Kleven, Elisa 1958-
Kleven, Elisa 1958-
Name pronounced "Clay-ven"; born October 14, 1958, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Stanley (a doctor) and Lorraine Art (an artist) Schneider; married Paul Kleven, July, 1984; children: Mia, Ben. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1981, teaching credentials, 1983.
Home—1028 Peralta Ave., Albany, CA 94706. E-mail—[email protected]
Berkeley Hills Nursery School, Berkeley, CA, nursery school teacher, 1978–80; weaver and toy maker, 1980–84; Prospect School, El Cerrito, CA, fourth-grade and art teacher, 1984–86; writer and illustrator.
Parent's Choice award for illustration, and Notable Book designation, American Library Association, both for Abuela; School Library Journal Best Books designation, 1997, for The Puddle Pail; New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year Award, 2001, for Sun Bread.
(Under name Elisa Schneider) The Merry-Go-Round Dog, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
Ernst, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.
The Lion and the Little Red Bird, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.
The Paper Princess, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
Hooray, a Piñata!, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.
The Puddle Pail, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
A Monster in the House, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
Sun Bread, Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.
The Dancing Deer and the Foolish Hunter, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
The Paper Princess Finds Her Way, Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.
The Paper Princess Flies Again: With Her Dog!, Tricycle (Berkeley, CA), 2005.
The Wishing Ball, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.
The Apple Doll, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2007.
Author's works have been translated into Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.
Isabel Wilner, B Is for Bethlehem, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
Arthur Dorros, Abuela, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
Karen Lotz, Snow Song Whistling, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.
De Colores, and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, edited and translated by Jose-Luis Orozco, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
Arthur Dorros, The Island/La Isla, Penguin (New York, NY), 1995.
Tony Johnston, The Magic Maguey, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1996.
Diez Deditos/Ten Little Fingers, and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America, edited and translated by Jose-Luis Orozco, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
Julie Jaskol and Brian Lewis, City of Angels: In and around Los Angeles, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Linda Glaser, Our Big Home: An Earth Poem, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.
Fiestas: A Year of Latin-American Songs of Celebration, edited and translated by Jose-Luis Orozco, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Tony Johnston, The Whole Green World, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
Julia Durango, adaptor, Angels Watching over Me, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of illustrations to collections, including In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child's Book of Prayers and Praise, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Elisa Kleven is the illustrator of several children's books and the author/illustrator of over a dozen more. She has had success despite the fact that she is a self-taught artist; as Kleven explained to Elisabeth Sherwin for Printed Matter, "I never attended art school, but learned a lot from my mother and grandmother, both of whom were artists." Her unique, colorful mixed-media illustrations have been lauded by reviewers, including a Publishers Weekly critic who called Kleven's creative contribution to La Isla "a kaleidoscope of color and texture." Horn Book reviewer Elena Abos wrote of her work for Diez Deditos/Ten Little Fingers, and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America that "Kleven's illustrations bubble over with vivid detail."
Kleven's illustrations are often featured in multicultural titles, particularly in books dealing with Latin-American culture. In De Colores, and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, Kleven's illustrations highlight traditional songs, while her depiction of sites in Los Angeles are featured in City of Angels: In and around Los Angeles. Of the former, Maeve Visser Knoth, writing for Horn Book, commented on the book's "vibrant colors [and] richly detailed illustrations." Ruth Ketchum, writing in Horn Book, called Kleven's illustrations for the latter title "an exuberant jumble of detail and pattern." Kleven's art was called "a tasty visual smorgasbord" by a Publishers Weekly critic in a review of The Lion and the Little Red Bird. Another Publishers Weekly critic praised her work for Our Big Home: An Earth Poem, saying that "Kleven's brilliant, busy art gives [the book] its soul."
Among Kleven's self-illustrated titles that feature universal themes, Hooray, a Piñata! introduces young Clara, who wants to celebrate her birthday with a piñata, but grows so attached to the toy-filled papier-maché dog that she does not want to break it. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, despite the focused theme, Kleven's "perky writing speaks confidently to the everyday emotional ups and downs in the lives of children." Kleven tells other universal stories using animal characters. For example, a blue crocodile named Ernst celebrates his birthday in Ernst, tries to collect clouds and stars in The Puddle Pail, and makes friends with a lonely kitten in The Wishing Ball. Noting that The Puddle Pail has a meandering text, a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that Kleven's "the slightly discursive style is ultimately suited to Ernst's dreamy personality." In The Wishing Ball, Nellie the kitten and Ernst make a wish on a ball with a painted star on it. Kleven's "characters are charmingly expressive and her brushstrokes are lively and energetic," wrote a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper called the book "imensely satisfying" and wrote that Kleven's "crowded, cozy pictures" place "a needy, determined, darling kitty right in the middle of it all."
The Paper Princess is about a paper doll who blows away before the little girl finishes creating her. The princess's adventures continue in The Paper Princess Finds Her Way, in which the doll's creator grows too old to play with her. The dog carries the princess outside to float away on the wind, and she travels with migrating butterflies to Mexico and a little girl named Lucy. "Kleven's story and art work in tandem to encourage entrance to the wide-open world of self-expression," a Publishers Weekly critic wrote of The Paper Princess. Calling the artwork "spectacular," Booklist reviewer Kathryn Broderick concluded that the book "is full of the spirit of creativity." "The sprightly mixedmedia artwork ;h3 creates a breezy feeling for this heartening sequel," wrote Julie Cummins in Booklist. Susan Scheps, writing for School Library Journal, deemed The Paper Princess Finds Her Way "as charming as the original." In her third appearance, The Paper Princess Flies Again: With Her Dog!, the paper girl and her paper dog fly off in search of a gift for Lucy's birthday. "Kleven's tale is a slight bit of whimsy that will appeal to imaginative young readers," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor of the book.
In A Monster in the House Kleven presents a story about an older sibling dealing with a new baby in the house. The baby cries all the time, and the narrator describes the little "monster" in detail to a curious neighbor. The author/illustrator's text is accompanied by "luxuriantly detailed collages," according to John Peters in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that Kleven's "playful descriptions and teasing tone depict realistic exchanges between two new friends." In Sun Bread, a baker and a dog decide to turn a cloudy day bright by baking a special bread to bring back the sun. The smells inspire the sun to push away the clouds and shine down on the world. Shelle Rosenfeld considered Kleven's illustrations for this "inventive" tale "enchanting, busy, [and]
colorful." According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Kleven's "buoyant rhyming text brims with shimmering imagery."
Kleven's original folk tale, The Dancing Deer and the Foolish Hunter, is as much about staying in tune with the environment as it is about a magical deer. When a hunter takes the deer from her natural environment, she refuses to dance, because she needs the song of the birds. When the hunter gets her birds, the birds refuse to sing without the wind in the trees. The tale goes on until the hunter learns that things should stay where they belong and the deer teaches him to dance. "Kleven creates a mosaic effect by diminutive flashes of birds, fish, and leaves" in the backgrounds of her collages, wrote GraceAnne A. DeCandido of Booklist. School Library Journal critic Susan Helper noted that "Kleven's signature colorful collage illustrations sing with light and movement."
Kleven once told SATA: "A comment I hear often about my work is, ‘It looks like you were having fun when you made this!’ I never know exactly how to respond. I agonize a lot over my stories and my pictures: Is this a stupid idea? Is this a cluttered illustration?
"Yet once the flow and excitement of creation carries me safely beyond the internal critical voices, picture-book-making is indeed fun—so much fun I can't imagine not doing it. Creating the little make-believe world of a book—bringing characters to life, ‘dressing’ them, naming them, worrying over and loving them, giving them landscapes to roam in and skies to fly through—gives me the same deep joy and satisfaction that playing with beloved dolls and toys gave me in childhood.
"My advice to aspiring writers/illustrators of picture books would be to value and love your imaginations.
Try not to forget that you're creating books for children— try to remember what you were thrilled and intrigued by, and what you loved, as a child. Don't be slick or gimmicky; while creating, try not to think about ‘the market’—just the children."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Appleseeds, May, 2002, Patricia M. Newman, "Elisa Kleven: From Scraps to Magic," p. 24.
Booklist, October 15, 1991; October 15, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of Snow Song Whistling, p. 453; July, 1994, Kathryn Broderick, review of The Paper Princess, p. 1955; December 15, 1994, Annie Ayres, review of De Colores, and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, p. 750; November 1, 1995, Annie Ayres, review of La Isla, p. 476; July, 1996, Nancy McCray, review of Abuela, p. 1834; September 15, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Hooray, a Piñata!, p. 240; October 15, 1996, Annie Ayres, review of The Magic Maguey, p. 435; June 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Puddle Pail, p. 1719; January 1, 1998, Karen Morgan, review of Diez Deditos/Ten Little Fingers, and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America, p. 819; October 1, 1998, John Peters, review of A Monster in the House, p. 335; December 1, 1999, Michael Cart, review of City of Angels: In and around Los Angeles, p. 700; May 15, 2000, John Peters, review of Our Big Home: An Earth Poem, p. 1748; May 1, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Sun Bread, p. 1691; February 15, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Dancing Deer and the Foolish Hunter, p. 1020; October 15, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of The Paper Princess Finds Her Way, p. 419; December 1, 2005, Julie Cummins, review of The Paper Princess Flies Again: With Her Dog!, p. 54; February 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of The Wishing Ball, p. 55.
Children's Book Review Service, January, 1990, p. 51.
Horn Book, November–December, 1991, p. 726; May–June, 1992, p. 321; January–February, 1995, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of De Colores, and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, p. 66; May–June, 1995, Rudine Sims Bishop, review of De Colores, and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, p. 316; March–April, 1996, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of La Isla, p. 230; March–April, 1998, Elena Abos, review of Diez Deditos/Ten Little Fingers, and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America, p. 231; January, 2000, Ruth Ketchum, review of City of Angels, p. 99.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1992, p. 672; October 1, 2003, review of The Paper Princess Finds Her Way, p. 1225; September 15, 2005, review of The Paper Princess Flies Again, p. 1029; February 15, 2006, review of The Wishing Ball, p. 184.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 26, 1989, p. 27.
Newsweek, December 16, 1992, p. 68.
New York Times Book Review, June 21, 1992, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1991, review of Abuela, p. 55; May 18, 1992, review of The Lion and the Little Red Bird, p. 68; October 4, 1993, review of Snow Song Whistling, p. 78; April 11, 1994, review of The Paper Princess, p. 64; October 9, 1995, review of La Isla, p. 84; September 16, 1996, review of Hooray, a Piñata!, p. 82; October 21, 1996, review of The Magic Maguey, p. 82; May 5, 1997, review of The Puddle Pail, p. 208; October 5, 1998, review of A Monster in the House, p. 89; August 23, 1999, review of De Colores, and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, p. 61; November 1, 1999, review of City of Angels, p. 82; May 1, 2000, review of Our Big Home, p. 70; November 6, 2000, review of Hooray, a Piñata!, p. 93; May 21, 2001, review of Sun Bread, p. 106.
School Library Journal, December, 1989, p. 84; July, 1992, p. 60; April, 2000, Rosie Peasley, review of Our Big Home, p. 104; June, 2001, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Sun Bread, p. 122; April, 2002, Susan Helper, review of The Dancing Deer and the Foolish Hunter, p. 113; June, 2003, Maria Otero-Boisvert, review of Fiestas: A Year of Latin-American Songs of Celebration, p. SS71; October, 2003, Susan Scheps, review of The Paper Princess Finds Her Way, p. 128; December, 2005, Lisa S. Schindler, review of The Paper Princess Flies Again, p. 116; February, 2006, Rebecca Sheridan, review of The Wishing Ball, p. 104.
Elisa Kleven Home Page,http://www.elisakleven.com (June 1, 2006).
Printed Matter Online,http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/go/gizmo/ (May 2, 1999), Elisabeth Sherwin, "Davis Group Hears from Award-winning Writer, Her Editor."
Storyopolis,http://www.storyopolis.com/ (September 28, 2006), "Elsa Kleven."