Owens, Mary Beth 1947–
Owens, Mary Beth 1947–
Artist, author, and illustrator.
Lupine Award, 1991, for Rosebud and Red Flannel; Smithsonian Notable Book for Children selection, 1996, for A Penny for a Hundred.
A Caribou Alphabet, Dog Ear Press (Brunswick, ME), 1988.
Counting Cranes, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Panda Whispers, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.
Eth Clifford, The Man Who Sang in the Dark, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.
Ethel Pochocki, Rosebud and Red Flannel, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.
Eth Clifford, The Summer of the Dancing Horse, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1991.
Eve B. Feldman, Animals Don't Wear Pajamas: A Book about Sleeping, Holt (New York, NY), 1992.
Bill Easterling, Prize in the Snow, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.
Barbara Willard, Augustine Came to Kent, Bethlehem Books (Warsaw, ND), 1996.
Ethel Pochocki, Soup Pot: Stories for All Seasons for Children of All Ages, Resurrection Press (Mineola, NY), 1996.
Ethel Pochocki, A Penny for a Hundred: A Story of Friendship, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 1996.
Anne Wescott Dodd, The Story of the Sea Glass, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 1999.
Ethel Pochocki, The Gazebo, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 2002.
Lynn Plourde, The Dump Man's Treasures, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 2008.
Mary Beth Owens, an artist who lives in Maine, has illustrated a number of well-received children's books. In her self-illustrated debut, A Caribou Alphabet, Owens offers a variety of facts about the antlered creature. Inspired by the Maine Caribou Transplant Project, which reintroduces caribou to the wild, the book employs rhyming couplets to describe the animal's behavior and habitat. School Library Journal contributor Marcia Hupp praised the illustrations, stating that Owens's pictures "have a stippled and stylized effect, suggestive of cave paintings, and manage to be both expressive and graceful while they inform." Amy Cohn, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the work "a tour de force: both an homage to a particular creature and a textbook example of how an alphabet book can educate and delight a young reader—over and over again." As Cohn added, "A Caribou Alphabet is a rare experience, full of both the majesty and beauty of one of nature's creatures and the delicious possibilities of letters themselves," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer described the title as "lovingly done and resonant in its execution."
In Counting Cranes, another work dealing with environmental themes, Owens examines the fate of the whooping crane, focusing on the 131 birds in the Canadian-American flock. Noting that the world's crane population had dipped to just fifteen by 1941, Owens depicts the flocks' spring and fall migrations from Canada to Texas. The author's "text is as spare and carefully honed as haiku," observed a contributor in Kirkus Reviews. "Light-splashed and airy, her watercolor and acrylic illustrations seem to hover above the page," a Publishers Weekly critic remarked.
Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons is a collection of prayers and blessings inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of Brother Sun." The work "beautifully displays the cycle of the seasons and reveals the interconnectedness of all things," noted Booklist reviewer Shelley Townsend-Hudson, and Owens's "realistic paintings reflect the annual cycle," a critic in Kirkus Reviews stated. In Panda Whispers, a work told in verse, a father and daughter share a bedtime tale about the nocturnal habits of swans, dolphins, pandas, and other creatures. Owens's "artwork tempers realistic images of the animals in their natural habitats with a dreamlike quality," according to Joy Fleishhacker in School Library Journal.
Owens has also provided the illustrations for works by other writers, such as Ethel Pochocki. In Rosebud and Red Flannel, Pochocki depicts the fanciful relationship between a lacy nightgown and a pair of scarlet long johns. Owens's "watercolors are delicate, but add real movement and life," observed School Library Journal reviewer Christine A. Moesch, and a Publishers Weekly critic noted that that the book's illustrations "steal the show." Another story by Pochocki, The Gazebo, centers on a young girl's love of the beautiful structures. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that Owens
"steeps her watercolors in nostalgia—she frames the pastel-toned vignettes with flourishes and detailed borders."
Featuring a text by Bill Easterling, Prize in the Snow follows a youngster's efforts to catch a rabbit with a homemade trap. Owens's pictures for the story "gain a subtle intimacy through perspectives held in the embrace of nature," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer, and Julie Corsaro, writing in Booklist, described the watercolors as "clean, cool, and distinctively lined." In The Story of the Sea Glass by Anne Wescott Dodd, a little girl and her grandmother discover a natural treasure as they explore the beach. A Publishers Weekly critic called the work "chock-full of visual pleasures," and Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan wrote, "The line-and-watercolor paintings of the Maine coast are beautifully rendered."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 1, 1992, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Animals Don't Wear Pajamas: A Book about Sleeping, p. 1281; December 1, 1994, Julie Corsaro, review of Prize in the Snow, p. 685; December 1, 1999, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons, p. 708; February 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Story of the Sea Glass, p. 1028; May 15, 2007, Kay Weisman, review of Panda Whispers, p. 53.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1999, review of Be Blest, p. 23.
Horn Book, November-December, 1987, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of The Man Who Sang in the Dark, p. 736; November-December, 1988, Mary M. Burns, review of A Caribou Alphabet, p. 775; May-June, 1992, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Animals Don't Wear Pajamas, p. 360.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1993, review of Counting Cranes, p. 1007; October 15, 1999, review of Be Blest, p. 1649; March 15, 2007, review of Panda Whispers.
New York Times Book Review, January 29, 1989, Amy Cohn, review of A Caribou Alphabet, p. 38; April 24, 1994, review of Counting Cranes, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, August 28, 1987, review of The Man Who Sang in the Dark, p. 80; June 24, 1988, review of A Caribou Alphabet, p. 110; January 25, 1991, review of Rosebud and Red Flannel, p. 58; March 9, 1992, review of Animals Don't Wear Pajamas, p. 56; August 9, 1993, review of Counting Cranes, p. 476; October 31, 1994, review of Prize in the Snow, p. 60; December 20, 1999, review of The Story of the Sea Glass, p. 79; August 12, 2002, review of The Gazebo, p. 300.
School Library Journal, October, 1987, Elaine Lesh Morgan, review of The Man Who Sang in the Dark, p. 124; October, 1988, Marcia Hupp, review of A Caribou Alphabet, p. 126; March, 1991, Christine A. Moesch, review of Rosebud and Red Flannel, p. 177; July, 1991, Susan Oliver, review of The Summer of the Dancing Horse, p. 72; June, 1992, Jacqueline Elsner, review of Animals Don't Wear Pajamas, p. 106; November, 1993, Susan Scheps, review of Counting Cranes, p. 88; October, 1994, Jeanne Marie Clancy, review of Prize in the Snow, p. 88; January, 2000, Martha Link, review of Be Blest, p. 125; March, 2000, Virginia Golodetz, review of The Story of the Sea Glass, p. 194; April, 2007, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Panda Whispers, p. 114.
Voice of Youth Advocates,, February, 1988, review of The Man Who Sang in the Dark, p. 278.