The story on the wall

painting by Thomas Locker; image from the R. Michelson Galleries

Seeing the CSK exhibit at the NCCIL is making me remember again the vogue for illustration as fine art we had in the 1980s:  from a baby boom arose lots of picture books, lots of children's bookstores, and (he gestures vaguely towards) developments in five-color printing that encouraged big, handsome pictures in big, handsome books. And not only could the books be sold, the pictures could be, too, as framed standalone paintings divorced from their contexts and intended place as/in print culture. Yeah, I had problems with it.

A great thing about the show in Abilene was that it went beyond the individual aesthetic merits of its paintings (though these were of course ample) to tell a story about how illustrators, publishers, and librarians (in the form of the CSK awards) created an ongoing living literature about the African American experience. The paintings and other artwork on the wall (or, for Baba Diakité, in a case), themselves each a sample from a larger endeavor, created a kind of picture book all their own. I'm glad I read it!
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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