Rankin, Laura 1953(?)-

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Rankin, Laura 1953(?)-

Personal

Born c. 1953. Education: Attended State University of New York at Fredonia; University of New Hampshire, degree (speech and drama), 1975; studied advanced illustration at University of Buffalo.

Addresses

Home—York Beach, ME.

Career

Illustrator. Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY, editorial illustrator, beginning 1975; Wells Public Library, York, ME, part-time children's programming director.

Awards, Honors

Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book Award, 1992, for The Handmade Alphabet; Lupine Honor Award, 2003, for Swan Harbor.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

The Handmade Alphabet, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.

Merl and Jasper's Supper Caper, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.

The Handmade Counting Book, Dial (New York, NY), 1998.

Swan Harbor: A Nature Counting Book, Dial (New York, NY), 2003.

Fluffy and Baron, Dial (New York, NY), 2006.

Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2007.

ILLUSTRATOR

Teddy Slater, The Fabulous Fish from Lake Wiggawalla, Silver Press (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1991.

Teddy Slater, Why Buster Beasly Was Late for Lunch, Silver Press (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1991.

Jessica Clerk, The Wriggly, Wriggly Baby, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2002.

Amber Stewart, Rabbit Ears, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

Alexander McCall Smith, Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats, new edition, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

Alexander McCall Smith, The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

Alexander McCall Smith, The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

Sidelights

Laura Rankin grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has spent much of her life in and around New England. Now making her home in coastal Maine, Rankin is a full-time author and illustrator of picture books whose self-authored works include Rabbit Ears, Fluffy and Baron, and The Handmade Alphabet, the last a winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for Nonfiction. Reflecting the author/illustrator's love for the region of coastal New England where she now makes her home, Rankin's Swan Harbor: A Nature Counting Book takes readers through the way Maine's birds, animals, sea creatures, and plants accommodate the changing seasons. In Kirkus Reviews a reviewer called Swan Harbor "a gorgeous selection that children will treasure long after they have grown up," while in her School Library Journal review Liza Graybill cited the work for presenting a "clean, strong portrait of the coastal Maine environment." Praising Rankin's "direct" text and "simple, edifying" approach, School Library Journal contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido deemed Swan Harbor "an elegant conceit."

Rankin attended the University of New Hampshire, where she studied speech and drama. After graduating in 1975, she returned to her home town of East Aurora and got a job as an editorial artist at the Buffalo News. While in Buffalo she took an advanced illustration

course at the University of Buffalo that was taught by illustrator Alan Cober. A course project—a series of five drawings of hand signing letters of the alphabet—resulted in her first published book when Cober's connections resulted in a meeting between Rankin and an art director at Dial. While her early work was done in pencil, Rankin now often uses ink and vivid acrylic in her colorful illustration art.

Featuring colored pencil and charcoal illustrations, The Handmade Alphabet and The Handmade Counting Book both introduce young readers to the American Sign Language. In The Handmade Alphabet Rankin explains in an author note that the book was inspired by her deaf stepson; her drawings of hands signing pair with alphabet-related images to achieve "a glorious success" according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In addition to numbers one through twenty, The Handmade Counting Book includes multiples of twenty-five up through one hundred, using what Horn Book contributor Ellen Fader described as "easily recognizable and child-appealing objects."

Animals take a starring role in many of Rankin's original tales; an animal lover, she often bases her stories on her own experiences with family pets. An "inventive, fully realized tale," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Merl and Jasper's Supper Caper finds a hand-sketched cat and dog suddenly coming to life and leaving the page in search of a two-dimensional dinner for their empty two-dimensional tummies. Scouting out supper in a fairy-tale picture book, Merl and Jasper soon realize that steaming bowls of porridge, a giant's feast, and other delights are destined for storybook characters. Fortunately, a satisfying solution is found when Merl the cat sketches meals on the same sheet of paper they originally hopped of of. In Fluffy and Baron a curious duckling and a good-natured German shepherd become fast friends until Fluffy's destiny—to join other wild ducks on their seasonal migration—sounds a bittersweet note in their relationship. Praising the "sweet story" Rankin tells in Fluffy and Baron, School Library Journal reviewer Amy Lilien-Harper went on to note of the book's artwork that "the expressions on Baron's face" as he keeps a watchful eye on his web-footed new friend "are priceless." Rankin's detailed acrylic-and-ink paintings reveal "her experience with shepherds," maintained a Kirkus Reviews writer, and Booklist critic Kay Weisman recommended Fluffy and Baron as "a natural choice for story hours focusing on friendship."

In addition to creating original, self-illustrated picture books, Rankin sometimes illustrates stories by other writers. Praising her work for Jessica Clerk's The Wriggly, Wriggly Baby, School Library Journal reviewer Martha Topol maintained that "the vividness and fullness of [Rankin's] … illustrations … keep the story moving." Rankin's acrylic paintings "have a watercolor gentleness," Susan Weitz noted in a review of another illustration project, Rabbit Ears by Amber Stewart. Praising Stewart's text, Weitz went on to add that, as brought to life in Rankin's art, Stewart's floppy-eared "characters are funny, adorable, and expressive." In Booklist Ilene Cooper also enjoyed Rabbit Ears, noting that the book's "light, bright, oversize" art is "just right for group viewing."

Rankin has also created new artwork for the "Harriet Bean" books, a series by award-winning British writer Alexander McCall Smith that includes the novels The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats, and The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean. The series focuses on a nine-year-old amateur sleuth whose search for her father's older sisters leads to mystery when it turns out that at least two of the aunts are professional globe-hopping detectives.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 15, 1992, review of The Handmade Alphabet, p. 875; October 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review

of The Wriggly, Wriggly Baby, p. 334; February 15, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Swan Harbor: A Nature Counting Book, p. 1071; February 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Rabbit Ears, p. 58; September 1, 2006, Kay Weisman, review of Fluffy and Baron, p. 140.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1991, review of The Handmade Alphabet, p. 19; June, 1997, review of Merl and Jasper's Supper Caper, p. 370; May, 2006, Hope Morrison, review of Rabbit Ears, p. 425.

Horn Book, November, 1998, Ellen Fader, review of The Handmade Counting Book, p. 717.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of The Wriggly, Wriggly Baby, p. 1029; March 15, 2003, review of Swan Harbor, p. 476; January 15, 2006, review of Rabbit Ears, p. 90; April 15, 2006, review of The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, p. 416; June 15, 2006, review of Fluffy and Baron, p. 636.

Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1991, review of The Handmade Alphabet, p. 86; May 19, 1997, review of Merl and Jasper's Supper Caper, p. 75; December 23, 2002, review of Swan Harbor, p. 73; February 13, 2006, review of Rabbit Ears, p. 88; May 22, 2006, review of The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, p. 53.

School Library Journal, October, 1991, Christine A. Moesch, review of The Handmade Alphabet, p. 112; December, 1991, Sharron McElmeel, review of The Fabulous Fish from Lake Wiggawalla, p. 102; July, 1997, review of Merl and Jasper's Supper Caper, p. 73; December, 1998, Pam Gosner, review of The Handmade Counting Book, p. 112; September, 2002, Martha Topol, review of The Wriggly, Wriggly Baby, p. 182; April, 2003, Liza Graybill, review of Swan Harbor, p. 154; April, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of Rabbit Ears, p. 119; July, 2006, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of Fluffy and Baron, p. 85; December, 2006, Kathleen Meulen, review of The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, p. 108.

ONLINE

Seacoast Online,http://www.seacoastonline.com/ (January 5, 2006), George Chappel, "Laura Rankin's Busy Year."