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Roche, Denis 1967-

Roche, Denis 1967-

Personal

Born January 5, 1967, in New Haven, CT; daughter of Kevin (an architect) and Jane (an artist) Roche; married William Mark (in business), 1999. Education: St. Andrews University (Scotland), B.A., M.A. (art history).

Addresses

Home—Providence, RI.

Career

Author and illustrator. Formerly worked as an elementary school art teacher.

Awards, Honors

Reading Magic Award, Parenting magazine, 1997, for Only One Ollie and Ollie All Over; Best Books designation, Child magazine, 1997, for Brave Georgie Goat.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.

Only One Ollie, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.

Ollie All Over, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.

Brave Georgie Goat: Three Little Stories about Growing Up, Crown (New York, NY), 1997.

Art around the World!: Loo-Loo, Boo, and More Art You Can Do, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.

Oodles to Do with Loo-Loo and Boo: The Collected Art Adventures (includes Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do and Art around the World!), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.

Little Pig Is Capable, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.

Mim, Gym, and June, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.

The Best Class Picture Ever!, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

ILLUSTRATOR

Stephanie Calmenson, The Teeny Tiny Teacher, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Lezlie Evans, Can You Count Ten Toes?: Count to Ten in Ten Different Languages, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.

April Pulley Sayre, It's My City: A Singing Map, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2001.

Jonathan London, A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.

Lezlie Evans, Can You Greet the Whole Wide World?: Twelve Common Phrases in Twelve Different Languages, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.

Jonathan London, A Train Goes Clickety-Clack, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.

Sidelights

A former school teacher, Denis Roche has written and illustrated picture books that center around animal characters such as Ollie the puppy, Brave Georgie Goat, and determined Little Pig. In addition to her self-illustrated stories, Roche is also known as an illustrator, and her original books on arts and crafts, such as Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, feature projects that children can carry out on their own.

The daughter of an architect father and an artist mother, Roche grew up in a creative household where the tools of arts and crafts were accessible from an early age. Because her parents had no television, she was encouraged to use her imagination, fostering her love of reading and creative endeavors. After graduating from high school, Roche attended St. Andrews University in Scotland, where she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees and studied art history.

Returning to the United States after college, Roche became an elementary-school art teacher, and her career as an author and illustrator of books for children grew out of her teaching experience. Her first book, Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, and its sequel, Art around the World!: Loo-Loo, Boo, and More Art You Can Do, offer art projects that young people can put together on their own, with a minimum of adult supervision. Narrated by the fictional television star Loo-Loo and her dog Boo, the books are written in such a way as to speak to their readers directly. Loo-Loo and Boo begin by offering instructions and a few useful rules of thumb. They also encourage the use of plastic knives, rather than metal ones, for cutting cardboard. With such serious matters out of the way, the two narrators take their readers through a series of projects, such as "stinky clay," which mixes clay with pickle juice. Another unusual one is "bumpy paint"; but most of the projects in Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, such as potato prints and collage, will be familiar to anyone who has been involved in elementary-school arts and crafts projects. Several other features of the book make it particularly useful and attractive.

Among the first things readers notice when opening Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do are the bright colors of the illustrations. These are created by using a technique called gouache, which is the use of opaque watercolor paints, as opposed to transparent (see-through) watercolors. A critic in Kirkus Reviews observed that Ray's illustrations "are sure to entice readers," and a Publishers Weekly commentator noted that the bright colors create a "please-touch" effect to the book. The latter reviewer also pointed out the value of the book's layout: each project is outlined on a single, open-page spread, meaning that "hands sticky from homemade paste don't have to touch these pages." Black lines between the steps of a project also make the instructions easy to follow. Elizabeth Bush, in her review for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, maintained that young readers in search of "simple, sloppy entertainment" would come away satisfied.

Ollie, the star of Ollie All Over and Only One Ollie, is a puppy, but he might as well be a human toddler. Like the preschool audience for whom Ray's book was written, Ollie often becomes restless and needs plenty of attention. To entertain himself, he turns first to hiding and later to counting. In her "Ollie" board books, Roche again offers the bright, rich colors that made Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do so pleasing. Several visual tricks also help to hold the interest of a young audience; in one picture, for example, Ollie camouflages himself in front of a curtain with the same pattern as his shirt. The story is written in such a way that it may not be entirely clear whether Ollie's mother knows he is deliberately hiding from her, but when he "hides" on her lap, she has no trouble finding him. A Kirkus Reviews critic considered Ollie All Over "terrific," and commented on its "healthy respect for the resourcefulness" of small children.

A Publishers Weekly commentator praised the "killer cute" illustrations in both Ollie All Over and its companion volume, Only One Ollie. In the latter story, Ollie cannot find anyone who will play with him, so he entertains himself by counting. He counts two blue sofas, three round carpets, and all manner of other objects, and in the process becomes aware of the fact that there is "only one" Ollie. The story culminates with his counting of his ten siblings, who are finished with their work and ready to play with him. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Janice Del Negro commented favorably on both books, concluding that they "do what board books are supposed to do—they introduce concepts easily and with toddler-appealing style."

The concepts Roche tackles in Brave Georgie Goat: Three Little Stories about Growing Up are more complex than those presented in her "Ollie" books. A set of three stories united by the character of Georgie Goat (literally, a little kid), these tales help young readers confront deep and often unexpressed fears. In "Georgie Goat's Mommy Goes," Georgie is forced to address her fears that if she ever lets her mother leave the house, Mother Goat will never come back. Georgie faces a closely related fear in "Georgie Goat's Best Friend Coat," and in "Good Night, Georgie Goat" Georgie deals with another familiar toddler fear: that of the dark. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Georgie has "just the right mix of vulnerability and pluckiness," and School Library Journal contributor Knickerbocker concluded of Brave Georgie Goat that, "simple but touching, the book won't sit on the shelf for long."

Although Little Pig is coddled by his overprotective pig parents, in Little Pig Is Capable Roche's curly-tailed hero proves his bravery. While on a hike with his scouting troop, Little Pig realizes that the substitute leader, a wolf named Ravenous, has more than a nature walk on his mind. The book's "playfully childlike artwork includes plenty of droll details," wrote Kitty Flynn in her Horn Book review of Little Pig Is Capable, the critic concluding that Roche's "picture book offers the kind of silly, subversive humor that kids eat up." In Booklist Ilene Cooper recommended the story for "every child who has an overprotective parent," noting that the author/illustrator's "vividly colored art has both a childlike sensibility and insightful details."

In addition to her original self-illustrated picture books, Roche has also created artwork for books by other authors, among them Can You Count Ten Toes?: Count to Ten in Ten Different Languages and Can You Greet the Whole Wide World?: Twelve Common Phrases in Twelve Different Languages by Lezlie Evans, and It's My City!: A Singing Map by April Pulley Sayre. Reviewing It's My City! for Publishers Weekly, a contributor praised Roche's "bright naif landscapes," concluding that "the straightforward cheeriness and energy of the artwork mirror the … high-spirited self-assurance" of Sayre's spunky protagonist.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, p. 244; April 15, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Ollie All Over, pp. 1436-1437; March 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Can You Count Ten Toes?: Count to Ten in Ten Different Languages, p. 1331; March 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Little Pig Is Capable, p. 1144; October 15, 2003, Louise Brueggemann, review of The Best Class Picture Ever!, p. 420; October 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa, p. 64; May 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of Can You Greet the Whole Wide World?: Twelve Common Phrases in Twelve Different Languages, p. 85.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1996, Elizabeth Bush, review of Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, p. 27; June, 1997, Janice M. Del Negro, reviews of Ollie All Over and Only One Ollie, p. 372; April, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of Art around the World: Loo-Loo, Boo, and More Art You Can Do, p. 1318; October, 1998, review of The Teeny Tiny Teacher, p. 53.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1996, review of Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, p. 828; February 1, 1997, review of Ollie All Over, p. 227; July 1, 2001, review of It's My City!: A Singing Map, p. 946; February 1, 2002, review of Little Pig Is Capable, p. 188; February 1, 2003, review of Mim, Gym, and June, p. 237; August 1, 2003, review of The Best Class Picture Ever!, p. 1022; August 1, 2005, review of A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa, p. 853; May 1, 2006, review of Can You Greet the Whole Wide World?, p. 177.

Publishers Weekly, July 1, 1996, review of Loo-Loo, Boo, and Art You Can Do, p. 59; January 13, 1997, reviews of Only One Ollie and Ollie All Over, p. 77; October 27, 1997, review of Brave Georgie Goat: Three Little Stories about Growing Up, p. 74; August 3, 1998, review of The Teeny Tiny Teacher, p. 85; July 9, 2001, review of It's My City!, p. 67; January 14, 2002, review of Little Pig Is Capable, p. 60; January 20, 2003, review of Mim, Gym, and June, p. 81; September 8, 2003, review of The Best Class Picture Ever!, p. 76.

School Library Journal, August, 1997, Paula A. Kiely, reviews of Only One Ollie and Ollie All Over, p. 140; January, 1998, Anne Knickerbocker, review of Brave Georgie Goat, pp. 91-92: August, 1998, Marcia Hupp, review of Art around the World, p. 155; October, 2001, Anne Knickerbocker, review of It's My City!, p. 130; August, 2002, Dona Ratterree, review of Little Pig Is Capable, p. 166; April, 2003, Maryann H. Owen, review of Mim, Gym, and June, p. 137; September, 2005, Genevieve Gallagher, review of A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa, p. 177; June, 2006, Margaret R. Tassia, review of Can You Greet the Whole Wide World?, p. 135.

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