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Van Wright, Cornelius

Van Wright, Cornelius


Personal


Born in New York, NY; married Ying-Hwa Hu (an artist); children: one son, one daughter. Education: Attended art school.

Addresses


Home—New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Scholastic, Inc., 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

Career


Illustrator. Formerly worked for an advertising agency.

Awards, Honors


Selector's Choice Trade Book designation in the Field of Social Studies (with Ying-Hwa Hu), for Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Illustrator

S.J. Calder, If You Were an Ant, Silver Press (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1989.

Leroy F. Jackson, Poems to Share, selected by Kathleen Paton, Checkerboard Press (New York, NY), 1990.

P. Mignon Hinds, What I Want to Be, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1995.

P. Mignon Hinds, My Best Friend, Golden Books (Racine, WI), 1996.

Michael Wenberg, Elizabeth's Song, Beyond Words (Hillsboro, OR), 2002.

WITH WIFE, YING-HWA HU


Deborah Slier, editor, Make a Joyful Sound: Poems for Children by African-American Poets, Checkerboard Press (New York, NY), 1991.

William Miller, Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree, Lee & Low Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Karen Chinn, Sam and the Lucky Money, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 1995.

Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Ginger Brown: Too Many Houses, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

Dava Walker, Puzzles, foreword by William H. Schultz and Ruth A. Smullin, Lollipop Power (Durham, NC), 1996.

Monica Kulling, Vanished!: The Mysterious Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

Ronald Kidd, Building Friends, Habitat for Humanity (Americus, GA), 1996.

Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Ginger Brown: The Nobody Boy, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.

Eleanora E. Tate, Don't Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Sook Nyul Choi, The Best Older Sister, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1997.

William Miller, A House by the River, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 1997.

Mary Hoffman, An Angel just like Me, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.

Joanne Rocklin, The Case of the Shrunken Allowance, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Belinda Rochelle, Jewels, Lodestar (New York, NY), 1998.

Margaret Holloway Tsubakiyama, Mei-Mei Loves the Morning, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1999.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jingle Dancer, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Garnet Jackson, George Washington: Our First President, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Laura Pegram, Daughter's Day Blues, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2000.

Linda Jacobs Altman, The Legend of Freedom Hill, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 2000.

Deborah da Costa, Snow in Jerusalem, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2001.

Kimberly Weinberger, Let's Read about … Christopher Columbus, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Courtney Baker, Let's Read about … Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Nanette VanWright Mellage, Coming Home: A Story of Josh Gibson, Baseball's Greatest Home-Run Hitter, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 2001.

Doreen Rappaport, We Are the Many: A Picture Book of American Indians, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Meg Starr, Alicia's Happy Day, Star Bright Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Ruby Bridges and Grace Maccarone, Let's Read about … Ruby Bridges, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

Sherry Shahan, Willie Covan Loved to Dance, Mondo Publishing (New York, NY), 2004.

Sonia Black, Jumping the Broom, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Angela Shelf Medearis, Singing for Dr. King, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Doreen Rappaport, In the Promised Land: Lives of Jewish Americans, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Lawrence Pringle, American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Calkins Creek Books (Honesdale, PA), 2005.

Sidelights


Cornelius Van Wright works with his Taiwanese-born wife, Ying-Hwa Hu, in creating most of his illustrations for children's books. An artist since childhood, Van Wright attended an arts-focused high school before graduating from a college-level art program. Considering his various career options, he eventually decided to work in children's publishing because of the varied subject matter. As he explained to Cynthia Leitich Smith in an interview posted on Smith's Web site, "There are so many different kinds of kids, all kinds of shapes and sizes.… What beauty! … What freedom! And publishers of children's art wanted to see these differences. This was the place that beckoned my heart." Since beginning his career, Van Wright has joined Hu in producing illustrations for books such as A House by the River and Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree by William Miller; Mei-Mei Loves the Morning by Margaret Holloway Tsubakiyama; and Jingle Dancer by Leitich Smith.

A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote of the couple's artistic contributions to Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree: "At times effectively mottled, at other times hauntingly distinct, Van Wright and Hu's … commanding watercolor paintings are the high point." Praising the "gentle, realistic watercolors" created for Miller's biography, Ellen Fader commented in a Horn Book review of the same book that "the illustrators seem equally at home with landscapes and the human face and figure." Other illustration projects have also in- spired critical praise; the couple's "resonant, realistic art" in Sook Nyul Choi's The Best Older Sister inspired a Publishers Weekly critic to note that their "well-lit watercolors neatly convey the key characters' changeable emotions," while in Booklist Connie Fletcher wrote that Van Wright and Hu's "colorful, well-executed watercolor illustrations lend warmth" to Leitich Smith's Jingle Dancer, the story of a young Native-American girl who dreams of dancing at an upcoming tribal powwow.

Discussing their creative development with Leitich Smith, Van Wright and Hu admitted that their artistic background is very different; while Van Wright trained as a commercial artist, Hu developed an independent technique and considers herself more of a fine artist. In addition, their preferred mediums are different: Van Wright works primarily in oils while Hu favors watercolor. "We decided to learn from each other," the two explained, adding that Van Wright "learned about just letting certain things happen in a painting" rather than imposing control, while Hu "learned to paint inside the box." While he develops the layout of each illustration, she focuses on bringing life to the story's characters.

Responding to questions regarding the well-researched multicultural elements that figure in their illustrations, Van Wright and Hu agree that presenting diverse cultural perspectives remains central to their work. "We come from different communities, yet we come from the same community (the Arts)," they told Leitich Smith. "We always had fun discovering things about each others' communities—music, culture, language, history, food, etc. It is the same in children's literature. It is always very rewarding to dive into a culture and learn things that are distinct about a culture, yet we find children tend to have the same joys, fears, ups and downs. We hope to be a part in bringing as many different kinds of children and cultures to picture books as opportunities allow."

Biographical and Critical Sources


PERIODICALS


Booklist, October 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree, p. 432; May 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Ginger Brown: The Nobody Boy, p. 1505; May 15, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of A House by the River, p. 1580; November 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of An Angel Just like Me, p. 482; February 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Jewels, p. 1020; February 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Daughter's Day Blues, p. 1120; May 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Jingle Dancer, p. 1750; October 15, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Snow in Jerusalem, p. 400; February 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Elizabeth's Song, p. 1090.

Horn Book, January-February, 1995, Ellen Fader, review of Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree, p. 69; July-August, 1997, Roger Sutton, review of A House by the River, p. 445.

Publishers Weekly, August 29, 1994, review of Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree, p. 79; February 3, 1997, review of The Best Older Sister, p. 107; April 28, 1997, review of A House by the River, p. 74; December 22, 1997, review of Jewels, p. 59; April 5, 1999, review of Mei-Mei Loves the Morning, p. 240; May 15, 2000, review of Jingle Dancer, p. 117; November 5, 2001, review of Snow in Jerusalem, p. 68.

School Library Journal, August, 2000, Wendy Lukehart, review of The Legend of Freedom Hill, p. 144.

ONLINE


Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site,http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (December, 2001), Cynthia Leitich Smith, interview with Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.

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