Dunbar, Polly 1980–
Dunbar, Polly 1980–
Born 1980, in the Cotswalds, England; daughter of Joyce Dunbar (a writer). Education: Attended Norwich Art School; Brighton University, degree, 1999.
Home—London, England. Agent—Celia Catchpole, 56 Gilpin Ave., London SW14 8QY, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and illustrator. Puppeteer.
Cuffie Award for Most Promising New Illustrator, Publishers Weekly, for Flyaway Katie and Dog Blue; NASEN/Times Educational Supplement Special Education Needs Children's Book Award, 2006, for Looking after Louis; Best Children's Show honor, Brighton Festival, 2006, for puppet-theater adaptation of Shoe Baby.
Help! I'm out with the In-Crowd, and Other Saturday Nightmares, Kingfisher (London, England), 1996.
Help! I've Forgotten My Brain, and Other Exam Nightmares, Kingfisher (London, England), 1996.
Scrooge: Hole Story, Scholastic (London, England), 2002.
Henry VIII: Hole Story, Scholastic (London, England), 2002.
Cleopatra: Hole Story, Scholastic (London, England), 2002.
Flyaway Katie, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Dog Blue, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Penguin, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
Sherry Ashworth, Fat, Scholastic (London, England), 1997.
Elizabeth Laird, editor, Me and My Electric, Mammoth (London, England), 1998.
Jeanette Baker, A Survivor's Guide to School, Wayland (Hove, England), 1999.
Jeanette Baker, A Survivor's Guide to Love, Etc., Wayland (Hove, England), 1999.
Jeanette Baker, A Survivor's Guide to Friends, Wayland (Hove, England), 1999.
Jeanette Baker, A Survivor's Guide to Families, Wayland (Hove, England), 1999.
Myra Barrs and Sue Ellis, editors, A Saucepan on His Head, and Other Nonsense Poems, Walker (London, England), 2001.
Sandra Cain and Michelle Maxwell, The Total Volunteering Book, A & C Black (London, England), 2001.
Sherry Ashworth, English Literature: Exam Success without the Stress, Scholastic (London, England), 2001.
June Crebbin, The Dragon Test, Walker (London, England), 2003.
June Crebbin, Hal the Highwayman, Walker (London, England), 2003.
Pippa Goodhart, Ratboy, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2004.
Lesley Ely, Looking after Louis, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2004.
June Crebbin, Lucy and the Firestone, Walker (London, England), 2004.
June Crebbin, Hal the Pirate, Walker (London, England), 2004.
Joyce Dunbar, Shoe Baby, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Margaret Mahy, Down the Back of the Chair, Clarion (New York, NY), 2006.
Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, editors, Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
(Adaptor, with Katherine Morton) Shoe Baby (puppet play based on her picture book), produced at Brighton Festival, 2006.
Polly Dunbar has been writing and illustrating books professionally since she was sixteen years old. Her first two books, Help! I'm out with the In-Crowd, and Other Saturday Nightmares and Help! I've Forgotten My Brain, and Other Exam Nightmares, are "cartoon books inspired by teenage antics," as Dunbar wrote on her home page. Since those debut titles, Dunbar has written and illustrated several books of her own, as well as providing illustrations for other writers, including her mother, prolific children's writer Joyce Dunbar.
Collaborating with author Lesley Ely, Dunbar produced Looking after Louis, a story about accepting differences. The story is told from the point of view of a young girl who sits next to Louis, an autistic boy, in her class. "Dunbar's childlike paintings cleverly show how Louis is essentially the same as the other kids," wrote Kathleen Kelly MacMillan in School Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted the illustrator's use of "sketchy scenes rendered in a childlike, cartoon style." A project of Dunbar and mom Joyce Dunbar, Shoe Baby finds a young baby traveling to fantastic locations in a shoe. "The mixed-media artwork is particularly enticing," wrote Ilene Cooper in Booklist, and a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Polly Dunbar's "delightful mixed-media collage illustrations of eccentric creatures great and small burst forth with … glee."
Dunbar's work with well-known poet Margaret Mahy resulted in Down the Back of the Chair. Here Dunbar's "cacophonous, sunny, paint-and-paper collages" pair with Mahy's text, according to Booklist critic Gillian Engberg. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the "whimsical creatures, juicy colors and … motion" of Dunbar's art "match the kinetic energy of the text."
In addition to illustration, Dunbar has also created several self-illustrated books. In Flyaway Katie she tells a story about the power of imagination to drive away the doldrums. Katie wakes up feeling gray, quite literally: her world is colorful, but Katie is depicted in gray tones. Trying to make herself feel more cheerful, she dons a bright green hat and yellow tights. As she adds more and more color to her ensemble, the colors begin to whirl and Katie is transformed into a colorful bird. Spending the afternoon flying about, Katie arrives home—happily pink—just in time for her bath. "The magical makeover, a literal flight of fancy, will make readers' spirits soar, too," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, and Cooper predicted that young readers will enjoy the "neatly framed pictures that eventually burst into a mixed-media multihued whirl." Asserting that the picture book is "told at just the right pace," Wanda Meyers-Hines wrote in School Library Journal that Dunbar's "whimsical story presents a gentle reminder of the power of a child's imagination," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed Flyaway Katie "a joyous cure for a case of the doldrums."
Another self-illustrated picture book by Dunbar, Dog Blue also focuses on the theme of imagination. Here Bertie wants a dog in his favorite color, blue. Because he does not have a real-life pup, Bertie creates one in his mind, playing with his imaginary dog and fetching his own sticks. When a spotted dog arrives in Bertie's
life, the boy is disappointed that it is not blue, but instead of turning away, he names the dog Blue and now has a friend to play with. "Young Bertie's joy comes through loud and clear" in both the story and the artwork, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Although she found the story's resolution gratifying, Jennifer Mattson wrote in Booklist that "it's Bertie's ingenious self-sufficiency that truly resonates." A Publishers Weekly contributor also praised the picture book, writing that Dog Blue features "polished artwork and skilled pacing."
Along with writing and illustrating, Dunbar is also a member of the Long Nose Puppets Theater Company with friends from her university days. She lives and works in London.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 15, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Looking after Louis, p. 1445; June 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Flyaway Katie, p. 1740; July, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Dog Blue, p. 1846; June 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Shoe Baby, p. 1821; May 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 92.
Horn Book, September-October, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Dog Blue, p. 566.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of Looking after Louis, p. 268; June 15, 2004, review of Flyaway Katie, p. 576; July 1, 2004, review of Dog Blue, p. 627; July 1, 2005, review of Shoe Baby, p. 733; May 15, 2006, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 520.
Publishers Weekly, July 5, 2004, review of Flyaway Katie, p. 54; August 30, 2004, review of Dog Blue, p. 53; September 5, 2005, review of Shoe Baby, p. 60; April 10, 2006, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 70.
School Library Journal, April, 2004, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, review of Looking after Louis, p. 109; September, 2004, Janet M. Bair, review of Dog Blue, and Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Flyaway Katie, p. 158; August, 2005, Marianne Saccardi, review of Shoe Baby, p. 93; June, 2006, Carol L. MacKay, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 122.
Times Educational Supplement, October 27, 2006, Karen Gold, "All Together Now," p. 30, Jane Doonan, "Art World Is Their Oyster," p. 34.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 2, 2006, Mary Harris Russell, review of Down the Back of the Chair, p. 7.
Houghton Mifflin Web site, http://www.houghton-mifflinbooks.com/ (July 3, 2007), "Polly Dunbar."
Images of Delight Web site,http://www.imagesofdelight.com/ (July 3, 2007), "Polly Dunbar."
Long Nose Puppets Web site,http://www.longnosepuppets.com/ (July 3, 2007), "Polly Dunbar."
Meet the Author Web site,http://www.meettheauthor.co.uk/ (July 3, 2007), video interview with Dunbar.
Polly Dunbar Home Page,http://www.pollydunbar.com (July 3, 2007).
Walker Books Web site,http://www.walkerbooks.co.uk/ (July 3, 2007), "Polly Dunbar."