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Varon, Sara

Varon, Sara

Personal

Born in Chicago, IL. Education: School of Visual Arts (New York, NY), M.F.A. Hobbies and other interests: Movies, bike riding, dogs.

Addresses

Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Comics artist, printmaker, and illustrator

Awards, Honors

Runner-up for best animation, South by Southwest, and director's citation, Black Maria Film Festival, both 1998, both for The Tongue; Harvey Award nomination for Best New Talent, 2004; Parents' Choice Silver Honor, 2006, and Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books designation, and Publishers Weekly Best Books designation, both 2007, all for Chicken and Cat.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED PICTURE BOOKS

Chicken and Cat, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Robot Dreams, First Second Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Chicken and Cat Clean Up, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2009.

OTHER

Creator of animated film The Tongue, 1997. Creator of graphic novels Sweaterweather, Alternative Comics, and The Present. Contributor to numerous periodicals, including New York Times and National Post, and to anthologies, including Declare Yourself, HarperTeen.

Sidelights

Sara Varon, a comic-book artist, printmaker, and illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York, is the creator of a number of graphic novels, including Robot Dreams, as well as the wordless picture book Chicken and Cat. "I just really like stories and storytelling," Varon remarked to Comicreaders.com interviewer Dana Tillusz. "I am kind of quiet and not particularly articulate, so it's nice to have an alternative to telling stories with words."

In Chicken and Cat, her first self-illustrated work for young readers, Varon depicts the friendship between a city-dwelling chicken and her feline visitor from the country. Upon arriving in New York City, Cat is taken aback by the drab sights, loud noises, and overpowering smells of the urban environment. Despite trips to Central Park, where the pair ride bikes rides and eat ice cream, and Coney Island, where they frolic on the beach, Chicken is unable to lift her friend's troubled spirits. When Chicken notices that a daffodil brightens Cat's mood, however, the duo concoct a plan to spruce up the view from Cat's apartment window.

Noting the autobiographical elements in Chicken and Cat, Varon told Publishers Weekly interviewer Rick Margolis, "I thought it was a story about me and my friend Sheila, who comes to visit a lot from Chicago, which is where I'm from. I thought she was the chicken, and I was the cat. She's a really good friend of mine, and our friendship was the basis for the two characters." Critics praised the work; Horn Book reviewer Kitty Flynn noted that Varon "brings a hip, droll sensibility" to her tale, and a Publishers Weekly contributor stated that her "quiet characters look equally kitschy and good-natured, and her earthy palette suits the city environment." According to Susan Weitz, writing in School Library Journal, Chicken and Cat "is packed with details that kids will relish discovering in successive readings."

In her interview with Tillusz, Varon noted that many of her stories feature animal characters. She remarked that "one thing that's nice about using animals is that they have qualities that people automatically associate with them. Like a goat or a raccoon really likes to eat garbage. Or that a bear spends the winter sleeping. Or that a snowman can only stick around until the seasons change. Since my stories are really simple, using a specific animal can be a device for providing background info on a character."

In Robot Dreams, a nearly wordless graphic novel, Varon examines friendship, change, and loss. Dog orders a build-your-own-robot kit through the mail and, after completing the assembly, begins a series of adventures with his metallic companion. During an ill-fated trip to the beach, the saltwater corrodes Robot's body, rendering him immobile, and Dog must abandon him on the sand. Over the next year, Dog attempts to fill the void in his heart by starting friendships with a variety of other creatures, while Robot, his body battered by the elements, dreams of being rescued. According to a critic in Kirkus Reviews, Varon denies readers a stereotypically happy ending, instead "offering them the harder-edged truth that friendships change and die—but

others can rise in their place." Writing in School Library Journal, Andrea Lipinski called the work "by turns funny and poignant," and Booklist contributor Kevin King remarked that although Varon's "story line seems equally simple, it is invested with true emotion."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Chicken and Cat, p. 59; August, 2007, Kevin King, review of Robot Dreams, p. 71.

Horn Book, March-April, 2006, Kitty Flynn, review of Chicken and Cat, p. 177.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2006, review of Chicken and Cat, p. 46; July 1, 2007, review of Robot Dreams.

Publishers Weekly, January 30, 2006, review of Chicken and Cat, p. 69; August 13, 2007, review of Robot Dreams, p. 67.

School Library Journal, May, 2006, Rick Margolis, "Hip Chick, Cool Cat: Artist Sara Varon Talks about Her First Children's Book—A Sweet Wordless Wonder," p. 43, and Susan Weitz, review of Chicken and Cat, p. 106; September, 2007, Andrea Lipinski, review of Robot Dreams, p. 225.

ONLINE

Comicreaders.com,http://www.comicreaders.com/ (November 10, 2008), Dana Tillusz, "Sara Varon."

Sara Varon Home Page,http://www.chickenopolis.com (November 10, 2008).

Walker Art Center Web log,http://blogs.walkerart.org/ (July 18, 2006), Paul Schmelzer, "Profile: Comicbook Artist Sara Varon."

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