Africa is my home. I long to be there. Although I am in America, yet my heart is there. The people I love and the country I admire…
-From a December 18, 1847 letter by Sarah while she was at Oberlin
“Books give me a great feeling of personal and artistic satisfaction. When I’m working on a book, I wish the phone would never ring. I love doing it. My satisfaction comes from the actual marks on the paper, and when it sings, it’s magic.”
(Jerry Pinkney, on Putnam Penguin website, 2007)
Jerry Pinkney is the author/illustrator of over 75 books for young people. His colored pencil and watercolors bring animals and children to life with an ebullience of spirit that is both contagious and inspiring, while also presenting true artistic rendering of historical and fictional events that readers of all ages can enjoy. Recently at the Tucson Festival of Books, Pinkney shared that his books allow him to grow as a person, and I would note they have also allowed him to grow as both an artist and as a connoisseur of what will delight readers of all ages.
Pinkney received the Caldecott Award for The Lion and the Mouse (2009), a marvelous story of strength and beneficence that uses eight words and a series of astounding illustrations to tell the story of how a mighty lion receives help from a tiny mouse. Prior to winning the Caldecott Award, he was the recipient of five Caldecott Honor Awards, the most recent for Noah’s Ark (2003), but you should look at all five as they are truly remarkable. He also won three Coretta Scott King Awards and two Honor Awards for Illustration. My personal favorite from those five is Mirandy and Brother Wind (1989), which is a book that touches me aesthetically as both a reader and an amateur artist.
Pinkney’s most recent books include Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (2011); Puss in Boots (2012); and The Further Adventures of Spider (2012). Joyful, joyful, joyful! Forthcoming is The Tortoise and the Hare (2013), which adds to the corpus of Pinkney’s other works on fables that are still timely and pleasurable to read. As a youngster Jerry worked at a newsstand, where he would sketch people who caught his eye. He noted this memory at the Tucson Festival of Books, along with the possibility of it becoming more present in one of his future endeavors.
Whatever Jerry Pinkney decides to do, he has a waiting audience. His books continue to inspire so many readers young and old, and I know that when I am able to move through The Tortoise and the Hare—his next work of art—I will be catching my breath! His work is that incredible.
In the middle of the night, the world can be a scary place for a brother and sister who have left Ghana behind and ended up, with their family, in New York City–a place where night noises take the place of the storyteller with his Ananzi tales, a place where children might laugh and taunt. I wove Ananzi stories into this picture book that were told to my children by a young man who had come from Ghana to go to college in the U.S., and I used my own memories of traveling from Ethiopia to the U.S. when I was seven to form the heart of the siblings’ journey through the night. Switching continents was often baffling and scary for me. Just as in the book, my siblings were a source of comfort and strength–having someone else in the boat with me–and so were stories. Whether students have grown up in the U.S. or other countries, they can be asked to explore their story traditions. They can use the five senses, modeled in the storytelling scene, to add power to their own writing. They can talk or write about getting through the night or about how to make and keep friends, even ones as different from each other as an eagle and a turtle.
Title: In the Small, Small Night
Author: Jane Kurtz
Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pub Date: January 4, 2005