Luthardt, Kevin 1973–
Luthardt, Kevin 1973–
Born June 10, 1973, in IL; father a computer engineer, mother a registered nurse; married; wife's name Alicia (a music teacher); children: two sons. Education: University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, B.F.A. (painting). Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Playing the guitar, crossword puzzles, reading, old-time radio shows, travel.
Illustrator, writer, muralist, and fine artist. Exhibitions: Work exhibited by Storyopolis, Los Angeles, CA; and Mars Gallery, Chicago, IL. Murals installed in schools, churches, libraries, and other buildings.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (Illinois chapter).
International Reading Association (IRA)/Children's Book Center (CBC) Children's Choice Award, 2004, for Peep!; IRA/CBC Children's Choice listee, and Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List inclusion, both 2005, both for Larabee.
Mine!, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
Peep!, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2003.
Hats!, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2004.
Larabee, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2004.
You're Weird!, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Diane Adams, Zoom!, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2005.
In addition to being a muralist and painter, Kevin Luthardt has contributed his creative talents to children's literature as both an author and illustrator. His self-illustrated picture books include Mine!, Larabee, Hats!, and You're Weird!, while his illustrations have appeared in Diane Adams' 2005 picture book Zoom! A professional artist, Luthardt has exhibited his work at a number of galleries, and his large-scale mural projects can be found in schools, libraries, churches, and other venues in and around his home town of Chicago. Praising the author/illustrator's work in Zoom!, Grace Oliff wrote in School Library Journal that Luthardt's "quirky" paintings "make effective use of bright colors and crisp lines and should have substantial child appeal."
Born and raised in Illinois, Luthardt grew up in "a pretty simple, fun household," as he explained on his home page. As a child he was inspired by the "Peanuts" cartoons of Charles M. Schultz as well as Bill Watterson's "Calvin & Hobbes" comic strip. Taking classes in car-toon drawing while in public school, he eventually attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he graduated with a B.F.A. in painting.
In Luthardt's first picture book, Mine!, he deals with a subject familiar to all toddlers and their parents: the difficulties in sharing. In the story, Grandma sends grandsons Toby and Marcus a toy dinosaur, and the poor T-Rex almost meets his end when each boy grabs hold and pulls, thinking the toy has been sent to him alone. Using a simple vocabulary consisting of four words, Luthardt resolves the battle from "Mine!" to "Ours!," creating what a Publishers Weekly reviewer described as an "honest and vividly emphatic debut book." A close relationship is similarly tested in You're Weird!, in which Luthardt's simple text and watercolor illustrations find Rabbit and Turtle learning that although they like different musical instruments, games, food, and toys, they can still be best friends.
Peep! also features a minimalist text, this time telling a story about a boy who finds an egg and watches as a duckling hatches and adopts the boy as his new best friend. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer had special praise for Luthardt's illustrations, writing that the author/illustrator "invests every scene with visual and emotional depth that draws in the audience." In School Library Journal, Anna DeWind Walls found the simple story "both bittersweet and heartwarming" due to the two friends' inevitable parting, while in Booklist Ilene Cooper wrote that Luthardt "does a lot with a little in this delightful picture book."
Mr. Bowman the postman and his spotted yellow dog are the focus of Larabee. Walking the same mail route every day, both man and dog are welcomed wherever they go, and their letter deliveries touch many lives in many ways. The floppy-eared pup, Larabee, loves his work but wishes that he, too, could receive a letter one day. When a purple envelope is left at the bottom of Mr. Bowman's mail sack, the dog's wish is fulfilled; a little girl on the mail route has taken a special liking to the dog and tells him so in a letter. "What could have been just another sweet story gets a life from charmingly quirky pictures," noted Stephanie Zvirin in Booklist, the critic commenting on Luthardt's use of bold colors, unusual perspectives, and angular shapes in his acrylic paintings. Praising the book's "simple text" and "vibrant colors," Wanda Meyers-Hines wrote in School Library Journal that Larabee is a "fun read-aloud [that] will charm children."
Luthardt's advice to aspiring artists and authors? "Practice, practice, practice!!," he wrote on his home page. "The more that you develop your skills as an artist or writer now, the stronger your work will be later. Work hard in school, and you can also take writing and art classes outside of school. Read lots of books, and look at lots of different artists' work. Most importantly, practice on your own."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 1, 2001, Lauren Peterson, review of Mine!, p. 1056; May 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Peep!, p. 1672; March 15, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Larabee, p. 1309.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2001, review of Mine!, p. 186; April, 2003, review of Peep!, p. 57.
Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of Peep!, p. 445.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Larabee, p. 226.
Publishers Weekly, December 11, 2000, review of Mine!, p. 84; January 6, 2003, review of Peep!, p. 57; February 16, 2004, review of Larabee, p. 170; June 12, 2004, "A Creator of Stories."
School Library Journal, February, 2001, Grace Oliff, review of Mine!, p. 102; May, 2003, Anna DeWind Walls, review of Peep!, p. 124; April, 2004, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Larabee, p. 118; October, 2004, Catherine Callegari, review of Hats!, p. 122; May, 2005, Grace Oliff, review of Zoom!, p. 76; August, 2005, Kathleen Simonetta, review of You're Weird!, p. 100.
Kevin Luthardt Home Page, http://www.kevinluthardt.com (July 11, 2006).
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators—Illinois Web site, http://www.scbwi-illinois.org/ (July 11, 2006), "Kevin Luthardt."