Born in Lompoc, CA; married Denis Markell; children: Jamie (son). Education: University of California at Santa Cruz, B.A. (linguistics); Stanford University, M.A. (linguistics); Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), B.F.A. (illustration).
Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Illustrator, beginning 1998.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Children's Choice Award, 2001, for Gramps and the Fire Dragon by Bethany Roberts; Children's Book Council Choice designation, 2003, for Big Bad Wolf by Claire Masurel; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award, 2004, for Good Night Engines by Denise Dowling Mortensen; Bank Street College of Education Best Book designation, 2004, and Children's Crown Award Honor Book designation, 2005-06, both for Snuggle Mountain by Lindsay Lane; Bank Street College of Education Best Book designation, 2007, for Toolbox Twins by Lola Schaefer.
Bethany Roberts, Gramps and the Fire Dragon, Clarion (New York, NY), 2000.
Michael J. Rosen, Chanukah Lights Everywhere, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Melissa Peterson, Hanna's Christmas, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2001.
Laurie Krebs, The Beeman, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2002.
Claire Masurel, Big Bad Wolf, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
June Sobel, B Is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2003.
Denise Dowling Mortensen, Good Night Engines, Clarion (New York, NY), 2003.
Lindsey Lane, Snuggle Mountain, Clarion (New York, NY), 2003.
Denis Markell, The Great Stroller Adventure, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Annie Auerbach, Eight Chanukah Lights, Piggy Toes Press (Los Angeles, CA), 2004.
Julie Kidd Cook, One Is Enough, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Lola M. Schaefer, Toolbox Twins, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.
Denise Dowling Mortensen, Wake up Engines, Clarion (New York, NY), 2007.
Karla Kuskin, Green as a Bean (new edition of Square as a House), Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Born and raised in California, Melissa Iwai trained as an illustrator at Pasadena, California's prestigious Art Center College of Design before gaining success in the competitive field of children's-book illustration. A fulltime illustrator as well as a full-time mother to son Jamie, Iwai now makes her home on the East Coast. Being a children's book illustrator is a dream come true for her. Her colorful acrylic paintings, which have been paired with picture-book texts by such authors as Lola M. Schaefer, Karla Kuskin, Michael J. Rosen, and Lindsay Lane, have been cited by critics in addition to being
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honored with several awards. Praising her work for the holiday-themed Chanukah Lights Everywhere, Ilene Cooper noted in Booklist that "Iwai's art has a solid feel," and her use of "unusual perspectives add[s] a whimsical veneer" to Rosen's tale. Lauded by School Library Journal reviewer Martha Simpson for containing "cozy pictures [that] perfectly depict a father-son bonding experience," Toolbox Twins also serves as an introduction to household tools on the strength of Iwai's detailed art.
Several of Iwai's picture books feature wheeled vehicles of one sort or another, making them particularly popular with little boys. A Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed Good Night Engines—one of several collaborations between Iwai and author Denise Dowling Mortensen—a "little charmer" that features "meticulous" illustrations rendered in "savory, rich colors." Iwai's "velvety" acrylic paintings "will almost certainly command the audience's attention," predicted a Publishers Weekly contributor in discussing the same book, while School Library Journal critic Shawn Brommer wrote that the illustrator's decision to transition from "pinks and oranges to deeper purples and blues" during the course of the story parallels Mortensen's "quiet text."
The Great Stroller Adventure was a family affair: in his story the writer, Iwai's husband Denis Markell, anticipates the challenge of luring an active toddler back into his waiting stroller. Markell's text finds parents and other caregivers drawing on the power of a child's vivid imagination in accomplishing this daunting task, and their suggestions transform a walk down the street in a stroller into everything from a trip in a high-flying fighter jet to a ride in a racing car. "The simple, rhyming text and eye-catching pictures make this book a good choice for sharing aloud," concluded Wanda Meyers-Hines in her review of The Great Stroller Adventure for School Library Journal.
Vehicles of another sort are the focus of Iwai's art for June Sobel's B Is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC. As a group of children look on, a construction job is undertaken, each step representing a letter in the alphabet, beginning with A for asphalt. According to a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, Iwai "reveal[s] her talent for painting people as well as details of vehicles" in the book's full-color images, and Gawron deemed B Is for Bulldozer a "well-thought-out story" in which Iwai's "naive artwork" effectively captures the "wonderful sense of community" at the core of Sobel's warmhearted tale.
"When I tell people I'm an illustrator, the most common question I'm asked is: ‘How long does it take to do a book?,’" Iwai commented on her home page. "Well, the full process for me takes about nine months to a year! Believe it or not, the bulk of this time goes into the planning stage. This means that I usually spend about six months thinking about the story, making sketches, and planning how I want to paint the pictures. Some of my illustrator friends work completely differently from me. The description of the way I work is not the only way to illustrate a book—I've just found it works best for me."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, August, 2000, Tim Arnold, review of Night Shift Daddy, p. 2150; January 1, 2001, review of Gramps and the Fire Dragon, p. 970; September 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Chanukah Lights Everywhere, p. 122; October 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Beeman, p. 336; December 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Good Night Engines, p. 754; September 15, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of Toolbox Twins, p. 68; November 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Green as a Bean, p. 52.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2001, review of Hanna's Christmas, p. 1365; October 1, 2001, review of Chanukah Lights Everywhere, p. 1432; August 15, 2002, review of The Beeman, p. 1227; March 15, 2003, review of Snuggle Mountain, p. 471; May 15, 2003, review of B Is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC, p. 757; October 20, 2003, review of Good Night Engines, p. 1274; September 1, 2006, review of Toolbox Twins, p. 912; February 1, 2007, review of Green as a Bean, p. 125.
Publishers Weekly, May 8, 2000, review of Night Shift Daddy, p. 221; June 26, 2000, review of The Night Worker, p. 74; September 24, 2001, review of Chanukah Lights Everywhere, p. 48; April 21, 2003, review of B Is for Bulldozer, p. 60; November 3, 2003, review of Good Night Engines, p. 72; February 5, 2007, review of Green as a Bean, p. 57.
School Library Journal, November, 2000, Barbara Buckley, review of Gramps and the Fire Dragon, p. 130; October, 2001, review of Hanna's Christmas, p. 68; September, 2002, Edith Ching, review of The Beeman, p. 196; April, 2003, Andrea Tart, review of Snuggle Mountain, p. 132; July, 2003, Marlene Gawron, review of B Is for Bulldozer, p. 106; December, 2003, Shawn Brommer, review of Good Night Engines, p. 121; October, 2004, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of The Great Stroller Adventure, p. 123; October, 2006, February, 2007, Susan Moorhead, review of Green as a Bean, p. 90.
Melissa Iwai Home Page,http://www.melissaiwai.com (October 17, 2007).