Stringer, Lauren 1957-

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Stringer, Lauren 1957-


Born March 29, 1957, in Great Falls, MT; daughter of Albert Maine (an engineer) and Marla Josephine (a social worker) Stringer; married Matthew Sawyer Smith (an artist-composer), May 7, 1988; children: Ruby Smith, Cooper Smith. Education: University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, B.A. (art/art history; with honors), 1980; Whitney Museum of American Art, Independent Study Program, 1981-82. Politics: Democrat.


Home—432 Newton Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55405. E-mail—artistand [email protected]


Painter and sculptor. Has worked as an exhibitions preparator (art handler, designer, framer, etc.), in museums in Minneapolis, MN, New York, NY, Boston, MA, and Washington, DC; visiting artist in the schools, Minnesota State Arts Board and COMPAS Writers and Artists Program, 1990-97. Set designer and painter for theater, dance, and performance art, in Minneapolis, MN, St. Paul, MN, and New York, NY. Millay Colony for the Arts, Inc., artist-in-residence, and Edward Albee Foundation, art-in-residence, both 1984; Altos de Chavon, artist-in-residence, 1986.


Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators, Kerlan Friends.

Awards, Honors

McKnight Foundation fellowship, 1991; Minnesota Book Award for illustration, 1996, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council Children's Choice Award, and Crayola Kids Best Book of the Year designation, all for Mud by Mary Lyn Ray; Minnesota Book Awards finalist, and Society of Illustrators 1998 exhibition title, both for Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant; Booklist Editor's Choice designation, for Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman.



Winter Is the Warmest Season, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.


Mary Lyn Ray, Mud, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1996.

Cynthia Rylant, Scarecrow, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1998.

Mary Lyn Ray, Red Rubber Boot Day, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.

Linda Ashman, Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.

Lisa Westberg Peters, Our Family Tree: An Evolutionary Story, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.

Kristine O'Connell George, Fold Me a Poem, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.

Cynthia Rylant, Snow, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Contributor of illustrations to Lee Galda and Bernice E. Cullinan, Literature and the Child, Wadsworth-Thomson Learning, 2002.


Artist Laura Lauren Stringer is a painter and sculptor who also creates art for children's picture books. With Winter Is the Warmest Season she also takes on the role of author, describing a child who lists a number of enjoyable

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ways to spend cold winter days. Grilled cheese sandwiches and creamy hot chocolate help chase away the season's chill, as do down-filled jackets, colorful wool sweaters, and sitting near a roaring fire. Describing Winter Is the Warmest Season as a "playful concept book," Marilyn Taniguchi added in her review for School Library Journal that Stringer gives a "lively flow to both illustration and text" by utilizing "cheerfully jumbled perspectives." The author/illustrator's "gorgeous glowing acrylics on watercolor paper, capture the warmth and vibrancy of her unique premise," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer, and Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper deemed Stringer's authorial debut "a special book worthy of many readings."

Prior to taking on the role of author, Stringer made her debut as an illustrator with the picture book Mud, which celebrates the joys of early spring days in a rhyming text by Mary Lyn Ray. As they reveal a young child playing outside in the mud as the weather warms, Stringer's "bold acrylic paintings burst from the full-bleed spreads like tulips," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. As the pages turn, the child appears first in boots, and then in bare feet, and dances through puddles of mud with glee. "The artist makes a pair of grimy feet jump for joy and feel good to be alive," proclaimed Ruth Semrau in her School Library Journal review of Mud. Trish Wesley, reviewing Mud in the gardening magazine Horticulture, recommended the book to adults for its ability to evoke pleasant childhood memories of making mud pies in the garden. "Mud is just the book for reveling in your gloppy memories while encouraging keen observation of one of the main elements of a child's and a gardener's outdoor fun," Wesley remarked.

Stringer teams up with Ray for another celebration of what some might call bad weather in Red Rubber Boot Day. In this picture book, a young child enumerates the fun things there are to do both indoors and out on a rainy day. Through her illustrations, Stringer provides readers with "a magnified view of the child's world," according to Tina Hudak in School Library Journal. For Hudak, Red Rubber Boot Day joins a long list of successful picture books about rainy days.

Stringer's richly colored illustrations also grace the pages of both Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs and Fold Me a Poem. With a text by Linda Ashman, the first title features a lilting rhyme about animal—including human—homes, their comforts and pleasures. To accompany the text, the illustrator created a series of single-page and double-page spreads, each relying on "the repetition of rounded forms and subtly graded shades of color," according to Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan, the critic adding that "the result is a warm, comforting vision of home." Likewise, a Horn Book reviewer concluded that, taken "together, the concise text and the womb-like illustrations convey the feelings of love, safety, and security that a home should have." "‘There's no place like home’ has been said many times and in many ways, but rarely so convincingly," concluded a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

Described by Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan as "unusual, handsome, and good for reading aloud," Fold Me a Poem features a rhyming text by Kristine O'Connell George. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the volume serves as "a dazzling celebration of imagination." Sharing her own imaginative vision, Stringer incorporates origami creatures of all colors into her paintings of a child engaging in creative play. Her images "help connect the poems visually, and the pages burst with colors and patterns," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, and Grace Oliff wrote in School Library Journal that Stringer's illustrations "infuse the verses with both energy and humor."

Stringer once told SATA: "When I was six and in the first grade I began to see the disadvantages of learning to read. I loved looking at pictures in books more than reading the words. I felt sorry for my older sister as she advanced to lengthy chapter books containing no pictures at all. I remember peeking at her Christmas wish list and becoming very excited when I read, ‘any Nancy Drew books.’ I imagined books filled with pictures which Nancy drew! Since I loved to draw, I could not wait to see these ‘picture books.’ When my sister unwrapped

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two thick pictureless books Christmas morning I saw my future with books slipping into a dismal world of black-and-white type.

"However, I did learn to read and I read a lot, though I never lost my hunger for pictures. To satisfy this hunger, I discovered the wonder of art books. My family had a huge album of The History of the World's Great Paintings, which lay heavily on a shelf beneath the TV. Each month a new section of great paintings came in the mail and was added to its three-ring binder. I spent hours studying the paintings of battles and love scenes between gods and goddesses, landscapes of hunters on snowy days, the curly wind of starry nights, still-lives of apples, flowers and books. It was my early love for looking at pictures in books that led me to pursue my life as an artist.

"After graduating from college with degrees in art and art history, I spent fourteen years working as a painter and sculptor before I even began work on my first picture book. Painting children's picture books was a sur- prise turn in my career as an artist. In 1994, my friend, Debra Frasier, took slides of my artwork to her editor at Harcourt who reacted immediately to the images and soon work was begun on my first book, Mud. Now making children's books is one of my passions, along with painting and sculpting, reading books, playing the violin, gardening, walking, and being a mother.

"Since I was not trained in illustration I have developed my own process for painting a book. Upon accepting a story I copy it out in large letters on a huge sheet of paper and hang it on the wall of my studio so that I always have the words available to me. Then I go through a hunting and gathering phase which may last several months. I visit museums and libraries, look through my own library of art books and picture books, file through my collection of postcards of my favorite paintings and photographs, and leaf through magazines and catalogues, searching for anything that might inspire me in creating the pictures for the book. I hang the found images, and my sketches and notes all over the wall until my studio is transformed into a kind of shrine to the story on which I am working. By the time I am ready to begin painting the final illustrations, I have made hundreds of thumbnail sketches and color studies, numerous storyboards to organize page flow and text placement, and several small mock-ups of the book to help me see my paintings as a book.

"As an artist I have always tried to make my paintings and sculpture a kind of visual poetry that can add to or alter the way we perceive the world around us. As a book illustrator I am trying to do the same thing. Since it takes me one to three years to complete a book, I am careful to choose stories that enhance the growth of my artistic vision. The stories I illustrate become a part of my life, weaving in and out of my memories and experiences. Red Rubber Boot Day allowed me to capture in paint the activities of my four-year-old son before he grew beyond his first toys and games. I was also able to add visual elements from my own childhood in each of the illustrations, such as the wallpaper from my grandmother's house and my favorite rag doll. Scarecrow became a portrait not only of the scarecrow, but of the artist; the artist who observes the world, day and night, season to season, experiencing the wonders of the natural world, and understanding the brief moment of life we each have here on earth. The books I paint must capture the imagination and experiences of childhood and at the same time satisfy the adult artist in me. How lucky I am to be able to paint for children and myself; I can stay young and enjoy growing old at the same time!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, April, 1998, Helen Rosenberg, review of Scarecrow, p. 1333; March 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, p. 1400; March 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Our Family Tree: An Evolutionary Story, p. 1326; March 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Fold Me a Poem, p. 1290; September 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Winter Is the Warmest Season, p. 127.

Horn Book, July, 2001, review of Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, p. 438.

Horticulture: The Art of American Gardening, April, 1999, Trish Wesley, review of Mud, p. 98.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Our Family Tree, p. 538; March 1, 2005, review of Fold Me a Poem, p. 286; October 1, 2006, review of Winter Is the Warmest Season, p. 1025.

Publishers Weekly, May 6, 1996, review of Mud, p. 79; July 1, 1996, Julie Yates Walton, "Flying Starts," p. 34; March 9, 1998, review of Scarecrow, p. 68; February 19, 2001, review of Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, p. 89; February 17, 2003, review of Our Family Tree, p. 73; March 28, 2005, review of Fold Me a Poem, p. 80; November 13, 2006, review of Winter Is the Warmest Season, p. 56.

School Library Journal, June, 1996, Ruth Semrau, review of Mud, p. 108; April, 1998, Lauralyn Persson, review of Scarecrow, p. 109; April, 2000, Tina Hudak, review of Red Rubber Boot Day, p. 112; April, 2001, Maura Bresnahan, review of Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, p. 98; May, 2003, Patricia Manning, review of Our Family Tree, p. 140; March, 2005, Grace Oliff, review of Fold Me a Poem, p. 193; November, 2006, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Winter Is the Season, p. 113.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 22, 2006, Mary Harris Russell, review of Winter Is the Warmest Season, p. 9.


Lauren Stringer Home Page, (October 27, 2007).