Sweet, Melissa 1956–

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Sweet, Melissa 1956–

Personal

Born 1956, in Wyckoff, NJ; married; children: one stepdaughter. Education: Endicott College, associate's degree; attended Kansas City Art Institute.

Addresses

Home—68 Main St., Rockport, ME 04856. E-mail[email protected]

Career

Illustrator, 1986–.

Awards, Honors

Pick of the Lists designation, American Booksellers Association, for The Talking Pot; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, for Llama in Pajamas; Gold Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, for Bouncing Time; Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, National Council for the Social Studies, 2000, for Leaving Vietnam; Outstanding Science Trade Books designation, National Science Teachers Association, 2001, for Girls Think of Everything, and 2003, for 5,000-Year-Old Puzzle; Minnesota Book Award, Minnesota Humanities Commission, Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, National Council for the Social Studies, and Outstanding Science Trade Book designation, National Science Teachers Association, all 2003, all for The Sky's the Limit; Children's Book of Distinction honor, Riverbank Review, 2003, and Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2004, both for Dirty Laundry Pile; New York Public Library Best Books designation, 2004, for The Boy Who Drew Birds; Lupine Award Honor designation, Maine Library Association, and named among New York Times Book Review Ten Best Illustrated Books, both 2005, both for Carmine: A Little More Red; Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 2005, for Baby Bear's Chairs.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

(Adaptor) Fiddle-i-Fee: A Farmyard Song for the Very Young, Little Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.

Jingle Bells, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2002.

Carmine: A Little More Red, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 2005.

ILLUSTRATOR

Virginia Haviland, reteller, The Talking Pot: A Danish Folktale, Joy Street Books (Boston, MA), 1990.

Deborah Heiligman, Into the Night, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1990.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex Get Married, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

Maryann MacDonald, Rosie Runs Away, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the Mean Old Witch, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the Spelling Bee, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

Maryann MacDonald, Rosie's Baby Tooth, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex Go to Camp, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.

C.B. Christiansen, Sycamore Street, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the New Baby, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

Elizabeth O'Donnell, Sing Me a Window, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Charlotte Zolotow, Snippets: A Gathering of Poems, Pictures, and Possibilities, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Maryann MacDonald, Rosie and the Poor Rabbits, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.

Bonnie Pryor, Marvelous Marvin and the Wolfman Mystery, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Joanne Ryder, A House by the Sea, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Gisela Voss, Llama in Pajamas, Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), 1994.

Lee Bennett, selector, Blast Off! Poems about Space, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the Double-Dad Weekend, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1995.

Bonnie Pryor, Marvelous Martin and the Pioneer Ghost, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Eileen Spinelli, Naptime, Laptime, Cartwheel Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Kathi Appelt, The Bat Jamboree, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1996.

C.B. Christiansen, A Snowman on Sycamore Street, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the Bully, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

James Howe, Pinky Rex and the New Neighbors, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

Dian Curtis Regan, Monsters in Cyberspace, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

Margaret Park Bridges, Will You Take Care of Me?, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1998.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the Perfect Pumpkin, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the School Play, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Dian Curtis Regan, Monsters and My One True Love, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1998.

On Christmas Day in the Morning: A Traditional Carol, foreword by John Langstaff, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Kathi Appelt, Bats on Parade, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Sarah S. Kilborne, Leaving Vietnam: The Journey of Tuan Ngo, a Boat Boy, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.

Sarah Wilson, Love and Kisses, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Kathi Appelt, Bats around the Clock, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Samantha Berger, It's Spring, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Maria Fleming, Autumn Leaves Are Falling, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Patricia Hubbell, Bouncing Time, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Joan MacPhail Knight, Charlotte in Giverny, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

Catherine Thimmesh, Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.

Paul B. Janeczko, selector, Dirty Laundry Pile, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Margaret Park Bridges, Now What Can I Do?, Seastar Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Stephanie Calmenson, Good for You: Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

James Howe, Pinky and Rex and the Just-Right Pet, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.

Cobi Ladner, editor, Notes from Home: 20 Canadian Writers Share Their Thoughts of Home, McArthur (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

Stephanie Calmenson, Welcome, Baby!: Baby Rhymes for Baby Times, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Claudia Logan, The 5,000-Year-Old Puzzle: Solving a Mystery of Ancient Egypt, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.

Alice B. McGinty, Ten Little Lambs, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.

Catherine Thimmesh, The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 2002.

Nancy Carolstrom White, Giggle-Wiggle Wake Up!, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

Anna Grossnickle Hines, My Grandma Is Coming to Town, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

Joan Knight, Charlotte in Paris, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

Cynthia Rylant, Moonlight, the Halloween Cat, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Lee Wardlaw, Peek-a-Book: A Lift-the-Flap Bedtime Rhyme, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Eve Bunting, I Love You Too!, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Jacqueline Davies, The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.

Pamela Jane, Spring Is Here! A Barnyard Counting Book, Little Simon (New York, NY), 2004.

Joanne Ryder, Won't You Be My Kissaroo?, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.

Stephanie Calmenson, Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More!, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Judy Sierra, Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids' Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

Jane Yolen, Baby Bear's Chairs, Gulliver Books (Orlando, FL), 2005.

Joan Knight, Charlotte in New York, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

Joanne Ryder, Won't You Be My Hugaroo?, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2006.

Jane Yolen, Baby Bear's Books, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Sidelights

Artist Melissa Sweet has illustrated dozens of children's books, including James Howe's "Pinky and Rex" picture-book series, Joan Knight's "Charlotte" series, and the award-winning The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls, written by Catherine Thimmesh. Sweet has also created artwork for several original stories, among them Carmine: A Little More Red and Fiddle-i-Fee: A Farmyard Song for the Very Young.

Sweet grew up in northern New Jersey with her two brothers. It was a suburban setting in a neighborhood with lots of kids. She was not an avid reader, but was always making art. She later went to art school thinking she would become a potter, but fell in love with drawing and painting. During her first year in art school, she was re-introduced to Else Holmelund Minarik's children's book Little Bear, which features Maurice Sendak's art work. Sweet was inspired by Sendak's work, and decided to pursue a career in children's illustration.

For Sweet, the most intriguing aspect in creating art is the actual process: learning about the many materials and tools of art and keeping sketch books. Each work is unique and requires its own distinctive technique. In Cynthia Rylant's Moonlight, the Midnight Cat, for instance, Sweet paints in acrylics in order to capture the rich colors of the night. In illustrating Nancy White Carlson's Giggle-Wiggle Wake-Up!, a children's book about a preschooler preparing for school, she replicates the pages of a school exercise book in order to reflect the mood of a classroom. Sweet often travels in order to do research for her work, especially for her nonfiction titles, and finds inspiration for her artwork in the details of daily life during walks, gardening, and even while watching the antics of her pet dog Rufus.

Featuring Sweet's illustrations, Howe's "Pinky and Rex" series focuses on the adventures of a little girl named Rex and her best friend Pinky, a little boy. In Pinky and Rex and the Bully Pinky is teased by a classroom bully because the boy likes the color pink and enjoys playing with girls. The taunting Pinky endures from the bully causes the boy to question his identity until he is reassured by caring neighbor Mrs. Morgan, who tells him that it is okay to be different. Sweet, in illustrating Pinky and Rex and the Bully, uses ink and watercolor to depict the children's experiences, "giving the book a most appealing look," in the opinion of Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan. With her ink-and-watercolor technique, Sweet adds a personal touch to Pinky and Rex and the New Neighbors, which revolves around favorite neighbor Mrs. Morgan. Pinky and Rex are distraught when they find out that Mrs. Morgan will be moving away. As a result, the best friends are tentative about befriending the new neighbors who replace the woman. In a review for Booklist, Phelan noted that "Sweet's ink-and-watercolor illustrations work their quiet charm again, depicting the characters and settings with clarity and warmth."

In Carmine, Sweet employs a mixed-media technique in illustrating her own adaptation of the traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood. The book, which also serves as an alphabet book, introduces Carmine, a young artist who is infatuated with the color red. Caroline Ward, writing in School Library Journal, noted that the author/illustrator's use of mixed-media art "imitates the sketchbook of a child artist," and her "inventive layout employs a variety of techniques to engage viewers and move the story forward." Carmine begins when the girl's grandmother invites Carmine to her house to enjoy some of her homemade alphabet soup. The child is warned by the older woman not to dilly-dally on her way over because of the wolf that resides in the woods. As Carmine walks through the woods with her dog Rufus, she forgets her grandmother's advice and stops to paint a picture of some red poppies she sees on her way. Ultimately, her lingering results in some eventful surprises. Joanna Rudge Long, writing in Horn Book, concluded that Sweet's illustrations, "sparked with reds in all their bright variety—tells the story beautifully," while a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed Carmine an "overall entertaining package." The book was included among the New York Times Book Review's ten best illustrated children's book of 2005.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Pinky and Rex and the Bully, p. 1364; May 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Pinky and Rex and the New Neighbors, p. 1503.

Horn Book, July-August, 2005, Joanna Rudge Long, Carmine: A Little More Red, p. 460.

Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005, review of Carmine, p. 62.

School Library Journal, August, 2005, Caroline Ward, Carmine, p. 107.

ONLINE

Melissa Sweet Home Page, http://www.melissasweet.net (June 5, 2006).

About this article

Sweet, Melissa 1956–

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