Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day;
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
And come with your playfellows into the street.
— Mother Goose
Natalie Merchant’s double album Leave Your Sleep arrived in 2010 to rave reviews, transforming a selection of classic children’s poetry into a collection of original songs. In 2012, the picture book of the same title was published with richly imagined watercolors by illustrator Barbara McClintock. Now, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to showcase the art from the book in the upcoming exhibition “Leave Your Sleep: Natalie Merchant and Barbara McClintock,” beginning November 26, 2013 and running through May 4, 2014.
From Poetry to Song to Picture Book
The album Leave Your Sleep, which Merchant spent five years researching and writing, originated from a collection of poems — from such notable poets as e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, and Edward Lear — that come alive through an eclectic blend of styles, from folk to jazz to R&B to Celtic influence.
“Poetry on the page can be difficult to penetrate; sometimes it needs to be heard. I used music to enter these poems, and once inside I was able to understand how they were constructed with layers of feeling and meaning,” said Merchant. Two years later, Leave Your Sleep was again reimagined, this time as a picture book, illustrated by Barbara McClintock and published by Frances Foster Books/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. A prolific children’s book author and illustrator, McClintock captures the spirit of both the original poems and Merchant’s songwriting in rich ink and watercolor drawings. The book includes a copy of select songs from Merchant’s album.
The collection is, as Merchant puts it, a “parade of witches and fearless girls, blind men and elephants, giants and sailors and gypsies, dancing bears, circus ponies, a Chinese princess and a janitor’s boy. My hope is that this collaborative book of poems, pictures and music will provide many enchanted hours to children eager for beauty and the sort of adventure that happens between the pages of a book and the words of a song.”
About the Exhibition
The exhibition in the Carle’s Central Gallery focuses on McClintock’s artwork for Leave Your Sleep, from early sketches to finished pieces. “There will be a lot of Barbara’s preliminary work in the exhibition to reinforce the extensive work and creative process that goes into a collaboration like this,” said Chief Curator Nick Clark. The exhibition will also include some of Merchant’s drawings, which she produced in anticipation of making the book. The comparison provides a nice opportunity to see how two artists approach the same idea in very different ways.