Long, Sylvia 1948-
Long, Sylvia 1948-
Born September 29, 1948, in Ithaca, NY; daughter of Frank J. Jr. (a soil scientist) and Marion (a homemaker) Carlisle; married Thomas Wayne Long (a physician), June 20, 1970 (divorced, 2001); children: Matthew Thomas, John Charles. Education: Maryland Institute of Art, B.F.A., 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Bird-watching, hiking, exploring and enjoying nature.
Home—Scottsdale, AZ. E-mail—[email protected]
Illustrator of books for children. Designer, with images appearing on household products for children. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Suzanne Brown Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ; Elizabeth Stone Gallery, Birmingham, MI; Every Picture Tells a Story, Los Angeles, CA; and Duley-Jones Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Author's Guild.
International Reading Association Children's Book Award, 1991, and California Book Award, both for Ten Little Rabbits; CLASP award and Best Book of the Year for Latin-American Studies designation, both for Alejandro's Gift; Smithsonian magazine Notable Book designation, 1996, for Hawk Hill; Child magazine Best Books designation, 1997, for Hush Little Baby Reading Magic Award, Parenting magazine, 1999, for Bugs for Lunch; Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibition selection, Children's Literature Choice selection, and School Library Journal Best Books designation, all 1999, all for Sylvia Long's Mother Goose; Children's Book Sense Pick, Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibition inclusion, Cuffie Award, Chicago Public Library Best-of-the-Best designation, and New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing inclusion, all 2006, and American Academy for the Advancement of Science Prize, and Orbis Pictus Recommended designation, both 2007, all for An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston.
(Reteller) Hush Little Baby, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1997, board-book edition, 2002.
Virginia Grossman, Ten Little Rabbits, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1991.
Oliver Herford, The Most Timid in the Land, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1992.
Jonathan London and Lanny Pinola, retellers, Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1993.
Jonathan London, Liplap's Wish, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1994.
Richard E. Albert, Alejandro's Gift, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1994.
Matthew Long and Thomas Long, Any Bear Can Wear Glasses: The Spectacled Bear and Other Curious Creatures, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1995.
Suzie Gilbert, Hawk Hill, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1996.
My Baby Journal, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1998.
Margery Facklam, Bugs for Lunch, Charlesbridge Publishing, 1999.
Deck the Hall: A Traditional Carol, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.
Hush Little Baby, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.
June Taylor reteller, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: A Traditional Lullaby, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
Michael Elsohn Ross, Snug as a Bug, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2004.
Barbara Anne Skalak, Waddle, Waddle, Quack, Quack, Quack, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
Dianne Hutts Aston, An Egg Is Quiet, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2006.
Dianne Hutts Aston, A Seed Is Sleepy, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2007.
Jennifer Ward, Because You Are My Baby, Rising Moon (Flagstaff, AZ), 2007.
Some of the books Long has illustrated have been translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Korean.
Long's illustrations from Sylvia Long's Mother Goose were adapted as the educational toys Sylvia Long's Mother Goose Nesting Blocks and Sylvia Long's Mother Goose Block Booksby Chronicle Books, 2001.
An established fine-arts painter prior to becoming an award-winning illustrator of children's picture books, Sylvia Long is known for her nostalgic, detailed images in which anthropomorphized animals—particularly rabbits—possess emotions with which young children can relate. Noting that her "passion headed toward children's books," Long explained to Phoenix Business Journal interviewer Stephanie Balzer that, with her career shift into children's literature, "I feel like I can make a greater contribution that way." As an illustrator, she inspires young children with a love of nature through her detailed ink-and-watercolor paintings, and her approach ranges from the whimsical and celebratory to scientifically accurate nonfiction. Reviewing Long's illustrations for Barbara Anne Skalak's picture book Waddle, Waddle, Quack, Quack, Quack, which follows five freshly hatched ducklings on their first full day of adventure, School Library Journal contributor Kristine M. Casper wrote that the artist's "pen-and-ink and watercolor paintings add bright color and a realistic portrayal of animals and habitat to this charming story."
After earning a degree from the Maryland Institute of Art, Long forged a successful career as a fine artist while married and raising two sons. As she once recalled to SATA: "I created a children's book with a friend, just for fun. Some years later, it was published and I found I had the opportunity to illustrate additional books for children, which became my primary interest." That work, Virginia Grossman's Ten Little Rabbits, is a simple counting book that featured rabbits costumed in Native-American dress. As the pages turn, different bunnies take part in traditional Native-American rituals and subsistence activities. A Publishers Weekly review found Ten Little Rabbits in possession of "an unusual—and effective—balance between the real and the imaginary."
Another early illustration project, illustrating Oliver Herford's The Most Timid in the Land, is transported by Long's artwork into a medieval realm. The story revolves around rabbit Princess Bunita and her kingly father's offer of her hand (or paw) to the suitor who proves himself "the most timid in the land." The eligible bachelor hares strive to outdo one another until the day of the contest arrives. Then all predictably flee in fear, leaving the wise Bunita to await the one hare brave enough to return. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the rabbits' "delightfully expressive faces," explaining that their animated personalities and "imaginative antics…. make this a splendid visual treat."
Long also features her beloved rabbits in Jonathan London's picture book Liplap's Wish, which tells how the very first rabbits became stars that watch over the world below. According to School Library Journal contributor Martha Gordon, Long's illustrations for the book "reflect the poignancy of the tale with soft colors and thoughtful expressions" on the faces of Liplap, his mother, and the other rabbits involved. The collaboration between author and artist "create[s] an affecting work that will be especially meaningful to" young readers who have recently lost a grandparent, added a Publishers Weekly writer.
Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale, a Native-American myth retold by London and coauthor Lanny Pinola,
[Image not available for copyright reasons]
finds a band of animals freezing because they do not yet know how to create fire. When it is discovered that the mean Yellow Jacket sisters keep a vital flame hidden on a mountaintop, clever Coyote devises a plan to steal some of the fire from them. In bringing the story to life with her illustrations, "Long creates impressively realistic animal characters with an inventive measure of whimsy," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Other books illustrated by Long that focus on the animal world include Michael Elsohn Ross's Snug as a Bug, which follows the bedtime ritual of a number of nature's creatures.
An award-winning picture book by Richard E. Albert, Alejandro's Gift introduces an elderly man who lives alone in an adobe house in the desert. As depicted in Long's accompanying art, lonely Alejandro tends his gardens, his burro serving as his sole friend. One day, a squirrel appears in the man's garden and drinks from the water collected in its furrowed rows. Soon a host of other creatures follows suit. Welcoming the intrusion, the lonely man realizes that the creatures are there for water, rather than for his company, and so he digs a larger water hole in the hopes that even larger creatures will come. When animals fail to appear, Alejandro realizes that his hole was dug too close to the road, so he digs yet another, this time in a quieter spot. Paired with Albert's environmentally conscious text, Long's "polished paintings … impressively recreate the muted colors and varied textures of the desert," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer of Alejandro's Gift, while School Library Journal contributor Graciela Italiano noted that "Long's rich, detailed, and realistically rendered pictures provide the perfect visual setting" for Albert's empathetic story."
Suzie Gilbert's Hawk Hill features Long's paintings depicting birds and humans. The story, aimed at readers aged eight to ten, introduces a young boy who is unhappy over his family's recent move to a new town. Pete loves birds of prey, however, and he finds solace in watching a band of hawks circle a nearby hilltop. When he comes across a hospital for injured birds run by a taciturn older woman named Mary, Pete begins helping out at the hospital, and learns much about these majestic creatures, befriending Mary in the process. In addition to praising Long's depiction of owls, falcons, osprey, and other birds of prey, Booklist critic Julie Corsaro commended her portrait of Mary. "Long presents a convincing physical portrait—wrinkles and all—of a compassionate elderly person," noted the critic. She also brings to life Margery Facklam's rhyming verses for Bugs for Lunch in artwork that Booklist contributor Kay Weisman noted "conveys a great deal of scientific information without ever appearing cluttered." Patricia Manning, writing in School Library Journal, termed the same book "an attractive, high-interest book with … dramatic illustrations."
Praised for its "understated elegance" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Dianna Hutts Aston's picture book An Egg Is Quiet also benefits from Long's creative contribution. In the book, which is designed to mimic the diary of a naturalist, Aston focuses on the characteristics of creatures that bear young by nurturing eggs: hummingbirds, emperor penguins, ostriches, salmon, insects, and even sea turtles. The book's detailed illustrations serve as a guide to basic biology, revealing the growth from egg to creature and showcasing an assembly of eggs that Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg cited as being "as brilliantly colored and polished as gems." Citing Long's "skilled use of contrast and compositional balance" as effective in sustaining the interest of younger readers, the Publishers Weekly contributor also noted the illustrator's use of "breathtaking color" in the image culminating Aston's tale. A second collaborative effort between Aston and Long, A Seed Is Sleepy, introduces young children to plant reproduction and the diversity among seeds. "Long's ink-and-watercolor sketches, full of rich color and intricate detail, merit high praise" in this work, according to School Library Journal reviewer Maura Bresnahan.
A family affair, the picture book Any Bear Can Wear Glasses: The Spectacled Bear and Other Curious Creatures is a collaboration between the illustrator, physician husband Thomas Long, and son Matthew Long. Here, a host of animals with rather unusual names fill the pages and help elementary-aged readers learn about endangered species. With text that states, for instance, that "any crab can make music," Long pairs an illustration of four crabs playing instruments, while the opposite page reads, "but there's only one fiddler crab." Long's images, noted School Library Journal contributor Lisa Wu Stowe, "do not sacrifice accuracy, even when being silly," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer declared that the picture book's "lighthearted presentation successfully pulls youngsters into the crisply written text."
In several of her books, Long begins with traditional songs, then animates them with visual stories featuring rabbit characters. In Hush Little Baby, the classic children's nursery lullaby, Long found fault with the original text, in which a mother promises a wealth of treats if her child will just fall asleep. In her retelling, Long's bunny mother substitutes the material goods for both natural wonders and more personal awards, like a song, or a shooting star. Across the pages, she points out the wonders of nature at nightfall to her children, to remind them that it is time to retire for the day. "Long's song is gracious," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and her pictures "both soothing and diverting." Kirkus Reviews also praised the work, and mentioned Long's "trademark rabbits frequently depicted in warm embraces" as one of the book's charms. Other traditional works that benefit from Long's attention include Deck the Hall: A Traditional Carol and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star: A Traditional Lullaby. Reviewing Deck the Hall, Engberg cited "the sense of cozy excitement infusing each picture," while Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star provides what a Kirkus Reviews writer deemed a "wonderfully soothing" bedtime-story experience due to Long's "beautiful, bright watercolor illustrations" portraying a variety of animals eating dinner, brushing their teeth, and pulling on their pajamas in preparation for sleep.
Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, one of the artist's most popular books, features India ink-and-watercolor images that bring to life the eighty-two verses of the classic work. As she did in Hush Little Baby, Long reworks several of the poems, removing menacing characters to generate a more-positive message. This approach won her laudatory reviews. In Long's version of the Humpty Dumpty tale, for example, the fall of the roly-poly title character does not end with his complete destruction; instead, a duckling emerges from Humpty Dumpty's cracked shell. When the bough breaks in another tale and sends a tree-top cradle plummeting earthward, a young bird is inspired to take his first solo flight. Patricia Pearl Dole, writing in School Library Journal, described Long's artwork here as "luminous" and "lively," while a Publishers Weekly contributor declared that in Sylvia Long's Mother Goose the illustrator "conjures up winsome animal characters" and "links the rhymes inventively."
Regarding her work as an artist, Long once told SATA: "I have been asked if it takes a lot of discipline to be self-employed, working in a studio in my home. For me, discipline is required to accomplish all the other responsibilities of life—laundry, cooking, etc.—rather than my work in the studio. I love what I do and don't think my life would change much if I won the lottery tomorrow."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 15, 1994, Julie Corsaro, review of Alejandro's Gift, p. 1537; January 15, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of Liplap's Wish, p. 937; November 1, 1996, Julie Corsaro, review of Hawk Hill, p. 497; June 1, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of Hush Little Baby, p. 1708; February 1, 1999, Kay Weisman, review of Bugs for Lunch, p. 976; November 15, 1999, John Peters, review of Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, p. 631; September 1, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Deck the Hall: A Traditional Carol, p. 133; April 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of An Egg Is Quiet, p. 48.
Child, December-January, 1998, Margot Slade, "Editor's Picks," p. 126.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1997, review of Hush Little Baby, p. 464; October 15, 2001, review of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: A Traditional Lullaby, p. 1487; April 1, 2004, review of Snug as a Bug, p. 337; March 1, 2005, review of Waddle, Waddle, Quack, Quack, Quack, p. 296; March 15, 2006, review of An Egg Is Quiet, p. 286.
Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1991, review of Ten Little Rabbits, p. 56; April 13, 1992, review of The Most Timid in the Land, p. 52; April 19, 1993, review of Fire Race, p. 59; February 14, 1994, review of Alejandro's Gift, p. 87; October 3, 1994, review of Liplap's Wish, p. 68; October 30, 1995, review of Any Bear Can Wear Glasses, p. 60; October 7, 1996, review of Hawk Hill, p. 74; January 20, 1997, review of Hush Little Baby, p. 400; August 18, 1997, p. 29; January 11, 1999, review of Bugs for Lunch, p. 71; October 4, 1999, review of Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, p. 72; February 14, 2005, review of Waddle, Waddle, Quack, Quack, Quack, p. 76; March 6, 2006, review of An Egg Is Quiet, p. 74.
School Library Journal, July, 1994, Graciela Italiano, review of Alejandro's Gift, p. 73; November, 1994, Martha Gordon, review of Liplap's Wish, p. 84; December, 1995, Lisa Wu Stowe, review of Any Bear Can Wear Glasses, p. 98; March, 1999, Patricia Manning, review of Bugs for Lunch, p. 192; December, 1999, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, p. 122; January, 2002, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, p. 111; June, 2004, Rachel G. Payne, review of Snug as a Bug, p. 118; May, 2005, Kristine M. Casper, review of Waddle, Waddle, Quack, Quack, Quack, p. 97; June, 2006, Patricia Manning, review of An Egg Is Quiet, p. 104; May, 2007, Maura Bresnahan, review of A Seed Is Sleepy, p. 113.
Chronicle Books Web site,http://www.chroniclebooks.com/ (June 22, 2007), interview with Long.
Sylvia Long Home Page,http://www.sylvia-long.com (June 22, 2007).