Worlds of Words Center Expands Holdings of Original Picturebook Illustrations

by Rebecca Ballenger, Associate Director of Worlds of Words Center

The Worlds of Words Center adds original illustrations from 55 picturebooks to its holdings as a result of a recent crowdfunding campaign and donations of art by Mary J. Wong. The new pieces are from classic, award-winning, and global children’s literature and include works by illustrators visiting for the Tucson Festival of Books. A selection of the new acquisitions will be on display leading up to the book festival and for UArizona Museum Day at Worlds of Words in the University of Arizona College of Education.

Two women looking at framed art on table easels

Project FOCUS student Daniela Garcia (first-year) and Elementary Education major Lily Volmer (sophomore) compare an original illustration by Jason Chin to its final version. Chin’s work for Watercress earned the 2022 Caldecott Medal.

“The donations of art and funding for exhibits allow us to create artistically rich experiences for countless children, educators and the community at large,” says Kathy Short, Regents Professor and Director of Worlds of Words. “We invite the public to visit the center to take a close look at the art, learn about the illustrators and their processes, and to consider how the pictorial interpretation of the story contributes to how we experience picturebooks.”

Classic illustrations on display include When I Grow Up by Lois Lenski. Lenski, a Newbery-winning creator of books for young people, aimed to help children “see beyond the rim of their own world.” Also on display is an illustration from the 2022 Caldecott Medalist, Watercress, illustrated by Jason Chin. Chin’s detailed watercolor illustrations complement the layered emotions in this story of a Chinese immigrant family picking watercress by an Ohio roadside.

Concept art for Gibberish on a table easel displayed with a final copy of the book

Concept art from Gibberish by Young Vo on display in the Worlds of Words Center. The book is described as a ‘visually and emotionally immersive immigration story’ by Kirkus in a starred review.

“These new acquisitions not only include older and modern classics, they also highlight multiple global contexts and a variety of techniques from pastels to pencils to scratch board,” says Short, who encourages visitors to consider color, texture, and detail and how these factors contribute to the overall narrative of the stories they depict.

Among the illustrations on display in Worlds of Words are works by illustrators slated to attend the Tucson Festival of Books. Leading up to and after the book festival, the public can take a closer look at multiple pieces by John Parra and a piece by Lian Cho. Parra’s work has received numerous awards for his vibrant illustrations including a Pura Belpré honor, the Golden Kite Award, and the Christopher Award and has been shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cho’s energetic illustrations feature spunky characters and her clients include The New Yorker and Sesame Workshop.

To framed art pieces on table easels accompanied by their paired book

Original art by Frané Lessac for the award-winning picturebook, We Are Still Here, and Rashin Kheiriyeh, a Maurice Sendak Fellow, for The Shape of Home are on display in the Worlds of Words Center Mary J. Wong Special Collections room.

The purchase of new art was made possible by donations to the center’s Fall 2023 crowdfunding campaign, which raised more than $14,000 for exhibit costs. Donor Mary Wong is a renowned collector of picturebook art and signed, first-edition children’s books. A graduate of the UArizona College of Education, she is a retired school librarian, an advocate for multicultural children’s literature and a longtime supporter of Worlds of Words.

The acquisitions include 79 pieces from 55 picturebooks. Worlds of Words invites the public to view a selection of these illustrations on display in the Mary J. Wong Special Collection room through May 10, 2024. The illustrations will be featured for UArizona Museum Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, 2024. The Worlds of Words Center will be closed during the Tucson Festival of Books, however the public can attend the free illustrator workshops during the festival. Journey through Worlds of Words 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Visitors are encouraged to schedule a visit for this exhibition as the special collections room has restricted access. For more information or to schedule a field trip or guided tour, contact


List of newly acquired illustrations by illustrator:
Alexandra Boiger
* Tallulah’s Solo by Marilyn Singer
Gina Capaldi
* Red Bird Sings adapted by Gina Capaldi and Q.L. Pearce
Yong Chen
* Miz Fannie Mae’s Fine New Easter Hat (two illustrations) by Melissa Milich
* A Gift (four illustrations) by Yong Chen
* Finding Joy by Marion Coste
Jason Chin
* Watercress by Andrea Wang
Lian Cho
* Oh, Olive! by Lian Cho
Julien Chung
* 365 How to Count a Year by Miranda Paul
Jane Cowen-Fletcher
* Baby Be Kind by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
Tomie de Paola
* Jingle the Christmas Clown by Tomie de Paola
Jane Dyer
* I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose A. Lewis
Valeri Gorbachev
* Red, Red, Red by Valeri Gorbachev
Ellen Heck
* A Is for Bee (scratch work for four illustrations) Ellen Heck
* Globes (scratch work for two illustrations)
Kathryn Hewitt
* Lives of the Scientists by Kathleen Krull
Ronald Himler
* Best Town in the World (two illustrations) by Byrd Baylor
Ruth Holbrook
* Katy’s Quilt by Ruth Holbrook
Jesse Hummingbird
* Native American 12 Days of Christmas (entire set, 12 spreads plus cover) by Gary Robinson
Molly Idle
* Rodeo Red (two illustrations) by Maripart Perkins
* People Share with People (two illustrations) by Molly Idle
* Flora And Friends ABC by Molly Idle
Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal
* I Don’t Care by Julie Fogliano
Dahlov Ipcar
* All Babies have Mummies and Daddies Just Like You by Evelyn Beyer
Lita Judge
* Even the Smallest Will Grow by Lita Judge
* The Wisdom of Trees by Lita Judge
* What the Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge
* Something Beautiful by Lita Judge
* How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge
* Forty Winks: A Bedtime Adventure by Kelly DiPucchio
* Dogs: A History of Our Best Friend by Lita Judge
G. Brian Karas
* Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan
Rashin Kheiriyeh
* The Shape of Home by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Lois Lenski
* When I Grow Up by Lois Lenski
Frané Lessac
* We Are Still Here by Traci Sorell
Paul Owen Lewis
* Grasper by Paul Owen Lewis
Grace Lin
* One Is a Drummer by Roseanne Thong
Cyndi Marko
* This Little Piggy by Cyndi Marko
David McPhail
* Budgie and Boo by David McPhail
Ruchi Mhasane
* Dadaji’s Paintbrush by Rashmi Sirdeshpande $
Anne Sibley O’Brien
* Brianna, Jamaica, and the Dance of Spring by Juanita Havill
LeUyen Pham
* Twelve Days of Christmas by LeUyen Pham
John Parra
* One Is a Piñata by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
* The Power of Her Pen by Lesa Cline-Ransome
* Round Is a Tortilla by Rosanne Greenfield Thong
* Green Is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Mikela Prevost
* Elan, Son of Two Peoples by Heidi Smith Hyde
* Finding Trouble by Trudy Ludwig
* Let’s Have a Dog Party (two illustrations) by Ingrid Newkirk
Daniel Miyares
* The Many Assassinations of Samir the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri
Benson Shum
* Anzu (character original made for Worlds of Words and donated by the illustrator)
Beth Spiegel
* Will It Be a Baby Brother by Eve Bunting
Mike Venezia
* Benjamin Harrison (Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents) by Mike Venezia
Young Vo
* Gibberish (concept art) by Young Vo
Wendy Watson
* Bedtime Bunnies by Wendy Watson
* Father Fox’s Christmas Rhymes by Clyde Watson

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