Small, David 1945-

views updated

Small, David 1945-


Born February 12, 1945, in Detroit, MI; son of Edward Pierce (a doctor) and Elizabeth Small; married Sarah Stewart (a writer), September, 1980; children: (previous marriages) five. Education: Wayne State University, B.F.A., 1968; Yale University, M.F.A., 1972. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, traveling, sketching out-of-doors.


Home—25626 Simpson Rd., Mendon, MI 49072.


Author and illustrator of children's books; freelance artist. State University of New York—Fredonia College, assistant professor of art, 1972-78; Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, MI, assistant professor of art, 1978-83, artist-in-residence, 1983-86.

Awards, Honors

Children's Books of the Year listee, Library of Congress, and Parents' Choice Remarkable Book designation, Parents' Choice Foundation (PCF), both 1982, both for Eulalie and the Hopping Head; Notable Book for Children in the Field of Social Studies honor, National Council of Social Studies/Children's Book Council, 1983, for Mean Chickens and Wild Cucumbers; Best Books designations, School Library Journal and Booklist, both 1984, both for Anna and the Seven Swans; Children's Books of the Year listee, Child Study Association of America, 1985, for The Christmas Box; Parents' Choice Award for literature, 1985, for Imogene's Antlers; Redbook Award, and Notable Book designation, American Library Association (ALA), both 1988, both for Company's Coming; Parents' Choice Award for picture books, 1989, for As: A Surfeit of Similes, and 1990, for Box and Cox; Caldecott Honor Book designation, ALA, 1998, for The Gardener by Sara Stewart; Caldecott Medal, 2001, for So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George; Heartland Award, 2001, for The Journey; International Reading Association/Children's Book Center Choice designation, 2004, for The Friend.



Eulalie and the Hopping Head, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1982.

Imogene's Antlers, Crown (New York, NY), 1985.

Paper John, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.

Ruby Mae Has Something to Say, Crown (New York, NY), 1992.

George Washington's Cows, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1994.

Hoover's Bride, Crown (New York, NY), 1995.

Fenwick's Suit, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.


Nathan Zimelman, Mean Chickens and Wild Cucumbers, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1983.

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.

Burr Tillstrom, The Kuklapolitan Players Present: The Dragon Who Lived Downstairs, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.

Maida Silverman, Anna and the Seven Swans, translated from the Russian by Natasha Frumin, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.

Eve Merriam, The Christmas Box, Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.

Arthur Yorinks, Company's Coming, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.

Peggy Thomson, The King Has Horse's Ears, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.

Milton Meltzer, American Politics: How It Really Works, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

Norton Juster, As: A Surfeit of Similes, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989, revised edition published as As Silly as Knees, as Busy as Bees: An Astounding Assortment of Similes, Beech Tree (New York, NY), 1998.

Grace Chetwin, Box and Cox, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1990.

Sarah Stewart, The Tree, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1991.

Eve Merriam, Fighting Words, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.

Beverly Cleary, Petey's Bedtime Story, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.

Sarah Stewart, The Library, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1995.

Sarah Stewart, The Gardener, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.

Bonny Becker, The Christmas Crocodile, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Carl Sandburg, The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1999.

Judith St. George, So You Want to Be President?, Philomel (New York, NY), 2000, revised and updated, 2004.

Sarah Stewart, The Journey, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2001.

Russell Hoban, The Mouse and His Child, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Judith St. George, So You Want to Be an Inventor?, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.

Linda Ashman, The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Sarah Stewart, The Friend, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.

Judith St. George, So You Want to Be an Explorer?, Philomel (New York, NY), 2005.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, DC, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Elise Broach, When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.

Jennifer Armstrong, Once upon a Banana, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.


Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including New York Times and New Yorker.


Caldecott Medalist David Small is the author and illustrator of children's books which, with their clever text and pictures, entertain readers both young and old. His works, which include Eulalie and the Hopping Head, George Washington's Cows, and Hoover's Bride, feature engaging line drawings that bring to life lighthearted, whimsical tales. As an illustrator, Small is equally well known for his contributions to books by children's authors such as Beverly Cleary, Judith St. George, Eve Merriam, and Russell Hoban, as well as those by his own wife, author Sarah Stewart.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Small did not intend to become an artist. Although he enjoyed creating cartoons as a child, as a teenager he found himself attracted to literature and intended to make a living as a playwright. Setting out on his chosen career path, he enrolled at Wayne State University. During his sophomore year, realizing that his artistic talents then exceeded his literary ones, Small transferred to the university's art school. In 1968, he graduated with a bachelor's of fine arts degree, and then moved to Yale University where he also earned an M.F.A. in fine arts.

After finishing his university education, Small remained connected to the academic world, first teaching at the State University of New York—Fredonia College, and then at Kalamazoo College. The same year he stopped teaching, 1982, his first self-illustrated children's book, Eulalie and the Hopping Head, was published to critical acclaim. Other early works authored and illustrated by Small were also well received by critics, among them Imogene's Antlers, a fanciful story about a young girl who wakes up one morning to find that she has sprouted a rack of antlers on her head. Another early work, Paper John, tells the story of a simple man who uses his paper-folding skills to outwit the devil, while Small's Ruby Mae Has Something to Say features a tongue-tied woman who wishes to share the word of peace at the United Nations. In a review of Paper John, Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper called Small "one of the most inventive illustrators around today." "Witty and silly in equal measure, Small's … cheeky expose about the real reason the father of our country went into politics works on a number of conceptual levels," wrote a Publishers Weekly in a review of George Washington's Cows. A reading of Hoover's Bride inspired Leone McDermott to note in Booklist that Small's "exuberantly loopy romance will delight the silly" with its story of a sloppy bachelor who cleans up his house with the aid of a vacuum cleaner and finds love in the process.

Small began illustrating books by other authors at the same time that he began writing and illustrating his own stories. From the beginning, his talent for bringing to life humorously quirky characters was tapped by publishers, as can be seen by his list of assignments: a new edition of Jonathan Swift's classic satire Gulliver's Travels, Nathan Zimelman's Mean Chickens and Wild Cucumbers, Burr Tillstrom's The Kuklapolitan Players Present: The Dragon Who Lived Downstairs, and Peggy Thomson's The King Has Horse's Ears. More recent works include illustrations for Fighting Words, a text by the late poet Eve Merriam that finds country-boy Dale and city-girl Leda engaging in a word fight that becomes so enjoyable that they both agree to resume their verbal wars another day. In School Library Journal Luann Toth remarked that Merriam's characters "take center stage in the quirky pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings with perfect facial expressions to match each verbal

assault." Calling the book "an original," Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan wrote that "Small's captivating ink-and-watercolor artwork sets the war in a variety of entertaining settings."

Another book featuring Small's art, The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back is taken from American poet Carl Sandburg's classic 1922 book Rootabaga Stories. In this newly illustrated version (the original featured art by Maud and Miska Petersham) a farmer named Jonas Jonas Huckabuck, together with his wife, Mama Mama, and his daughter, Pony Pony, live on a Nebraska farm, raising corn, until one day, Pony Pony discovers a silver buckle while weeding the squash. Her parents warn that the buckle is a sign of luck, but they are unsure if the shiny object signifies good luck or bad. A fire the next day that turns all of their harvest into popcorn reveals to the Huckabucks that their fortunes have turned for the worse, so the family decides to leave until the blizzard of popcorn clears itself. Many cities later, the family finds a second buckle matching the first and so set off for home, realizing that their farm is ready to welcome them back. Several reviewers applauded Small for introducing the Rootabaga Stories to a new audience as well as for his accompanying illustrations. Writing in Horn Book, a critic predicted that "with a new treatment by David Small in picture book format, this particular selection … should reach a contemporary audience." Small "depicts the family's peripatetic lifestyle with wry wit and droll details," claimed a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "leading readers of this engaging book to feel they've met with the good kind of luck."

In his work for Linda Ashman's The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, Small brings to life thirteen creatures that range from Scotland's Loch Ness monster to India's Ravana, the Greek Sirenes, and the American Sasquatch. "Small's energetic and wacky" ink-and-watercolor images add to the fun, according to School Library Journal reviewer Nina Lindsay, the critic noting that they mesh with Ashman's "enchanting and excellent" rhyming text in "a beautifully designed volume." The illustrator's "sprightly artwork, executed in ink and watercolor, is just made for a second look," wrote Cooper in a Booklist review of Small's work for Jennifer Armstrong's Once upon a Banana. Also appraising Armstrong's book, a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed the work "a tour de force of visual sequencing" in which the illustrator "sets up a hilarious chain of events along a busy city street."

Noting the presence of Small's characteristic "huge, motley cast" of engaging characters, a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted of Once upon a Banana that "the pages overflow with enough pratfalls and comic asides to reward many readings." In Elise Broach's humorous When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, Small's art bringing to life the story of a modern boy who winds up with a free dinosaur was described by School Library Journal

contributor Marge Loch-Wouters as "sketchy, tongue-in-cheek watercolor-and-ink" images that illuminate "the boy's exuberance, the dinosaurs' mass, and the hubbub that a city full of these reptiles would create."

Small's award-winning collaborations include his work with writer Judith St. George on So You Want to Be President?, So You Want to Be an Explorer?, and So You Want to Be an Inventor? So You Want to Be President? offers young readers lighthearted information about the men who have held the highest political office in the United States. Ranging from trivia about how many presidents have been named James (six) to how many presidents have been born in a log cabin (eight), the fact-filled book gives readers a humorous look at the many occupants of the White House. Small's award-winning illustrations include depictions of Richard Nixon flashing a "V" for victory sign in the White House bowling lanes, a rotund William H. Taft being hoisted by a crane into a bathtub, and the somber Woodrow Wilson doing a little jig, each image based in part on a real-life incident. In Booklist Phelan claimed that "Small's delightful illustrations, usually droll and sometimes hilarious, will draw children to the book and entertain them from page to page," while a Publishers Weekly critic felt that "the comical caricatured artwork emphasizes some of the presidents' best known qualities and amplifies the playful tone of the text."

According to U.S. News and World Report writer Marc Silver, Small found the illustrations for So You Want to Be President? a challenge. He had only five months to capture the essence of forty-two U.S. presidents, and as Small told Silver, he quickly discovered that "the handsomer they are, the harder they are to draw." However, "sketching freely, wildly at times," as Horn Book contributor Patricia Lee Gauch observed, Small finished the pictures for the book, going on to earn the highest award in children's book illustration, a Caldecott Medal, for his efforts. He has also continued his career-focused series with St. George, producing a primer on the lives of such visionaries as ship's captain Christopher Columbus, paleontologist Mary Kingsley, aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and test pilot Chuck Yeager in So You Want to Be an Explorer? and technology innovators ranging from printing-press inventor Johannes Gutenberg to Alexander Graham Bell and beyond in So You Want to Be an Inventor? "Small's larger than life, extravagantly wrought caricatures" fully balance St. George's humorous and "inspirational" text in So You Want to Be an Explorer?, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst concluded of the companion volume that "the snappy tone of the text and the richly drawn illustrations" will entertain young readers. Booklist reviewer GraceAnne A. DeCandido proclaimed of the series that "lively energy infuses the work of this award-winning team."

Among Small's illustration credits are several books written by his wife, children's author Sarah Stewart. In each of their collaborations, which include The Gardener, The Journey, The Library, The Money Tree, and The Friend, Stewart crafts her story from a combination of letters, diary entries, and rhyme. Her texts are brought to life by Small's large watercolor illustrations, making the books perfect for use during story hours. In The Money Tree Stewart and Small relate the story of a tree growing in Miss McGillicuddy's yard that bears leaves shaped like dollar bills. All summer long townsfolk and strangers alike greedily pick currency from the tree and even ask for branches of the tree to plant on their own land. Busy making quilts, tending her garden, and flying kites, Miss McGillicuddy seems unaffected by all the attention her new tree receives, but when fall comes and all the tree's leaves are gone, she taps into another value of the tree: she cuts down the strange specimen and burns its wood in her fireplace during the cold winter months. Describing Small's art as "reminiscent of the art of Carl Larsson," a Publishers Weekly critic added that the book's "evocative, pastel-filled watercolors echo the hushed, mysterious tone" of Stewart's story. Noting that The Money Tree provides a starting point for discussions about "contemporary values," Horn Book reviewer Hanna B. Zeigler added that "Small's charming and detailed illustrations portray a strong, independent woman whose life is graceful and meaningful."

In The Library, Small and Stewart introduce a woman who loves to read. Since childhood Elizabeth Brown

has collected and read books, intending to read every volume ever published. While other girls played with dolls and skates, Elizabeth occupied herself with piles and piles of books. As a grown woman, she continues to buy and consume books until she notices that she has no room for even one more volume in her overstuffed house. To solve her problem, the bookworm shares her passion by donating her book collection to the town and creating a library for all to enjoy. New York Times Book Review critic Rebecca Pepper Sinkler commented on how well Small's illustrations mesh with Stewart's text. "He … grounds the action of the story in time and place," note the critic, concluding of The Library: "It's a joy to look at, from its delicately framed full-page illustrations to the witty doodads that fill the white spaces around the smaller ones." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "Small's … airy illustrations charm with historical touches and soothing pastel hues," while Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper wrote that with the "wonderfully unique perspectives" incorporated into Small's "framed pastel artwork," "reading has never looked quite so delicious."

The Gardener, The Journey, and The Friend, each tell the story of a young girl though a series of letters and diary entries. In The Gardener Lydia Grace Finch must help her unemployed parents during the Great Depression of the 1930s by working in her uncle's bakery. Lydia does not mind working in the city, though she misses her favorite past time, tending her beloved plants and flowers. Through Lydia's letters to her country-dwelling family, readers learn how the girl adapts to city life by turning her uncle's apartment and rooftop into a beautiful garden. "Small controls the action with dramatic angles," wrote Horn Book contributor Susan P. Bloom, the critic adding that "objects placed close up … afford deep perspective to a page bustling with detail." Although the illustrator's paintings "are a bit more softly focused than usual," Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin added that "they are still recognizably [Small's], with wonderfully expressive characters, ink-line details, and patches of pastel."

The Journey relates the story of a young Amish girl, Hannah, as she visits Chicago for the first time. In diary entries, Hannah describes all the wonders she sees in the city and compares them to life in the country. Although she is amazed by the tall skyscrapers, the elevated train system, and the many shops in the city, by trip's end she realizes how much she misses her family and the activities on the farm. Accompanying Hannah's recollections are Small's double-page illustrations, one spread showing the young girl amid the hustle and bustle of Chicago, and the next one offering a bucolic view of her rural Amish home. School Library Journal contributor Wendy Lukehart found that the book's "design perfectly meld[s] to its subtle message," and a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "Small effectively depicts the spare, serene Amish lifestyle and … underscores the sharp contrast between the two settings."

Also told in Stewart's gentle rhyme, The Friend focuses on privileged young carrot-topped Annabelle Bernadette Clementine Dodd, the only daughter of wealthy parents who lives in a large seaside home. The family housekeeper, Beatrice Smith, is the girl's only friend, and the two spend almost all their time together exploring the nearby beach. When Annabelle ventures out alone one day, she becomes caught in the undertow, but the diligent Beatrice is there to save her. In Publishers Weekly a critic dubbed The Friend the couple's "most personal work to date," noting that the story is based on an incident from Stewart's own childhood. Praising Small's artistic accompaniment, Roger Sutton wrote in Horn Book that his "tender but scrupulously individualized portraits and glorious double-page spreads" evoke the close relationship between child and caregiver that grounds Stewart's spare text.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Children's Literature Review, Volume 53, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Merriam, Eve, Fighting Words, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.


Booklist, June 15, 1987, Ilene Cooper, review of Paper John, p. 1608; May 15, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of Fighting Words, p. 1688; November 1, 1994, Kathy Broderick, review of George Washington's Cows, p. 510; March 15, 1995, Ilene Cooper, review of The Library, p. 1338; February 1, 1996, Leone McDermott, review of Hoover's Bride, p. 939; June 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Gardener, p. 1722; September 15, 1999, Linda Perkins, review of The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back, p. 270; July, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of So You Want to Be President?, p. 2034; March 15, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of The Journey, p. 1399; August, 2002, review of So You Want to Be an Inventor?, p. 1954; November 1, 2003, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, p. 498; September 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of So You Want to Be an Explorer?, p. 69; November 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Once upon a Banana, p. 58; September 15, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, p. 73.

Horn Book, January-February, 1992, Hanna Zeigler, review of The Money Tree, p. 62; July-August, 1995, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Library, p. 454; November-December, 1997, Susan P. Bloom, review of The Gardener, p. 673; September, 1999, review of The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back, p. 600; March, 2001, review of The Journey, p. 202; July, 2001, Patricia Lee Gauch, "David Small," p. 421; September-October, 2002, Betty Carter, review of So You Want to Be an Inventor?, p. 601; September-October, 2004, Roger Sutton, review of The Friend, p. 575; August 1, 2006, John Peters, review of My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, DC, p. 81; January-February, 2007, Lolly Robinson, review of Once upon a Banana, p. 55.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of So You Want to Be an Inventor?, p. 1044; August 15, 2003, review of The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, p. 1069; July 1, 2004, review of The Friend, p. 637; August 1, 2005, review of So You Want to Be an Explorer?, p. 858; October 1, 2006, review of Once upon a Banana, p. 1009.

New York Times Book Review, June 4, 1995, Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, review of The Library, p. 25; May 20, 2001, review of The Journey.

Publishers Weekly, August 30, 1991, review of The Money Tree, p. 83; August 29, 1994, review of George Washington's Cows, p. 78; April 18, 1995, review of The Library, p. 61; June 2, 1997, review of The Gardener, p. 70; July 26, 1999, review of The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back, p. 89; July 17, 2000, review of So You Want to Be President?, p. 193; January 8, 2001, review of The Journey, p. 66; October 13, 2003, review of The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, p. 79; June 7, 2004, review of The Friend, p. 50; May 1, 2006, review of My Senator and Me, p. 62; October 2, 2006, review of Once upon a Banana, p. 61; August 6, 2007, review of When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, p. 187.

School Library Journal, June, 1992, Luann Toth, review of Fighting Words, p. 99; March, 2001, Wendy Lukehart, review of The Journey, p. 220; September, 2003, Grace Oliff, review of The Gardener, p. 85, and Nina Lindsay, review of The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, p. 194; August, 2004, Marianne Saccardi, review of The Friend, p. 96; September, 2005, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of So You Want to Be an Explorer?, p. 196; August, 2006, Wendy Lukehart, review of My Senator and Me, p. 106; December, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of Once upon a Banana, p. 94; September, 2007, review of When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, p. 158.

U.S. News and World Report, January 29, 2001, Marc Silver, "The Cartoonist in Chief," p. 8.


Pippin Properties Web site, (October 27, 2007), "David Small."