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Literary Celebrity Guest Post: Jill McElmurry and her Magic Book-Flying-Carpet Memory

Jill McElmurry is my first illustrator-author to contribute a Literary Celebrity Guest Review and this post definitely reflects her artistic nature. Rather than a traditional book review, Jill chose to share her childhood favorites and childhood memories connected to those books along with illustrations. I hope you enjoy this - especially the chance to see Jill's influences side-by-side with her picture book illustrations - as much as I did! So here's Jill...


My very earliest book memories are:

1. Animal Fair by Alice and Martin Provensen

2. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

3. What Do you Say, Dear? 
by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak

4. Little House by Virginia Lee Burton


Our copy of Animal Fair was the original one from 1952, put out by Simon & Schuster. The copy in the photo above is old and beat-up enough to have been ours, but it's not; someone was selling it on Etsy. I now own a reprint edition that was put out by Golden Books but they didn't include everything, I just realized, because this illustration isn't in it. I remember the illustrations so well! They seeded themselves in my brain and have been growing there ever since. 



My most vivid memory of  Animal Fair is this: the original was pretty big, maybe 11" X 14". One day, when I was about 4 years old, I was sitting on top of the book which was sitting on top of our dresser and - I swear - I flew on the book, as if on a magic carpet,  from the dresser to the bed. My sister was sitting on the bed at the time but, sadly, she doesn't remember it happening. BUT IT DID. 

I think it's fairly easy to see when you look at my books that the Provensens, Virginia Lee Burton, and Leonard Weisgard, are the illustrators who influence and inspire me. But more importantly, I suspect, my dad. He was a brilliant character designer, animator, and illustrator. He did the mural on the wall behind the dresser in the photo. Here's a photo of him and some of his Captain Crunch design work for Jay Ward from a recent book called The Art of Jay Ward Productions by Darrell Van Citters.



When I was first trying, trying, trying, to get started in picture books, I was obsessed with Lane Smith. I even wrote him some slightly insane emails. Eventually, I seem to recall, he blocked me. Ha ha. Sorry Lane Smith! I still think he's great, especially Grandpa Green. What a masterpiece! I'm enamored with so many illustrators and authors, it's ridiculous. Honestly, I'm falling for someone new every week, there are so many great artists in the picture book world ... and so many different style and approaches. 




From: Grandpa Green by Lane Smith




The Tree Lady, written by H. Joseph Hopkinson, is a picture book biography of Kate Sessions. A native Northern Californian, in 1881 Sessions was the first woman to graduate from the University of California who moved to San Diego for a teaching job. The lack of trees in San Diego motivated Kate to singlehandedly start a movement that turned the town into a green, garden filled oasis.









From: Little Blue Truck Leads the Way
by Alice Shertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry


From: The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton





Mario Makes a Move by Jill McElmurry







From: The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton


From: Animal Fair by Alice and Martin Provensen




Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Jill McElmurry



From: What Do you Say, Dear? 
by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak







Books Written and illustrated by Jill McElmurry:







Books illustrated by Jill McElmurry:


















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