This holiday season, aficionados of children’s book illustration can bid on pieces of art from the Children’s Book Council’s historic collection, which includes original artwork created by illustrators to celebrate Children’s Book Week since its inception in 1919. For the first time, the CBC is making some of those pieces available through an online auction on CharityBuzz.com.
The five works of CBW art available on the auction's Web site are by Ellen Raskin, Don Freeman, William Pène du Bois, Ray Cruz, and Jose Aruego. CBC will donate all proceeds from the auction to Every Child a Reader, the literacy foundation established by the CBC board to serve as the philanthropic arm of the children’s book industry. The foundation administers various reading initiatives, including Children’s Book Week and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program.
"We have been keeping this art trove here in our offices and tending to it carefully, and thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the amazing artwork that has been created for Children’s Book Week over the years," says Nicole Deming, CBC’s communications associate. "This art was made public at the time it was created, but has been under lock and key ever since. This is a rare opportunity for people to see—and possibly acquire—these pieces."
To select the work to put up for auction, CBC consulted with Laurent Linn, art director of Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers. "He has such an incredible knowledge of the history of children’s book illustration," says Deming. "His input has been tremendously important to us."
Linn explains that he had been talking for some time to Robin Adelson, CBC’s executive director since 2006, about having the CBC initiate events that, in his words, "focused on the art side of children’s book publishing. Since CBC has such an incredible archive of original art, we were trying to think of the best way to broaden its exposure, and make more people aware of it—not just children’s book people, but other illustrators and artists who might not be as aware of children’s book illustration. An auction seemed like a great way to do this."
Choosing the pieces of art to include in the auction, says Linn, filled "a fun few days." The final selection represents a variety of art styles—and some fresh perspectives on the illustrators’ talent. "Their work for Children’s Book Week really shows a different side of these illustrators’ art," he says. "They had a real freedom with the art for these posters. They didn’t have to work around a story or characters. They were free to approach this anyway they wanted, and these are rare pieces for that reason. It’s very exciting to see them on view this way."
In addition to marking departures for some of the illustrators, the CBW art selected for the auction is also noteworthy for its revelation of what Linn calls "the illustrators’ process. You really get a sense of how they thought and worked. The Ray Cruz art, for example, is a series that includes a sketch, a color study, and the final piece of art. In others you see the crop lines or how the color separations would work. In that sense, these are historical works, too, since we now have such different technology for scanning and printing."
To publicize the auction, CBC sent out announcements to more than 1500 contacts, including individual buyers of children’s book art, and is spreading word of the event on its Web site and through social media outlets. The online auction venue, says Deming, "lets us expand the reach of the auction globally. We are hoping that word-of-mouth will help us reach collectors who understand how unique and wonderful these pieces of art are."
Bidding on the current auction items will close at noon EST on December 15. The CBC is contemplating holding a second auction of CBW art, perhaps to coincide with next year’s Children’s Book Week, scheduled for May 7-13. According to Deming, potential offerings in a subsequent auction are pieces by Charles Addams, Ian Falconer, Mary GrandPré, Hilary Knight, Mercer Mayer, and Rosemary Wells. "We have such incredible riches in our collection," says Deming. "And this is a wonderful opportunity to help support the programs of Every Child a Reader."