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Children's Book Art at S.I.

By Peggy Roalf   Monday October 31, 2011

Each fall, Society of Illustrators offers a view of the best in children’s picture book art. And the best way to see it. Not only are the galleries packed with original artwork, the first floor becomes a mini-library with kid-sized book racks and hassocks for hanging out and paging through all the books that have been chosen winners in this annual awards program.

I popped in last week on a rainy morning and grabbed a handful of books and soon lost myself in a world of imagination and invention. In no particular order, here are a few of the standouts:

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Along a Long Road (Little, Brown & Co.) by Frank Viva is a little cyclist’s dream of leaving the backyard for a magical cross-town tour. Up a steep hill, through a tunnel, over a bridge, the rider goes faster and faster, with Lake Ontario and its shipping traffic in the background. Created as a single 35-foot-long piece of art, with a shiny yellow road linking scene to scene, the book is printed in five match colors, which gives it’s contemporary look a delightful retro flavor. This is Frank Viva’s first children’s book. Preview.

Where’s Walus (Scholastic Inc.) is Stephen Savage’s wordless pun on the ubiquitous books that ask “where.” In this case, a wiley walrus has escaped the zoo and hides out in plain site in the city: as a mannequin in a department store window display of dresses; as a fireman fighting a blaze; as statuary in an ornate fountain. When the zookeepers finally catch up with him at a three-meter diving board, they are so impressed by his abilities that he is allowed to remain at the dive pool. Preview.

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Another first-timer, Zachariah Ohora, won S.I.’s Founders Award for young talent with Stop Snoring Bernard! (Macmillan). One of a group of young otters in a zoo, Bernard loves everything about being there: the games, the food, and, especially, nap time. But there’s just one problem – Bernard snores, very loudly. The other otters badger him unmercifully so he finally moves to a cave for the night. But the bats come back at dawn and ask him not to snore in their cave. Getting along in a group, of course, wins the day in this delightfully illustrated tale of critter culture. Preview.

That’s just three of the 150 books included in the show, so my advice is: the next time it rains, sign out for a field trip and loose yourself in the enchantment of children’s books at The Original Art. It runs through the end of the year at Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd Street, NY, NY.

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