lester's 1969 book Black Folktales, but the author's fresh spin and Cepeda's brightly colored illustrations update it for a new generation of readers. Praising his "vivid palette" and inclusion of "hip" elements, a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the illustrator adds "a funky dimension to [Lester's] … playfully outlandish depiction of how the world came to be." Cepeda's depiction of "soaring vistas and wonderful pinks, purples, greens and golds" might cause readers to "almost believe they were seeing colors for the first time," added Ilene Cooper in Booklist. Cepeda's work on Marisa Montes's picture book Juan Bobo Goes to Work earned critical praise as well as the 2002 Pura Belpre honor award for illustration. A Puerto Rican folk story, Juan Bobo Goes to Work finds a clumsy young man unable to hold a job for long, and if he does find work, he ultimately loses his pay. When his foolish antics cause a wealthy man's daughter to laugh, Juan discovers his true talent, and receives a payment—in the form of a large ham that won't slip through his fingers. "Cepeda's illustrations steal the show," announced School Library Journal reviewer Grace Oliff, adding that Juan comes alive as "endearing" rather than foolish.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 1, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of Nappy Hair, p. 946; June 1, 1998, Michael Cart, review of Big Bushy Mustache, p. 1784; February 15, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of What A Truly Cool World, p. 1076; March 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of We Were Tired of Living in a House, p. 1334; October 15, 1999, Linda Perkins, review of Koi and the Lola Nuts: A Tale from Liberia, p. 447; February 15, 2000, Julius Lester, review of What a Truly Cool World, p. 1109; December 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Vroomaloom Zoom, p. 717; February 1, 2001, Linda Perkins, review of Juan Bobo Goes to Work, p. 1057; October 1, 2002, John Green, review of Why Heaven Is Far Away, p. 345; April 1, 2003, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, p. 1403; April 1, 2003, Kay Weisman, review of I, Freddy, p. 1398.
Childhood Education, spring, 2002, Jeanie Burnett, review of Mice and Beans, p. 173.
Horn Book, March, 1999, Margaret A. Bush, review of What a Truly Cool World, p. 196; November-December, 2002, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Why Heaven Is Far Away, p. 735; May-June, 2003, Barbara Bader, review of The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, p. 333.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2001, review of Mice and Beans, p. 1131; August 15, 2001, review of Daring Dog and Captain Cat, p. 1206; February 1, 2002, review of Hey You! C'mere: A Poetry Slam, p. 190; March 1, 2003, review of The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, p. 394; March 15, 2003, review of Captain Bob Takes Flight, p. 478; March 15, 2003, review of Get Ready for Gabi: A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day, p. 473; May 15, 2003, review of I, Freddy, p. 756.
Newsweek, December 1, 1997, Malcolm Jones, Jr., review of Nappy Hair, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, January 6, 1997, review of Nappy Hair, p. 72; July 13, 1998, review of Pumpkin Fiesta, p. 76; January 4, 1999, review of What a Truly Cool World, p. 89; April 12, 1999, review of We Were Tired of Living in a House, p. 73; May 8, 2000, review of Captain Bob Sets Sail, p. 220; November 6, 2000, review of Vroomaloom Zoom, p. 90; September 24, 2001, review of Daring Dog and Captain Cat, p. 93; February 18, 2002, review of Hey You! C'mere, p. 97; November 25, 2002, review of Koi and the Kola Nuts, p. 71; January 20, 2003, Darcy Patitson, review of The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, p. 82; April 7, 2003, review of A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day, p. 66; May 26, 2003, review of I, Freddy, p. 70.
School Library Journal, August, 2000, Nancy J. Fuster, review of The Tapping Tale, p. 154; October, 2000, Grace Oliff, review of Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale, p. 150; October, 2000, Sheilah Kosco, review of Vroomaloom Zoom, p. 119; October, 2000, Joyce Rice, review of Rip's Secret Spot, p. 112; September, 2001, Nina Lindsay, review of Daring Dog and Captain Cat, p. 182; October, 2001, Mary Elam, review of Mice and Beans, p. 130; April, 2002, Nina Lindsay, review of Hey You! C'Mere, p. 141; April, 2002, Luann Toth, "Pura Belpre Awards Announced in New Orleans," p. S10; October, 2002, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Why Heaven Is Far Away, p. 118; April, 2003, Kathleen Simonetta, review of The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, p. 134; May, 2003, Nancy A. Gifford, review of Captain Bob Takes Flight, p. 129.
Joe Cepeda Web site, http://www.joecepeda.com (April 7, 2005).*
"Cepeda, Joe." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/cepeda-joe
"Cepeda, Joe." Something About the Author. . Retrieved November 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/cepeda-joe
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