Born in Gonado, AZ; married Mary Jane Callister. Education: Brigham Young University, B.F.A., 1993. Hobbies and other interests: Playing old-time fiddle music.
Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—Steven Malk, Writers House, 3368 Governor Dr., Ste. 224F, San Diego, CA 92122.
Illustrator and author.
Roger, the Jolly Pirate, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Tor Seidler, The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.
Shana Corey, Milly and the Macy's Parade, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Peter W. Hassinger, The Book of Alfar: A Tale of the Hudson Highlands, Laura Geringer (New York, NY), 2002.
Blue Balliett, Chasing Vermeer, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
James V. Hart, Captain Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Elizabeth Haydon, The Floating Island ("Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme" series), Tor (New York, NY), 2006.
Blue Balliett, The Wright Three, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
Blue Balliett, The Calder Game, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor of illustrations to publications such as New York Times, Time for Kids, and Cricket.
ILLUSTRATOR; "A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS" SERIES
Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Lemony Snicket, The Wide Window, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Lemony Snicket, The Miserable Mill, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Lemony Snicket, The Vile Village, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Lemony Snicket, The Hostile Hospital, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Lemony Snicket, The Ominous Omnibus (includes The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Lemony Snicket, The End, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
Lemony Snicket, The Beatrice Letters, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
ILLUSTRATOR; "TALES FROM THE HOUSE OF BUNNICULA" SERIES
James Howe, It Came from beneath the Bed!, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.
James Howe, Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.
James Howe, Invasion of the Mind Swappers from Asteroid Six!, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.
James Howe, Screaming Mummies of the Pharaoh's Tomb II, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.
James Howe, Budd Barkin, Private Eye, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.
James Howe, The Amazing Odorous Adventures of Stinky Dog, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.
Artist and author Brett Helquist is known to most readers as the illustrator of Lemony Snicket's highly popular "A Series of Unfortunate Events" novels. Published in thirteen volumes between 1999 and 2006, the arch melodrama in Snicket's series was given an extra dimension in Helquist's line drawings. A 1993 graduate of Brigham Young University, Helquist has produced a large body of published work in addition to his "Unfortunate" books, creating illustrations for texts by such well-known writers as Tor Seidler, James Howe, and Blue Balliett. In 2004, with the publication of the art for the self-illustrated picture book Roger, the Jolly Pirate, Helquist added "author" to his list of attributes.
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Featuring full-color, large-format illustrations, Roger, the Jolly Pirate is a porquois-tale of sorts. Helquist's story and art transport young readers out onto the high seas and introduce them to a good-tempered pirate who remains on an even keel despite the malevolent mood of his crewmates. Although the upbeat pirate is viewed as less-than-useless in battle, when the pirate ship encounters a British Man-o-War, it is Roger the pirate who ultimately wins the day—and creates the skull-and-crossbones flag that has since become the sign of all-things piratical. In a review of Roger, the Jolly Pirate for Publishers Weekly, a critic praised Helquist's debut for its "exceptionally dynamic" watercolor-and-pencil artwork, and in School Library Journal Marge Loch-Wouters wrote that the story is "told with a rhythm and bounce that begs to be read aloud." Loch-Wouters dubbed Roger, the Jolly Pirate "a rousing and humorous tale," while in Booklist Hazel Rochman predicted that Helquist's "lively picture book" will appeal to young buccaneers.
In his collaboration with Snicket, Helquist chronicles the downbeat, sometimes entirely grim adventures of the Baudelaire orphans: fourteen-year-old Violet, twelve-year-old Klaus, and baby Sunny. The children become orphans when a fire destroys their home and kills their parents in The Bad Beginning, but the executor of their parents' estate completely ignores any of the siblings' wishes. As the series unfolds, their villainous guardian, Count Olaf, relentlessly makes the Baudelaire family fortune his own, no matter the cost to the rightful heirs. Peril follows upon misfortune for the Baudelaire children, and narrator Snicket takes pains to warn readers throughout the series that a happy ending will not be forthcoming. In a review of The Bad Beginning, a Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked on Helquist's illustrations, noting that "exquisitely detailed drawings of Gothic gargoyles and mischievous eyes echo the contents of this elegantly designed hardcover."
Woe and danger plague Violet, Klaus, and Sunny for the duration of the "A Series of Unfortunate Events" novels. In The Vile Village the siblings are adopted by the entire village of V.F.D. because of the old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child." They elude Count Olaf by relying on their skills and resourcefulness as the idea of being adopted by a village plays out more and more as a bad one. Threats get more personal in The Hostile Hospital, as Count Olaf and his henchmen threaten to behead anesthetized Violet, try to crush the children with filing cabinets, and trap them in a burning building. "Perfectly capturing the atmosphere of the stories, Helquist's stylized pencil sketches are among his best yet," commented Carolyn Phelan in Booklist. The children don disguises in order to investigate a fortune teller in The Carnivorous Carnival, but find that carnival life is not the constant fun it seems to be—especially when one of the performers is about to be thrown to the lions. The fittingly titled The End finds the Baudelaire's saga at a dangerous close, as Violet,
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Klaus, and Sunny are tempest-tossed in an ocean where Count Olaf floats menacingly nearby.
For his contribution to Snicket's series, Helquist earned high remarks from critics. "Some brilliant publishing person or cabal saw the pleasure in these tales—anarchy masked as propriety—and decided, brilliantly, to engage Brett Helquist to do the spiky and droll line drawings," observed Gregory Maguire in a review of The Austere Academy for the New York Times Book Review. In their look, weight, and feel, the "A Series of Unfortunate Events" novels are "evocative of gift books of an earlier day," Maguire added, and "the presentation is inspired."
Helquist's illustrations are equally effective in more whimsical, lighthearted volumes. James Howe's "Tales from the House of Bunnicula" books feature puppy Howie Monroe, the Monroe family's resident wirehaired dachshund. An aspiring literary light, Howie seeks glory via his imaginative tales and undertakes a number of creative-writing projects. In Howie Monroe and theDoghouse of Doom the pup writes himself into a parody of the "Harry Potter" novels, while his friend Delilah finds herself transformed into a squirrel by aliens in another of Howie's stories, Invasion of the Mind Swappers from Asteroid Six! Howie acquires Harold, an unwanted editor, in It Came from beneath the Bed!, wherein Howie writes and Harold criticizes a story about a crazed, stuffed koala bear that comes to life. Wendy S. Carroll, writing in School Library Journal, called Invasion of the Mind Swappers from Asteroid Six! "lighthearted fun" that benefits from Helquist's "humorous black-and-white drawings."
Another of Helquist's illustrations projects is Tor Siedler's The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, which recounts a romance between two young rodents that is fraught by scandal, arson, revenge, and jealously. Helquist's detailed black-and-white illustrations for the story "make it clear that these lithe, sociable New York rodents have busy lives and unique personalities," wrote Eva Mitnick in a review of Siedler's book for School Library Journal, and a Kirkus Reviews writer deemed The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat "loyally and lovably ratty." Another imaginative pairing between author and illustrator finds Helquist and writer Blue Balliett collaborating on a series of imaginative middle-grade novels that mix puzzles with a mystery. Chasing Vermeer finds two children on the trail of a missing painting. Helquist "outdoes himself," according to Booklist critic Ilene Cooper, the reviewer adding in her appraisal of the book that the illustrator enhances Balliett's imaginative text by "providing an interactive mystery in his pictures."
Helquist's holiday-themed art for Milly and the Macy's Parade bring to life a story by Shana Corey that is based on Macy's own historical archives. Dubbed "charming" by Deborah Hopkinson in a BookPage review, the unusual book follows Milly, a Polish immigrant who visits her father every day at his job at New York City's famed Macy's department store. While in the store, Milly luxuriates in the atmosphere, riding the escalators and inspecting the cheerful holiday items on sale. However, during the 1924 holiday season Milly finds her father and his friends depressed and wistful for the music, caroling, and parades they remember from their childhood in Poland. When the girl bravely suggests to Mr. Macy himself that a parade would cheer up his workers and inspire a holiday spirit, he agrees and a holiday tradition is born. "Lusciously illustrated," Milly and the Macy's Parade features richly colored, stylized illustrations that "convey a sense of luxury associated with Macy's," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic. Susan Pine, writing in School Library Journal, called the book "an entertaining and lively" addition to holiday-book collections.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Hostile Hospital, p. 392; October 1, 2002, Kathleen Odean, review of Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom, p. 326; December 15, 2002, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Carnivorous Carnival, p. 761; April 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 1365; July, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Roger, the Jolly Pirate, p. 1847.
Childhood Education, winter, 2001, Elizabeth K. Liddicoat, review of The Ersatz Elevator, p. 112.
Family Life, November 1, 2001, Sara Nelson, review of The Hostile Hospital, p. 95.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, p. 1221; October 1, 2002, review of Milly and the Macy's Parade, p. 1464; November 15, 2002, review of Screaming Mummies of the Pharaoh's Tomb II, p. 1695; March 1, 2004, review of Roger, the Jolly Pirate, p. 223.
New York Times Book Review, October 15, 2000, Gregory Maguire, review of The Austere Academy, p. 30; June 17, 2001, review of The Vile Village, p. 24; November 18, 2001, Nora Krug, review of The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, p. 52.
Publishers Weekly, September 6, 1999, review of The Bad Beginning, p. 104; July 30, 2001, review of The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, p. 85; May 3, 2004, review of Roger, the Jolly Pirate, p. 191.
School Library Journal, January, 2000, Marlene Gawron, review of The Wide Window, p. 136; October, 2000, Ann Cook, review of The Austere Academy, p. 171; August, 2001, Farida S. Dowler, review of The Vile Village, p. 188; October, 2001, Eva Mitnick, review of The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, p. 170; November, 2001, Jean Gaffney, review of The Hostile Hospital, p. 164; October, 2002, Susan Pine, review of Milly and the Macy's Parade, pp. 99-100; November, 2002, JoAnn Jonas, review of Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom, p. 169, Wendy S. Carroll, review of Invasion of the Mind Swappers from Asteroid Six, p. 169, and John Sigwald, review of It Came from beneath the Bed!, p. 169; August, 2003, Elaine E. Knight, review of Bud Barkin, Private Eye, p. 129; April, 2004, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of Roger, the Jolly Pirate, p. 112.
Brett Helquist Home page,http://www.bretthelquist.com (March 15, 2008).