Denise, Christopher 1968–

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Denise, Christopher 1968–

Personal

Born 1968, in Ashland, MA; son of a corporate executive; married October, 1999; wife's name Anika. Education: Attended St. Lawrence University; Rhode Island School of Design, B.F.A. (illustration), 1990.

Addresses

Home—Providence, RI. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Children's book illustrator. Designer of posters and greeting cards.

Member

Children's Book Council.

Writings

ILLUSTRATOR

Robert P. Denise, Hiking the Colorado Trail: A Guide to Short and Long Hiking Trips along the Colorado Trail, Lothlorien Press (Fort Collins, CO), 1993.

(And adapter) Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (based on a Russian folktale), Philomel (New York, NY), 1994.

Brian Jacques, The Great Redwall Feast, Philomel (New York, NY), 1996.

Jane Yolen, The Sea Man, Philomel (New York, NY), 1997.

Susan Canizares, Little Raccoon Catches a Cold, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Caron Lee Cohen, Digger Pig and the Turnip ("Green Light Readers" series), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.

Lucy Floyd, Rabbit and Turtle Go to School ("Green Light Readers" series), Harcourt (New York, NY), 2000.

Brian Jacques, A Redwall's Winter's Tale, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.

Phyllis Root, Oliver Finds His Way, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Joy Cowley, The Wishing of Biddy Malone, Philomel (New York, NY), 2004.

Brian Jacques, The Redwall Cookbook, Philomel (New York, NY), 2005.

Anika Denise, Pigs Love Potatoes, Philomel (New York, NY), 2007.

Susan Milord, If I Could: A Mother's Promise, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2008.

David Elliott, Knitty Kitty, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2008.

Kristy Dempsey, Me with You, Philomel (New York, NY), 2009.

Contributor of illustrations to textbooks published by D.C. Heath and to Web sites and newspapers.

Works featuring Denise's illustrations have been translated into Spanish.

Sidelights

Christopher Denise began his illustrating career after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, starting in newspapers and quickly finding his way into children's book illustration. From his first published book, titled Hiking the Colorado Trail, Denise has gone on to contribute illustrations to books by several popular authors, among them Phyllis Root, Jane Yolen, and Brian Jacques. In addition, he has collaborated with his wife, Anika Denise, on the humorous counting book Pigs Love Potatoes, which features what School Library Journal contributor Maryann H. Owen described as "charming acrylic and charcoal pictures of a cozy household and a happy family." A Kirkus Reviews writer cited the "delightful details" in the artwork for the couple's collaborative effort, while in Publishers Weekly a critic cited the book's "main draw" Denise's "soft, smudged colors and … keen, loving eye for domestic detail."

Born in the United States, Denise grew up in New England and spent several years in Ireland as a youth, where his father was then working. Not inclined to sports, the

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young Denise developed an interest and talent in drawing. A degree from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design came next, followed by a stint showing his portfolio to various New York publishers. Denise's artwork quickly caught the eye of an editor at Philomel, and he soon had a book contract.

Working primarily in oil pastel, charcoal, and pencil, Denise gravitates toward texts that feature animal characters. His first book of fiction, an adaptation of a Russian folktale titled The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, is enlivened by the mice, rabbits, and badgers who, garbed in nineteenth-century Eastern-European folk costumes, inhabit the story of a simpleton who wins the hand of a princess by searching the world for a flying ship. Praising Denise's unique approach and his "lush," "luxurious palette," Denise Anton Wright noted in a School Library Journal review that The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship effectively showcases Denise's "considerable talent as an artist." Remarking favorably upon the story's "energetic cadence," a Kirkus Reviews critic also had praise for the picture book, noting in particular the author/illustrator's whimsical touch and "elegant, rather dark, and mysterious" artwork.

From his picture-book debut, Denise has gone on to become a popular illustrator of texts by an assortment of children's book writers. Brian Jacques' popular "Red wall" epic, which focuses on the animal inhabitants of Redwall Abbey, includes The Great Redwall Feast and A Redwall Winter's Tale, both of which feature illustrations by Denise and are more geared toward younger readers than Jacques' adventure-filled "Redwall" novels. The novels and picture books feature series' characters Tubspike the hedgehog, Bulbrock Badger, and Matthais, the Warrior Mouse. Denise brings to life all the characters introduced in Jacques' rhyming picture-book text, drawing young listeners into a simple, rural world wherein animals are cared for by a kindly country abbot. In Booklist, Sally Estes commented that the "engaging" artwork by Denise brings life to "the ebullient characters and tumultuous preparations" recounted in The Great Redwall Feast. Also writing in Booklist, Kay Weisman claimed that "Denise's appealing, cozy illustrations perfectly capture the feel" of Jacques' text for A Redwall Winter's Tale. In another book in the series, The Redwall Cookbook, Denise makes his characteristic contribution to Jacques' text by creating what School Library Journal critic Joyce Adams Burner described as "gorgeously rendered and finely detailed" illustrations.

Other books featuring artwork by Denise include Digger Pig and the Turnip, Carol Lee Cohen's adaptation of "The Little Red Hen," which is enhanced by colored-pencil illustrations described by Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper as "old-fashioned yet jaunty." In Oliver Finds His Way by Phyllis Root, Denise "alternates close-up portraits with panoramic view to bring a fresh poignancy" to Root's story about a young bear cub who wanders too far from home while playing, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Using what School Library Journal contributor Kathleen Simonetta described as "a darker palette to bring home the scariness of the situation," both author and illustrator resolve the story of a lost child through a happy ending that will reassure young listeners. David Elliott's humorous Knitty Kitty is enlivened by Denise's "vibrant, old-school acrylic-and-ink pictures," according to one Publishers Weekly critic, while another reviewer wrote that the artist "harnesses firefly flashes of other-worldliness in his glowing, truly enchanting faerie scenes" for Joy Cowley's fanciful picture book The Wishing of Biddy Malone.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, p. 1453; October 15, 1996, Sally Estes, review of The Great Redwall Feast, p. 424; February 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Digger Pig and the Turnip, p. 1123; September 1, 2001, Kay Weisman, review of A Redwall Winter's Tale, p. 106; January 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Wishing of Biddy Malone, p. 872; June 1, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of Pigs Love Potatoes, p. 84; March 1, 2008, Jennifer Mattson, review of If I Could: A Mother's Promise, p. 73.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1994, review of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, p. 302; June 1, 2007, review of Pigs Love Potatoes; August 1, 2008, review of Knitty Kitty.

Publishers Weekly, March 21, 1994, review of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, p. 71; July 4, 1994, "Flying Starts" (interview with Denise), pp. 36-41; August 19, 2002, review of Oliver Finds His Way, p. 87; January 5, 2004, review of The Wishing of Biddy Malone, p. 60; June 11, 2007, review of Pigs Love Potatoes, p. 58; March 24, 2008, review of If I Could, p. 69; June 30, 2008, review of Knitty Kitty, p. 183.

School Library Journal, June, 1994, Denise Anton Wright, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, p. 118; September, 2001, Susan L. Rogers, review of A Redwall Winter's Tale, p. 190; October, 2002, Kathleen Simonetta, review of Oliver Finds His Way, p. 126; March, 2004, Miriam Lang Budin, review of The Wishing of Biddy Malone, p. 155; January, 2006, Joyce Adams Burner, review of The Redwall Cookbook, p. 153; July, 2007, Maryann H. Owen, review of Pigs Love Potatoes, p. 74; May, 2008, Susan E. Murray, review of If I Could, p. 103.

ONLINE

Christopher Denise Home Page,http://www.christopherdenise.com (September 15, 2008).

Redwall Abbey: The Official Redwall Web Site,http://www.redwall.org/ (January 26, 2004), "Meet the Illustrator: Christopher Denise."