Wohnoutka, Mike

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Wohnoutka, Mike

Personal

Born in Spicer, MN; married; children: Franklin, Olivia. Education: Savannah College of Art and Design, B.F. A., 1993.

Addresses

Home—Minneapolis, MN. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Illustrator and fine-art painter. Formerly worked as a designer for a gift company. Exhibitions: Work included in Original Art Show, Society of Illustrators, New York, NY, 2008.

Illustrator

Julie Glass, Counting Sheep, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.

David L. Harrison, Johnny Appleseed: My Story, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.

Kitty Griffin and Kathy Combs, Cowboy Sam and Those Confounded Secrets, Clarion (New York, NY), 2001.

Patricia Harrison Easton, Davey's Blue-eyed Frog, Clarion (New York, NY), 2003.

Kitty Griffin and Kathy Combs, The Foot-stomping Adventures of Clementine Sweet, Clarion (New York, NY), 2004.

Stephen Krensky, My Dad Can Do Anything, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

This Little Piggy, Kindermusik International (Greensboro, NC), 2005.

Gary Hogg, Look What the Cat Dragged In!, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.

Roni Schotter, When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.

Karen Magnuson Beil, Jack's House, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2008.

Marjorie Blain Parker, Mama's Little Duckling, Dutton (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to periodicals, including Spider.

Sidelights

A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Mike Wohnoutka works in advertising and editorial illustration, and he has provided the artwork for numerous children's books, including Cowboy Sam and Those Confounded Secrets by coauthors Kitty Griffin and Kathy Combs and When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking by Roni Schotter.

Wohnoutka made his children's book debut by illustrating Counting Sheep, a story by Julie Glass. When a youngster struggles to fall asleep one night, he begins counting off a series of creatures, including sheep, kangaroos, monkeys, and bees, that enter his room. Wohnoutka creates "pleasing paintings that ably balance fantasy and humor," Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan stated of the picture book. Wohnoutka has also contributed the pictures for David L. Harrison's easy reader, Johnny Appleseed: My Story. In the tale, the legendary American figure offers his help to a pioneer family and then recounts his life for the children's amusement. Wohnoutka offers "buoyant paintings that capture the beauty of the landscape," Phelan noted.

Set in Dry Gulch, Texas, Cowboy Sam and Those Confounded Secrets is a tall tale by Griffin and Combs. The dedicated keeper of the residents' private thoughts, Cowboy Sam keeps every secret stashed under his ten-gallon hat. When the hat fills up, however, it begins popping off Sam's head, threatening to spill its contents. Sam tries to weigh down the hat with horseshoes and bags of oats, to no avail, until he concocts the perfect solution to the problem. A Publishers Weekly reviewer compared Wohnoutka's illustrations to those of Mark Teague, "particularly in their large-as-life perspectives and round, stylized faces, but the palette here is milder, brushed with the soft colors of the Southwest."

Wohnoutka also collaborated with Griffin and Combs on The Foot-stomping Adventures of Clementine Sweet, another humorous tale. Angered that her sixth birthday has been forgotten, Clementine disrupts a family reunion by stomping on the feet of her relatives, which soon becomes her trademark manner of expressing frustration. When a twister threatens her town, the youngster puts her strong legs to work for a good cause. According to School Library Journal critic Grace Oliff, the "acrylic cartoon illustrations provide a sunny landscape and a pugnacious heroine seen from a variety of amusing perspectives."

Writer Patricia Harrison Easton is helped by Wohnoutka in putting a visual twist on a familiar tale in her picture-book text for Davey's Blue-eyed Frog. After a spell transforms Princess Amelia into a frog, she is discovered by Davey, a youngster who despises the thought of kissing an amphibian and hates Amelia's bossy manner. "Wohnoutka's light, cartoony pencil illustrations keep the story hopping along," remarked a critic in Kirkus Reviews, and Phelan observed that in "sympathetic and often amusing depictions of the characters," Wohnoutka's illustrations "enhance the story's child appeal." In Gary Hogg's Look What the Cat Dragged In!, the members of the Lazybone family bully their frantic feline into completing numerous household chores. When the Lazybones contemplate getting a dog, however, the cat decides to even the score. Wohnoutka's "animated scenes put the right spin on the absurdity," wrote Julie Cummins in Booklist.

A work told in verse, Schotter's When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking follows an energetic toddler throughout his day. Writing in School Library Journal, Amy Lilien-Harper commented that "Wohnoutka's boldly painted cartoons are full of motion and fit the story well." In Mama's Little Duckling, a read-aloud by Marjorie Blain Parker, Mama Quack cautiously watches over her inquisitive youngster, Dandelion Duckling, who loves exploring. When Dandelion alerts his mother to danger, though, she gains confidence in his abilities. Wohnoutka's illustrations for Parker's text again garnered praise. "Glowing with bold shades of turquoise, orange, gold, and green, the oversize illustrations vibrantly depict" the setting and action of the story, Judith Constantinides remarked in School Library Journal.

Wohnoutka told SATA: "Ever since I can remember I knew I wanted to be an artist. My dad, who was an engineer at the Highway Department, would bring home reams of paper that had highway plans on one side and were blank on the other. I would be so excited to have all that paper to draw on and would fill each sheet with race cars, snowmobiles, baseball players, super heroes, everything I was interested in. In high school my art teacher, Mr. Chase, encouraged me to pursue art as a career. This, along with a scholarship, led me to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Since graduating with a B.F.A. in illustration, I have worked with various clients. Even though I was a trouble maker in grade school (principals still make me nervous), I enjoy visiting schools and talking to students about illustrating children's books.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Counting Sheep, p. 725; February 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Johnny Appleseed: My Story, p. 949; March 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Davey's Blue-eyed Frog, p. 1197; March 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of The Foot-stomping Adventures of Clementine Sweet, p. 1204; November 1, 2005, Julie Cummins, review of Look What the Cat Dragged In!, p. 52.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Davey's Blue-eyed Frog, p. 606; November 1, 2005, review of Look What the Cat Dragged In!, p. 1184; July 15, 2007, review of When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking; January 15, 2008, review of Mama's Little Duckling.

Publishers Weekly, July 16, 2001, review of Cowboy Sam and Those Confounded Secrets, p. 180; January 14, 2008, review of Mama's Little Duckling, p. 56.

School Library Journal, December, 2001, Shara Alpern, review of Cowboy Sam and Those Confounded Secrets, p. 103; July, 2003, Linda B. Zeilstra, review of Davey's Blue-eyed Frog, p. 95; March, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of The Foot-stomping Adventures of Clementine Sweet, p. 169; February, 2006, Julie Roach, review of Look What the Cat Dragged In!, p. 104; August, 2007, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking, p. 90; February, 2008, Judith Constantinides, review of Mama's Little Duckling, p. 94.

ONLINE

Mike Wohnoutka Home Page,http://mikewohnoutka.com (November 10, 2008).