cover image Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration

Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration

Leonard S. Marcus, illus. by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick, $40 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9258-2

Children’s literature historian Marcus (Golden Legacy: The Story of Golden Books) presents an eloquent, sumptuously illustrated account of the life and work of versatile, prolific British illustrator Helen Oxenbury. Taking leave of Oxenbury after interviewing her in 1989, Marcus recalls, “It struck me that the artist I had just met was very much the person I had already encountered in the pages of her books.” Reproductions of art from those books appear with photos and Marcus’s astute commentary to shape a portrait that seamlessly fuses Oxenbury’s personal and professional sensibilities. The narrative reveals the working mother (she has three children with late author and illustrator John Burningham) “stealing time for work at the kitchen table” and breaking publishing ground with board books featuring realistic illustrations of babies, created for then-fledgling publisher Sebastian Walker. Marcus accessibly chronicles the evolution of Oxenbury’s art and creative output against the backdrop of the burgeoning children’s publishing industry worldwide. Further enhancing the book are warm testimonies from Oxenbury collaborators Trish Cooke, Mem Fox, Phyllis Root, Michael Rosen, and Martin Waddell. Deftly capturing Oxenbury’s grace, artistic brilliance, and humor, this handsome volume offers an affectionate and substantive tribute. Final art not seen by PW. All ages. (Apr.)