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June 1, 2016

Play, Pretend, and Dream with Children’s Books

I was thrilled when I learned that the Art Institute of Chicago is hosting an exhibit in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Award. I hoped the exhibit, titled “Play, Pretend, and Dream: Caldecott Medal and Honor Books 2010–2013,” would give people—whether familiar with the books or not—an opportunity to learn about some of the remarkable art being creating for children’s books. I hoped it would showcase the tremendous talent, skill, and passion behind every single image. And I hoped that it would bring new fans to the world of children’s books.

Hosted in a room near the Education Center, the exhibit showcases pieces from award-winning books, and includes information about how the art was created and about the books themselves. I appreciated the range of styles and techniques included—everything from Erin Stead’s woodcut prints to Peter Brown’s digital composites. It was magical to stand with my nose practically against the glass to admire every perfectly placed brushstroke on a piece from Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse. And quite honestly, seeing Jon Klassen’s work from his two Caldecott books (This Is Not My Hat and Extra Yarn) in the same room hours before he received his Caldecott awards was magical.

Before I was finished admiring the displayed work, a group of adults came into the room. I didn’t think they were children’s book people, but within moments, they definitely became fans. One man commented on the technique of John Rocco’s illustration from Blackout. A woman admitted she didn’t know any of these books, but she’d be happy to hang any one of the pieces on her wall. And most telling of all, after walking around the room they all sat around the table, picked up display copies of the books, and began to talk about the art and read the stories to each other.

And in that moment, the number of people who are fans of children’s book art increased.

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July 22, 2013