Male. Education: American Academy of Art (Chicago, IL), B.F.A.
Illustrator and educator. Formerly worked in advertising. Teacher at after-school program, New York, NY; New York School of Visual Arts, instructor in painting; teacher at Pratt Institute, New York, NY.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Mayfield Crossing, Putnam (New York, NY), 1993.
Julius Lester, The Man Who Knew Too Much: A Moral Tale from the Baila of Zambia, 1994.
Phillis Gershator, Sambalena Show-Off, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1995.
Phillis Gershator, Sambalena Show-Off and the Iron Pot, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1995.
Roxanne Orgill, If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
Carol Greene, Sunflower Island, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Kimberly Willis Holt, Mister and Me, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
Diane Siebert, Motorcycle Song, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Tony Johnston, A Kenya Christmas, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
Barbara Olenyik Morrow, A Good Night for Freedom, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
Bette Greene, I've Already Forgotten Your Name, Philip Hall!, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Robert Burleigh, Langston's Train Ride, Orchard (New York, NY), 2004.
Zora Neale Hurston, The Skull Talks Back; and Other Haunting Tales, adapted by Joyce Carol Thomas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Carole Boston Weatherford, Champions on the Bench: The Cannon Street YMCA All Stars, Dial (New York, NY), 2006.
Cristina Kessler, The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2006.
Deborah Hopkinson, Sweet Land of Liberty, Peachtree Press (Atlanta, GA), 2007.
Leonard Jenkins is a prolific illustrator whose unique art has been paired with text by such acclaimed authors as Walter Dean Myers, Carole Boston Weatherford, Tony Johnston, and Zora Neale Hurston. Beginning his career creating advertising art, he got the chance to focus his creative talents on children while creating sample illustrations for a friend's picture-book text. Although the text was never published, Jenkins' illustrations attracted editorial interest, and his first picture-book assignment, creating art for Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's Mayfield Crossing, was the result.
Since his first book was published in the early 1990s, Jenkins has created art for numerous picture and chapter books, most focusing on African-American themes. In A Kenya Christmas, his colorful art pairs with Tony Johnston's story about an elderly man who recalls a childhood holiday spent in his native Africa. In Kirkus Reviews, a writer noted that the book's "stunning illustrations employ bold swatches of color against dark backgrounds" along with "textures and underlaid patterns." Jenkins' "dynamic, richly colored art provides a glimpse of a village community" in rural east Africa, according to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, and Virginia Walter commented in School Library Journal that in A Kenya Christmas the artist's "vibrant mixed-media artwork contributes enormously" to Johnston's "inventive holiday fairy tale." Another story set in Africa, Cristina Kessler's The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa, is enhanced by Jenkins' "abstract images and realistic faces," both of which have been considered hallmarks of the artist's "intensely colored mixed-media illustrations."
Noting that the antebellum drama in Barbara Olenyik Morrow's A Good Night for Freedom is "heightened" by Jenkins' artwork, a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that the illustrator "meshes the real and abstract" elements of the story by juxtaposing "lifelike characters" with "graphic patterns in wild colors." Another story culled from American history, William Miller's Tituba, benefits from Jenkins' "striking paintings," which "extend" Miller's story about the first woman accused of witchcraft in Salem and establish "a magical spirit that contrasts…. with the oppressive horrors of the story." Collaborating with author Bette Greene, Jenkins also brings to life a perennially popular character in his illustrations for the middle-grade novel I've Already Forgotten Your Name, Philip Hall!, in which his "occasional black-and-white sketches capture the fun" of Greene's story, according to Rochman.
"Jenkins has a gift for figural painting and an exciting sense of composition," wrote Wendy Lukehart in her School Library Journal review of Robert Burleigh's picture book Langston's Train Ride. "Layers and reflections add to the dream-like mood" the art adds to Burleigh's story about American poet Langston Hughes' teen years, the critic added. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Jenkins' "somewhat murky pencil, acrylic and spray paint illustrations convincingly convey the [main character's] … range of emotions" in Carole Boston Weatherford's Champions on the Bench: The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars. In Deborah Hopkinson's Sweet Land of Liberty, a picture-book biography of civil-rights leader and FDR Cabinet official Oscar Chapman, "Jenkins' powerful, bright, mixed-media collages" bring to life the early-twentieth-century battle for racial justice, according to Rochman. In Kirkus Reviews a critic also praise the illustrator's work in Sweet Land of Liberty, writing that the book's "mixed-media illustrations are freighted with emotion" due to Jenkins'
use of stark color contrasts and unusual, sometimes disorienting perspectives.
As a boy, Jenkins spent much of his free time drawing. Now, in addition to his illustration work, he shares this enthusiasm with children and college students pursuing their own love of drawing and painting. Based in New York City, he has taught courses at the city's School of Visual Arts and at Pratt Institute, in addition to working with younger children in special extracurricular art programs.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, November 1, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Tituba, p. 533; February 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Motorcycle Song, p. 944; September 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of A Kenya Christmas, p. 134; March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 1206; May 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of I've Already Forgotten Your Name, Philip Hall!, p. 1559; August, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of The Skull Talks Back; and Other Haunting Tales, p. 1935; August 1, 2006, Hazel Roch- man, review of The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa, p. 88; April 15, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of Sweet Land of Liberty, p. 40.
Horn Book, May, 2000, review of Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, p. 336.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Motorcycle Song, p. 109; November 1, 2003, review of A Kenya Christmas, p. 1317; January 15, 2004, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 86; July 1, 2006, review of The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela, p. 678; March 15, 2007, review of Sweet Land of Liberty.
Publishers Weekly, November 6, 2000, review of Tituba, p. 90; January 12, 2004, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 52; December 11, 2006, review of Champions on the Bench, p. 69.
School Library Journal, December, 2000, Kathie Meizner, review of Tituba, p. 135; October, 2003, Virginia Walter, review of A Kenya Christmas, p. 64; February, 2004, Beth Tegart, review of A Good Night for Freedom, p. 118; October, 2004, Susan Hepler, review of The Skull Talks Back, p. 168; December, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of Langston's Train Ride, p. 127; May, 2007, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Sweet Land of Liberty, p. 118; January, 2007, Mary Hazelton, review of Champions on the Bench, p. 110.
Houghton Mifflin Web site,http://www.eduplace.com/ (May 5, 2008), "Leonard Jenkins."