This year I joined the Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators for the first time. Working toward the goal of the portfolio review at the conference will be a strong incentive for me in the month I have off from teaching. I was especially excited to enter into the annual illustration competition, run by the author and illustrator Tomie de Paola, of Strega Nona fame. We always loved the Strega Nona (Grandma Witch) books, especially as my mother's family is Calabrian. The stories hit home. The chance for Tomie to see my work, even if I don't win, was too great to pass up.
This year's challenge was a black and white challenge, perfect for my current line of work. We were to present an illustration of a passage from Little Women, Tom Sawyer, or The Yearling, paired with its corresponding passage. We were only allowed one page, not a spread. For a challenge I picked Little Women. I re-read the book. There are many lovely, romantic passages, like the proposals of Laurie or the Professor. Some are sweet, like Beth sitting in the lap of Mr. Laurence, kissing his cheek to thank him for the piano. Some are sad, like Beth lying in her sister Jo's lap at the beach when she admits she is dying. Still others are nearly neoclassical: picture Amy sketching a rogue Laurie in Marseilles as he smokes a cigarette, backed by statuary.
But one passage stood out. The girls are talking about their castles in the sky: where and how they could live if all of their fancies ring true. Laurie talks of living in Austria and playing music. Beth desires to stay home (something that comes true). Meg wants to live in a rich home (she marries a poor man for love), while Amy desires to travel to Rome (she does) to become the best artist living (she abandons that dream).
Jo, however, dreams of writing. She pictures the wonder that will come from her magic inkstand in rooms piled high with books. So that's where I took my inspiration!
Mr. de Paola, I know you will never see this post. However, it was a real honor to show you my work, and I hope it made you smile. Your work certainly did.
Hans-My-Hedgehog Illustrations is the name of Jessica Boehman's blog and illustration shop. It is named after her favorite fairy tale about a hedgehog boy who becomes king of the forest. All other pages redirect to: