cover image Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

Leonard S. Marcus. FSG/Foster, $24.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-374-31025-7

Marcus (Listening for Madeleine) begins his biography of the illustrator for whom the Caldecott Medal is named with some historical background, describing the changes wrought in 19th-century Great Britain by the steam engine, which eased travel and greatly expanded distribution of media. He details Caldecott’s early days clerking in a bank and his search for freelance illustration work, then describes how diligence and charm lead to his first book-illustrating assignment, a great success: “The world had discovered a new genius,” as one of his contemporaries put it. Caldecott produced celebrated artwork for children’s books meant to be seen and purchased by train travelers on the run, until his untimely death at age 40. He left a legacy of illustration conventions still in use today: fully developed visual stories that complement the text; the spacing out of passages of text over many pages; even the idea of royalties rather than flat fees. Marcus’s thorough attention to detail, sober writing, and social conscience all contribute to an exemplary juvenile biography. A handful of illustrations enliven every spread, revealing the artist’s gift for capturing action in a few swift lines. Ages 10–15. (Aug.)