Schmidt, Karen Lee 1953–
Schmidt, Karen Lee 1953–
Born August 28, 1953, in Albuquerque, NM; daughter of Norman (an air force test pilot) and Marie (a teacher) Schmidt. Education: Attended University of California, Santa Barbara Art Institute, Art Students' League, National Academy of Design, and School of Visual Arts; Oregon College of Art/Oregon State College, B.A.
Home and office—Seattle, WA. E-mail—[email protected]
Illustrator and author. Visiting speaker at schools; also conducts workshops and interactive drawing demonstrations.
Carl's Nose, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster: A Bedtime Story for Small Appliances, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1986.
My First Book of Baby Animals, Platt & Munk (New York, NY), 1986.
Down by the Station, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Marcia Leonard, Little Fox's Best Friend, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Marcia Leonard, Little Kitten Sleeps Over, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Eve Merriam, You Be Good and I'll Be Night: Jump-on-the-Bed Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
Mary Pope Osborne, compiler, Bears, Bears, Bears: A Treasury of Stories, Songs, and Poems about Bears, Silver Press (San Jose, CA), 1990.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville Bake Shop, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1990.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville Firehouse, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1990.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville School, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1990.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville Theater, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1991.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville Toy Shop, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1991.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville Train Station, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1991.
Joanne Barkan, Whiskerville Grocery, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1991.
Elizabeth Lee O'Donnell, The Twelve Days of Summer, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
Iris Hiskey, Hannah the Hippo's No Mud Day, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Pat Upton, Who Lives in the Woods?, Bell Books (Honesdale, PA), 1991.
Diane Patenaude, The Monster Counting Book, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
Alan Benjamin, A Nickel Buys a Rhyme, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Linda Glaser, Stop That Garbage Truck, Albert Whitman (New York, NY), 1993.
Maxine Meltzer, Pups Speak Up, Bradbury Press (Seattle, WA), 1994.
Pollita Tita (Chicken Little), Putnam (New York, NY), 1995.
Joanna Cole, Monster and Muffin, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Peter Cottontail, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Wee Puppy, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Tom Paxton, Going to the Zoo, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Kathryn Lasky, Grace the Pirate, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1997.
Barbara Ware Holmes, My Sister the Sausage Roll, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1997.
Kathleen Karr, The Lighthouse Mermaid, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
Tom Paxton, The Jungle Baseball Game, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
Jonathan London, What Do You Love?, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2000.
Jerdine Nolen, Max and Jax in Second Grade, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Dandi Daley Mackall, I Love You, Daddy, Standard (Cincinnati, OH), 2006.
Dandi Daley Mackall, I Love You, Mommy, Standard (Cincinnati, OH), 2006.
On her home page, illustrator Karen Lee Schmidt described her childhood as full of animals. "We lived in the Mojave Desert, in California….There were few houses and no fences so our yard played host to a wide variety of desert animals," the artist quipped. "Two large turtles took up residence in our cactus garden. Roadrunners and jackrabbits ventured into and out of the yard. There were legions of lizards and herds of horned toads, not to mention snakes and tarantulas." "My illustrations are populated by as wide a variety of animals as my youth was." Encouraged by her mother, a first-grade teacher, to create art at a young age, Schmidt became a "classroom art decorator," a role that gave her the courage she needed to leave California and travel to New York for college. There she discovered a passion for children's books and began illustrating for a number of well known writers, including Tom Paxton, Jane Yolen, and Mary Pope Osborne. Twenty years after illustrating her first children's book, Schmidt wrote one of her own: her self-illustrated title, Carl's Nose.
Schmidt's illustrations have been warmly praised for the colorful and humorous addition they make to story books for young children. You Be Good and I'll Be Night: Jump-on-the-Bed Poems, a tale by Eve Merriam, features humorous rhymes in a collection that, according to New York Times Book Review contributor Laurel Graeber, "allows the illustrator … to show off her talents to best advantage." Schmidt's "bouncy watercolor scenes" accompany each poem, observed Betsy Hearne in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, and often feature "comically incongruous animals." Graeber went on to note that Schmidt's "sprightly pictures of creatures ranging from jigging pigs to cuddling crocodiles are the visual equivalents of the poems, right down to the hidden joke: carved fish on a bear's bed, for instance."
Another collection of rhyming poems, Alan Benjamin's A Nickel Buys a Rhyme, features Schmidt's "exuberant" and "dapper" interpretations of "silly and sweet, modern Mother Goose-style rhymes," according to Annie Ayres in Booklist. Benjamin's poems are accompanied by "Schmidt's lively, good-natured illustrations," making A Nickel Buys a Rhyme "an inviting book to share," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. Jonathan London's rhyming text in What Do You Love is paired with double-page spreads featuring Schmidt's watercolors. The "illustrations are effective from a distance," according to Susan Hepler, the reviewer adding in her School Library Journal review that the book is good for group reading. Lauren Peterson, writing about the same title in Booklist, called the illustrations "adorable."
Tom Paxton's Going to the Zoo also benefits from Schmidt's "energetic" approach in the form of "exaggerated yet still somewhat realistic" illustrations, according to Lauren Peterson in Booklist. The Jungle Baseball Game, also by Paxton, finds monkeys playing hippos in a game of baseball. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that both baseball and jungle motifs are featured in the border illustrations Schmidt creates for each page, and found the "chubby hippos … particularly fetching." In Booklist John Peters was most attracted to the monkeys, noting that Schmidt "decorates the margins with capering, overconfident primates."
In Hoptoad Schmidt brings to life award-winning author Jane Yolen's tale of a near-disastrous encounter between a lizard, a turtle, a toad, and a truck. Though most might purchase the title based on Yolen's reputation, a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that her "text is not the star here. Schmidt's watercolor-and-gouache, cartoon-skewed pictures are the real joy." The illustra- tor's "paintings get right down to road—and toad—level," Karin Snelson quipped in her Booklist review of Yolen's entertaining beginning reader.
Along with her picture books, Schmidt has also provided pencil illustrations for novels, including The Lighthouse Mermaid, and cartoon art for chapter books such as Max and Jax in Second Grade. Of the latter, a Publishers Weekly critic noted that the book's "boldly hued" illustrations "will serve as bait to lure beginning readers back for more." Louie Lahana, writing in School Library Journal, felt that "Schmidt's appealing artwork matches this tone perfectly."
Schmidt takes on the role of both author and illustrator in Carl's Nose, the story of a weather-dog named Carl. Carl's predictions for the weather near Old Man Mountain have always been accurate until one day, when his nose for the weather loses its knack. Ultimately, Carl's sense of self-worth is restored when he takes up a new profession: rescue dog. "Prose that begs to be read aloud abounds" in the picture book, according to Rita Hunt Smith in School Library Journal. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that Schmidt's story is told as much through her artwork as through her text, writing that the author/illustrator "uses some sophisticated vocabulary and perspectives in her work."
A veteran of more than a decade of work with children's books, Schmidt frequently visits elementary schools to discuss her life and work as an illustrator. She also conducts workshops and interactive drawing demonstrations. "Children's books address universal themes—love, friendship, jealousy, loss, joy, sadness—often in poetic, humorous, or profound ways," she wrote on her home page. "As an artist I am able to give my own voice to these themes by playing off the words and building on them from page to page…. It is that variety I love—that, and being able to integrate my artistic training with themes that have occupied me since childhood."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklinks, July, 2005, Sue McCleaf Nespeca, review of Going to the Zoo, p. 19; March, 2006, Angela Leeper, review of Max and Jax in Second Grade, p. 46.
Booklist, July, 1993, Annie Ayres, review of A Nickel Buys a Rhyme, pp. 1968-1969; June 1, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Going to the Zoo, p. 1728; June 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of The Lighthouse Mermaid, p. 1767; May 1, 1999, John Peters, review of The Jungle Baseball Game, p. 1600; January 1, 2001, Lauren Peterson, review of What Do You Love?, p. 967; June 1, 2002, Kathy Broderick, review of Max and Jax in Second Grade, p. 1724; May 15, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of Hoptoad, p. 1674.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1988, Betsy Hearne, review of You Be Good and I'll Be Night: Jump-on-the-Bed Poems, p. 48; July, 1997, review of My Sister the Sausage Roll, p. 398; June, 1998, review of The Lighthouse Mermaid, p. 365.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1993, review of A Nickel Buys a Rhyme, p. 297; March 1, 2002, review of Max and Jax in Second Grade, p. 342; May 15, 2003, review of Hoptoad, p. 758; September 15, 2006, review of Carl's Nose, p. 966.
New York Times Book Review, March 26, 1989, Laurel Graeber, review of You Be Good and I'll Be Night, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, March 29, 1993, review of A Nickel Buys a Rhyme, p. 56; March 1, 1999, review of The Jungle Baseball Game, p. 67; May 10, 1999, Shannon Maughan, "Songs Spun into Books," p. 35; February 11, 2002, review of Max and Jax in Second Grade, p. 187.
School Library Journal, August, 1997, Carrie A. Guarria, review of My Sister the Sausage Roll, p. 135; August, 1998, Elaine Lesh Morgan, review of The Lighthouse Mermaid, p. 141; April, 1999, Jane Marino, review of The Jungle Baseball Game, p. 106; December, 2000, Susan Hepler, review of What Do You Love? p. 114; April, 2002, Louie Lahana, review of Max and Jax in Second Grade, p. 118; June, 2003, review of Hoptoad, p. 122; November, 2006, Rita Hunt Smith, review of Carl's Nose, p. 112.
Children's Literature Web site,http://www.childrenslit.com/ (December 2, 2007), "Karen Lee Schmidt."
Frostburg State University Web site,http://www.frostburg.edu/ (December 2, 2007), "Karen Lee Schmidt."
Karen Lee Schmidt Home Page,http://www.karenleeschmidt.net (December 2, 2007).