Emberley, Michael 1960–
Emberley, Michael 1960–
Born June 2, 1960, in Boston, MA; son of Edward R. (an artist and writer) and Barbara (a writer and craftsperson) Emberley. Education: Attended Rhode Island School of Design, 1979-80, and California College of Arts and Crafts, 1981-82. Hobbies and other interests: Bicycle racing, mountain biking, cycling, bicycle riding.
Home—San Diego, CA.
Writer and illustrator, 1980—.
Dinosaurs!: A Drawing Book, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1980.
The Sports Equipment Book, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1982.
More Dinosaurs! And Other Prehistoric Beasts: A Drawing Book, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1983.
Ruby, Little, Brown, 1990.
The Present, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.
Welcome Back, Sun, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
Ruby and the Sniffs, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.
Zachary Judd, Roller Coaster Ride, Silver Burdett & Ginn (Morristown, NJ), 1992.
Robert L. May, Rudolph's Second Christmas, Applewood Books, 1992.
Robert L. May, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Applewood Books, 1994.
Robie H. Harris, It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Sex, and Sexual Health, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Robie H. Harris, Happy Birth Day!, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
Robie H. Harris, It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
Robie H. Harris, Hi, New Baby!, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Mary Ann Hoberman, You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Robie H. Harris, Hello Benny!, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Robie H. Harris, Go! Go! Maria!: What It's like to Be One, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Mary Ann Hoberman, You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.
Robie H. Harris, Sweet Jasmine, Nice Jackson: What It's like to Be Two—and to Be Twins!, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Robie H. Harris, David Dinosaur-rrr!: What It's like to Be Three, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Mary Ann Hoberman, You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
Robie H. Harris, It's Not the Stork!: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Mary Ann Hoberman, You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Scary Stories to Read Together, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
Robie H. Harris, Maybe a Bear Ate It!, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas!, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2008.
Robie H. Harris, Mail Harry to the Moon!, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2008.
The son of author and illustrator Ed Emberley and the sister of illustrator Barbara Emberley, Michael Emberley retains strong memories from his childhood of rowing to the ocean with friends and riding his bicycle along the narrow winding road of his Massachusetts hometown. After graduating from high school, he began working with his father, an established children's book author and illustrator. With his father's encouragement, Emberley eventually developed a unique illustration style and generated ideas for children's books of his own. His original self-illustrated works include Dinosaurs!: A Drawing Book, Ruby, and Welcome Back, Sun, and they often draw upon classic children's literature. Emberley has also teamed up with a number of authors to illustrate their stories, among them frequent collaborator Robie H. Harris, with whom he has created
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a number of picture books. In a review of the collaborative Maybe a Bear Ate It!, Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin observed that Emberley "obviously knows how toddlers move and react." In each of his engaging cartoons, "every calibrated movement and feeling blasts out across the page." With art that is "unexpectedly irresistible, not to mention moving," Maybe a Bear Ate It! is likely to "become a very special book" for its readers, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer.
In his picture-book debut, Dinosaurs!, Emberley focuses on ten well-known dinosaurs and presents children with simple instructions on how they can be drawn. Although comparisons with the work of Ed Emberley inevitably found the younger illustrator less the master of his craft, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "amusing and instructive" and School Library Journal critic Lynn S. Hunter called the son's drawings "more complex" than his father's. More Dinosaurs! And Other Prehistoric Beasts: A Drawing Book, a sequel to Dinosaurs!, was also generally well received by reviewers, W.A. Handley predicting in a School Library Journal review that "budding artists will love this one."
Emberley turns to storytelling with Ruby, a version of the Little Red Riding Hood folktale in which a mouse is asked by her mother to take a bag of triple-cheese pies to her sick grandmother. To get there, Ruby must travel through a dangerous city, and along the way she encounters a con-artist reptile and a far-too-friendly cat, both of whom she manages to outwit. A New York Times Book Review critic praised Emberley's text and illustrations as "very clever." Although a Publishers Weekly critic feared only "readers on the older end of the intended age spectrum" will appreciate Emberley's "somewhat sophisticated humor," Martha Topol wrote in School Library Journal that "this Red Riding Hood variation has enough plot twists and innovation to keep readers involved and interested."
Readers meet up again with Emberley's engaging rodent heroine in Ruby and the Sniffs, a new take on the story of the Three Bears. Here Ruby hears some strange noises coming from the vacant apartment upstairs. When she decides to investigate (against the orders of strict babysitter, Mrs. Mastiff), the mouse discovers that, rather than the burglars she expected, the apartment is home to some rather unusual new neighbors. Young readers "will … enjoy the street-smart Ruby" as well as Emberley's "very funny cartoon vignettes," wrote a Kirkus Reviews writer, while in Booklist Linda Perkins called Ruby and the Sniffs a "delightful mix of mild tension and side-splitting humor" and "a worthy sequel for Ruby's fans." "Story and illustrations work wonderfully together to create a hilarious romp that will keep older children laughing and rereading," concluded Marianne Saccardi in her School Library Journal review.
In The Present, set in Denmark, Uncle Arne buys a pocket knife as a gift for his nephew's birthday, but likes it so much that he decides to keep it himself. He then buys an old bicycle and fixes it up to give to his nephew, then realizes he must learn how to ride it in order to deliver it. Many reviewers praised Emberley's cinematic technique, which comically shows Uncle Arne learning to ride a bicycle; others noted that the author gives an adult figure concerns a child can understand. Although a Publishers Weekly writer found The Present "droll but somewhat wordy," the critic admitted that Emberley's "gentle, homey watercolors are particularly winning." Ann A. Flowers likewise remarked in Horn Book: "the homey, busy illustrations … are just right for the affectionate story."
Also set in Scandinavia, Welcome Back, Sun takes place in Norway, during the long winter when the sun is never seen. The story centers on a little girl who convinces her family to follow in the footsteps of ancient legend and climb the highest mountain to find the sun and show it the way home. Along the way, the girl and her family meet their neighbors, who, too, are intent on ushering in the spring after a long gray winter. This picture book was warmly received by critics who, like a Publishers Weekly contributor, found it "both an enlightening glimpse of another culture and a lyrical, heartwarming story." School Library Journal reviewer Linda Davis singled out Emberley's drawings for special praise, writing that the author/illustrator "captures the feel of both the cold, gray ‘murky time’ and the brilliant, clear sunshine" in "captivating artwork" that ably expresses the warmth of the family relationships.
In his collaborations with Harris, Emberley creates art for nonfiction books on sexuality and physical development. In It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Sex, and Sexual Health, intended for middle-grade readers, Harris takes her audience through the facts of life, from intercourse, conception, and birth to topics such as the onset of puberty, birth control, AIDS, and sexual abuse. In his artwork, Emberley creates interesting dual narrators in a bird and a bee who play straight man/funny man with comments, asides, and questions. For many reviewers, this approach to teaching sexuality to young people was remarkably successful. "It is the best book I have seen regarding the physical changes that puberty brings," averred Tim Moses in Boston Book Review. "Besides being warm and unaffected," Stephanie Zvirin attested in Booklist, Emberley's illustrations "are eye-poppers—especially in a book for this age group."
Part of Emberley and Harris's philosophy, as expressed in the title of It's Perfectly Normal, is that, as strange and occasionally embarrassing as sexuality may seem during the onset of puberty, it is perfectly normal. However, some suggested that It's Perfectly Normal may be a controversial purchase for some libraries, and Emberley's illustrations depicting human nudes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, a boy masturbating, intercourse between two people, and a girl examining her genitalia in the mirror inspired consternation. Reviewers concurred that the book's effectiveness lies in its ability to convey lots of important information in a way
intended to relax, reassure, and entertain children. "The book will serve as a useful tool in the sex education curriculum," contended Nancy Vasilakis in Horn Book.
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Other collaborations between author and illustrator that comprise their "Growing up Stories" books include Happy Birth Day!, in which Harris and Emberley team up again to present the facts about birth couched in a story about the first day of life for a newborn infant. "All the milestones of a baby's first day are lovingly chronicled," noted a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Turning to stories, Mail Harry to the Moon! pairs author and illustrator in a story depicting a new baby's arrival from the point of view of an older sibling. Calling the creative pair "old hands at striking the right balance between comic Sturm und Drang and genuine poignancy," a Publishers Weekly contributor added that the "considerable talents" of Harris and Emberley transform a "familiar tale" into one that readers will find "fresh and funny."
In It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, Emberley and Harris provide a look at human sexuality similar in format to their It's Perfectly Normal, but for a younger, elementary-grade audience. The result is "an equally outstanding book," contended Amy Brandt in Booklist. As in the earlier book, Emberley's illustrations run the gamut from humorous cartoons to straightforward graphic illustrations of the human body and reproductive system. The bird and the bee are also back to provide comic relief, ask questions, and reinforce and define important concepts. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the collaborators successfully convey a wealth of important information "with candor and humor, neatly distilling various aspects of sex, reproduction and love." Similar in focus but with an even younger audience in mind, It's Not the Stork!: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends also focuses openly on body parts and sexuality, under the entertaining guidance of Bird and Bee. "Emberley's affectionate, mood-lightening cartoons keep things approachable," wrote Booklist reviewer Jennifer Mattson, the critic adding that "Harris' respectful writing targets children's natural curiosity" with clarity. It's Not the Stork! "will be accessible to its intended audience, comforting in its clarity and directness, and useful to a wide range of readers," asserted Martha Topol, reviewing the book for School Library Journal.
In Hello Benny! What It's Like to Be a Baby author and illustrator present a sequel to Happy Birth Day by following the newborn through the first twelve months of life, as he grows and changes. "Emberley's large-scale artwork, rendered in watercolor, pastel, and ink, brims with warmth," wrote Ilene Cooper in a review of Hello Benny!, while a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the illustrator "infuses his artwork with a spontaneity and humor" and "does a terrific job of depicting Benny's evolving physiognomy from newborn to toddler."
Working with the other members of his creative family, Emberley has also collaborated on Three: An Emberley Family Sketch Book, in which Michael, Ed, and Barbara Emberley each contribute stories, poems, drawings, and other tidbits, all playing on the theme of threeness. Michael Emberley's contribution showcases his several styles of illustration, including pen-and-ink, watercolor, and crayon artwork, offering stories and poems to go with each. "Children will be intrigued by this big book of fun, which celebrates togetherness and individuality all in one family," predicted Kathleen Squires in Booklist. Other collaborations include working with writer Mary Ann Hoberman to produce the story collection You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together and its two sequels. "Felicitous rhyming, clear page design, and well-sequenced pictures all work together to make [You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Mother Goose Stories to Read Together] … a two-on-a-tuffet treat," according to Horn Book contributor Roger Sutton.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 1980, Barbara Elleman, review of Dinosaurs!: A Drawing Book, p. 1055; September 15, 1994, review of It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Sex, and Sexual Health, p. 133; May 1, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Happy Birth Day!, p. 1502; August, 1998, Kathleen Squires, review of Three: An Emberley Family Sketch Book, p. 1993; January 1, 2000, Amy Brandt, review of It's So Amazing!, p. 912; October 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Hello Benny! What It's like to Be a Baby, p. 407; August, 2004, Linda Perkins, review of Ruby and the Sniffs, p. 1942; June 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of It's Not the Stork!: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends, p. 74; December 15, 2007, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Maybe a Bear Ate It!, p. 46.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1993, Roger Sutton, review of Welcome Back, Sun, pp. 42-43.
Horn Book, September-October, 1991, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Present, p. 582; March-April, 1995, Nancy Vasilakis, review of It's Perfectly Normal, p. 214; November-December, 2002, Lauren Adams, review of Hello Benny!, p. 776; July-August, 2005, Roger Sutton, review of You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together, p. 450; September-October, 2006, Christine M. Heppermann, review of It's Not the Stork, p. 605.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1980, review of Dinosaurs!, p. 576; September 15, 2002, review of Hello Benny!, p. 1391; May 15, 2004, review of Ruby and the Sniffs, p. 491; June 15, 2005, review of You Read to Me, I'll Read to You, p. 684; July 15, 2006, review of It's Not the Stork!, p. 722; December 1, 2007, review of Maybe a Bear Ate It!; April 1, 2008, review of The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas!
New York Times Book Review, March 10, 1991, review of Ruby, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, January 25, 1980, review of Dinosaurs!, p. 341; October 12, 1990, review of Ruby, pp. 62-63; May 31, 1991, review of The Present, p. 75; September 13, 1993, review of Welcome Back, Sun, p. 130; June 17, 1996, review of Happy Birth Day!, p. 63; December 20, 1999, review of It's So Amazing!, p. 80; July 15, 2002, review of Hello Benny!, p. 72; November 12, 2007, review of Maybe a Bear Ate It!, p. 54; April 18, 2008, review of Mail Harry to the Moon!, p. 137.
School Library Journal, May, 1980, Lynn S. Hunter, review of Dinosaurs!, p. 54; February, 1984, W.A. Handley, review of More Dinosaurs! And Other Prehis-toric Beasts: A Drawing Book, pp. 68-69; October, 1990, Martha Topol, review of Ruby, p. 90; September, 1991, p. 232; January, 1994, Lisa Dennis, review of Welcome Back, Sun, p. 88; July, 2003, Joyce Adams Burner, review of It's So Amazing!, p. 78; May, 2004, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of You Read to Me, I'll Read to You, p. 132; June, 2004, Marianne Saccardi, review of Ruby and the Sniffs, p. 108; September, 2006, Martha Topol, review of It's Not the Stork!, p. 193; January, 2008, Judith Constantinides, review of Maybe a Bear Ate It!, p. 88.
Michael Emberley Home Page,http://www.michaleemberley.com (May 28, 2008).