Geisert, Arthur 1941–
Geisert, Arthur 1941–
(Arthur Frederick Geisert)
Born September 20, 1941, in Dallas, TX; son of Leonard (an engineer) and Doris (a homemaker; maiden name, Boland) Geisert; married Bonnie Meier (a teacher), June 1, 1963; children: Noah. Education: Concordia University (Seward, NE), B.S., 1963; University of California, Davis, M.A., 1965; additional study at Chouinard Art Institute, Otis Art Institute, and Art Institute of Chicago. Politics: Republican. Religion: Lutheran.
Home—P.O. Box 3, Galena, IL 61036. E-mail—[email protected]
Printmaker and artist. Art teacher at Concordia College, River Forest, IL, Concordia College, Seward, NE, and Clark College, Dubuque, IA, 1965–. Invitational lecturer at colleges, universities, and institutions, including University of Wisconsin, Madison, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and the Smithsonian. Exhibitions: Has exhibited artwork at galleries and exhibitions, including Society of American Graphic Artists, New York, NY, 1986, 1991, 1993; and Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration, New York, NY, 1991, 1992, 1996.
Illinois Arts Council fellow, 1986; Ten Best Illustrated Children's Books selections, New York Times, 1986, for Pigs from A to Z, 1996, for Roman Numerals I to MM; Reading Rainbow Review Book selection, and Reading Magic Award, Parenting, both 1991, both for Oink; Honor Book, Parents Choice, Ten Recommended Pic-ture Books selection, Time, and Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book, all 1995, all for Haystack; honorary doctorate, Concordia University (Seward, NE), 2002.
Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1984.
Pigs from A to Z, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1986.
The Ark, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1988.
Oink, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.
Pigs from 1 to 10, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1992.
Oink Oink, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1993.
After the Flood, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1994.
Roman Numerals I to MM: Numerabilia romana uno ad duo mila, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1996.
The Etcher's Studio, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1997.
The Ark, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1999.
Nursery Crimes, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2001.
The Giant Ball of String, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2002.
Mystery, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2003.
Pigaroons, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2004.
Lights Out, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2005.
Oops, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2006.
Barbara Bader, Aesop and Company: With Scenes from His Legendary Life, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.
Bonnie Geisert, Haystack, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.
Bonnie Geisert, Prairie Town, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1998.
Bonnie Geisert, River Town, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1999.
Bonnie Geisert, Mountain Town, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2000.
Bonnie Geisert, Desert Town, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2001.
Bonnie Geisert, Prairie Summer, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2002.
Contributor to numerous books, including Paradis Perdu, Atelier Contraste Fribourg, 1991; Children's Book Illustration and Design, edited by Julie Cummins, P.B.C. International, 1992; World Book Encyclopedia, 1993; and The Very Best of Children's Book Illustration, compiled by the Society of Illustrators, North Light Books, 1993.
Geisert's books have been published in Japan, Korea, France, Spain, and Germany.
Arthur Geisert combines etching with wry humor to produce award-winning children's books. A resident of the Midwest, Geisert has become an expert on pigs, and five of his picture books feature the porcine critters. "My main interest is illustration," Geisert once commented. "I'm trying to combine a classic etching style inspired by Piranesi, Rembrandt, and Callot with humor and narrative."
Trained as a teacher of primary grades and of art, Geisert soon discovered that his real passion lay in the studio, not in the classroom. Taking up residence in rural Galena, Illinois, Geisert, his wife Bonnie, and their child lived for many years a "dirt poor" existence, as he wrote in Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS). While his wife taught at a local school, Geisert worked selling etchings and building two homes for the family. As he explained in SAAS, his early etching subjects focused on "Noah's Ark, with a lot of detailed cutaway pieces, pigs, views of Galena, and humorous prints." Beginning with a small business loan of 800 dollars, Geisert was able to develop a lucrative business in prints. For many years he also submitted proposals to publishers for children's books. Over the years he managed to collect a drawer full of rejections for his troubles.
In the end, publishers came to Geisert, however. An editor at Houghton Mifflin, after seeing his etchings in an exhibition, took a look at his portfolio and the happy result was Geisert's first picture book, Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales. "It was illustrated with etchings," Geisert explained in SAAS, "a rarely used technique in children's books, and the color was done with manual color separations." Relatively long for a picture book, Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales "has the look of a short novel," according to Karen Stang Hanley writing in Booklist. It contains three stories about a pig family: a disastrous picnic, a balloon race, and a journey to the North Pole. All are "narrated with childlike economy by a plucky piglet," Hanley noted. Writing in Horn Book, Karen Jameyson commented that while the stories themselves are slight, the illustrations "distinguish the book," utilizing "an array of perspectives to record the activity." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "Geisert's first book is sure to leave children wanting more from him."
Geisert's second title; the puzzle alphabet book Pigs from A to Z is illustrated as, all his books are, with original etchings. Minimal text accompanies full-page etchings in which various letters are hidden. A story line about the building of a tree house recalls Geisert's own boyhood carpentry efforts as well as his adult construction of houses. Denise M. Wilms in Booklist noted that the book presents an "intriguing venture for curious, ambitious browsers," and Horn Book critic Jameyson concluded that "the graphically pleasing and very clever book may fascinate even those well beyond the picture-book age."
A suspension bridge Geisert had been building on his property plays an integral part in Pigs from 1 to 10. Nu-merals from zero to nine are hidden in each double-page, black-and-white etching. These etchings in turn tell the story of a pig family searching for a lost land. Each of the illustrations shows the piglets building elaborate machinery that will allow them to explore from mountaintop to mountaintop. "Few will be able to resist the game," concluded Nancy Vasilakis in Horn Book.
Geisert also illuminates the world of Roman numerals in Roman Numerals I to MM: Numerabilia romana uno ad duo mila. "You have to count pigs to find the value of the Roman numeral," explained Geisert in SAAS. "The total number of pigs in the book is MMMMDCCCLXIV or 4,864." Jennifer Fleming, writing in School Library Journal, commented that in Roman Numerals I to MM "there is plenty of visual detail for early-elementary children to pore over," and Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan concluded that "Geisert's etchings, tinted with washes, make lively and beautifully detailed illustrations for this unusual book."
Animals figure in most of Geisert's graphic productions, and with The Ark, there is a definite plethora of beasts in a revisioning of the story from the Book of Genesis. "A dignified, somber retelling of the flood story," Ellen D. Warwick dubbed the book in a School Library Journal review. "I drew on material from many-of my earlier etchings that deal with a Noah's Ark theme," Geisert wrote in SAAS. "I was especially interested in the interior views of the ark. I liked combining the rigid discipline of perspective with the organic chaos of the animals, birds, sacks of feed, etc." Horn Book reviewer Elizabeth S. Watson noted that "children will love finding the beasts who have wandered from their proper spaces. Parents and religious educators will welcome Geisert's handsome rendition of the story."
Geisert, educated as an undergraduate at a Lutheran teacher's college, returned to this biblical theme with After the Flood, a story of what happens after the waters recede and the animals leave the Ark. "A glowing, impelling, visually stimulating panorama of hope and affirmation of life," is how Mary M. Burns described the work in Horn Book. Classical mythology forms the basis of another book, Aesop and Company, written by Barbara Bader, for which Geisert provided illustrations.
Geisert never strays far from his beloved pigs, and many of his titles employ playful porkers: Oink and its sequel, Oink Oink, as well as Lights Out, employ minimal text. "Oink … was a silly one-word (oink, oink, oink, etc.) book," Geisert reported in SAAS. "Earlier versions done on a single etching-plate date back fifteen years. Oink was the culmination of an idea that I had worked at, on and off, for years. I used our neighbor's pigs for models. It was a popular little book which received several awards and was translated into Spanish, German, Korean, and Japanese." As the sound that a pig makes is rendered the same in those languages as in English, it was not much of a translation effort. A contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that the book's "droll illustrations exude an understated hilarity," and a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed its wordless sequel, Oink Oink, "a joyful adventure."
Lights Out follows the construction efforts of a young porker as he finds a way to make the transition from light to dark more gradual while also obeying his parents' rule about an 8 p.m. lights out. In School Library Journal Kathie Meizner praised Geisert's small-scale drawings "give an effect that is intimate, energetic, and delightful."
Pigs also pop up between the pages of Nursery Crimes, a story about two pigs on the track of their turkey-shaped topiaries that Phelan dubbed a "quirky, imaginative, dressed-animal tale." The Giant Ball of String finds two towns competing for a giant ball of string when the unusually large object is dislodged from its place of prominence in the mining town of Rumpus Ridge and floats down the river to neighboring Cornwall. Praising the silly tale, peopled, in typical Geisert fashion, with pigs and featuring a host of interesting mechanical contraptions, a Kirkus Reviews writer cited the author/illustrator's "clear, deadpan prose and carefully detailed illustrations." Calling the book an "offbeat tale of how cooperation and resourcefulness can overcome deceit," a Publishers Weekly writer also praised the book's "poker-face text." An "inventive, engaging" story in the opinion of a Kirkus Reviews contributor, Mystery tells the story of a young piglet whose trip to the museum with her grandfather reveals a patchwork art theft that will pull in gleeful readers. In School Library Journal Susan Scheps praised the book's "clever concept and illustrations" and "well-crafted colored etchings," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed the museum setting "the perfect canvas" for Geisert's "gentle humor" and "fondness for both art and pigs."
Geisert has teamed up with his wife, Bonnie Geisert, in creating several books that focus on life in the rural Midwest. The Geiserts create a "quiet tribute to a bygone era," according to a Publishers Weekly critic, describing the picture book Haystack. The narrative explains the cycle of hay, from growth to cutting and stacking. Eventually the hay is used for feed and to provide warmth, while the animals give back to the cycle with their manure, which fertilizes the next crop. Leone McDermott concluded in Booklist that "readers will gain not only knowledge about haystacks, but also a sense of the atmosphere of farm life," while School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock noted that "the prose is brisk and straightforward and the text is superbly illustrated." Haystack went on to win several awards, including Honor Book listings from Parents Choice and Boston Globe/Horn Book.
The Geiserts have also collaborated on several other books, among them Prairie Town, River Town, Mountain Town, and Desert Town. According to a critic for Publishers Weekly, in each of these titles "the Geiserts explore the changing rhythms of a community throughout the year." Reviewing Prairie Town, Joanna Rudge Long described it in Horn Book as being "a pleasure as social history, as Americana, and as an unusually creative use of fine illustration to convey information." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found that "the Geiserts draw readers into a fully realized world that just might resemble their own hometown—or give them new appreciation for a town's inner workings." GraceAnne A. DeCandido in Booklist called the books "an absolutely engaging series." Similar in theme to the "Town" books is the elementary-grade novel Prairie Summer, in which Geisert's line drawings bring to life Bonnie Geisert's story about a 1950s farming family living in South Dakota.
In his book The Etcher's Studio Geisert expresses his feelings about his art while also telling the story of a boy who helps his grandfather prepare his etchings for sale. In the process, the story explains how etchings are made. As the author/illustrator wrote in SAAS, "For me there is no more beautiful way of putting line on paper than by etching." According to a Publishers Weekly critic, "Geisert's portrait of an involving intergenerational relationship is warm and welcome," while Lolly Robinson wrote in Horn Book that Giesert succeeds in "vividly portraying both the romance and the hard work of creating a work of art through a painstaking technical process."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 23, Thompson Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997, pp. 95-109.
Booklist, August, 1984, Karen Stang Hanley, review of Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales, p. 1625; November 15, 1986, Denise M. Wilms, review of Pigs from A to Z, p. 509; September 15, 1995, Leone McDermott, review of Haystack, p. 161; May 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Roman Numerals I to MM: Numerabilia romana uno ad duo mila, p. 1509; April 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Etcher's Studio; April, 1998, Kay Weisman, review of Prairie Town, p. 1326; July, 1999, Ellen Mandel, review of River Town, p. 1948; March 15, 2000, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Mountain Town, p. 1386; April 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Desert Town, p. 1474; November 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Nursery Crimes, p. 572; March 1, 2002, John Peters, review of Prairie Summer, p. 1136; September 15, 2002, Michael Cart, review of The Giant Ball of String, p. 232; July, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Mystery, p. 1896; September 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Pigaroons, p. 249; November 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Lights Out, p. 40.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1993, p. 176; February, 1994, p. 185; October, 1995, p. 54; June, 1997, p. 359.
Horn Book, August, 1984, Karen Jameyson, review of Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales, p. 457; January-February, 1986, Karen Jameyson, review of Pigs from A to Z, p. 43; January-February, 1989, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of The Ark, pp. 52-53; September-October, 1992, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Pigs from 1 to 10, p. 575; July-August, 1994, Mary M. Burns, review of After the Flood, pp. 440-441; May-June, 1997, Lolly Robinson, review of The Etcher's Studio, p. 306; May-June, 1998, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Prairie Town, p. 332; March, 2001, review of Desert Town, p. 229; November-December, 2005, Kitty Flynn, review of Lights Out, p. 705.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1993, review of Oink Oink, p. 146; February 1, 1994, p. 142; July 15, 1995, p. 1023; January 15, 1996, p. 133; February 15, 1997, p. 299; July 1, 2002, review of The Giant Ball of String, p. 954; September 1, 2003, review of Mystery, p. 1123; September 1, 2004, review of Pigaroons, p. 865; September 1, 2005, review of Lights Out, p. 973.
New York Times Book Review, July 14, 1991, p. 25; January 31, 1993, p. 22; March 27, 1994, p. 21; January 28, 1996, p. 27; November 10, 1996; May 17, 1998, Anne Scott MacLeod, review of Prairie Town, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, June 22, 1984, review of Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales, p. 100; March 29, 1991, review of Oink, p. 92; August 28, 1995, review of Haystack, p. 112; March 3, 1997, review of The Etcher's Studio, p. 74; March 23, 1998, review of Prairie Town, p. 98; April 19, 1999, review of River Town, p. 72; October 25, 1999, review of The Ark, p. 75; September 10, 2001, review of Nursery Crimes, p. 91; October 8, 2001, review of Roman Numerals I to MM, p. 67; March 4, 2002, review of Prairie Summer, p. 80; July 22, 2002, review of The Giant Ball of String, p. 177; September 15, 2003, review of Mystery, p. 64.
School Library Journal, October, 1988, Ellen D. Warwick, review of The Ark, p. 120; September, 1995, Lee Bock, review of Haystack, p. 193; September, 1996, Jennifer Fleming, review of Roman Numerals I to MM; April, 1997, Barbara Elleman, review of The Etcher's Studio, p. 102; April, 1998, Eunice Weech, review of Prairie Town, p. 116; May, 1999, Lee Bock, review of River Town, p. 105; March, 2001, Nina Lindsay, review of Desert Town, p. 208; May, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Prairie Summer, p. 114; September, 2002, Lisa Dennis, review of The Giant Ball of String, p. 192; October, 2003, Susan Scheps, review of Mystery, p. 125; December, 2004, Jane Barrer, review of Pigaroons, p. 108; December, 2005, Kathie Meizner, review of Lights Out, p. 112.
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