March 14 - Today's post contributed by Dianne de las Casas
By Dianne de Las Casas
In England, in 1879, a 21-year-old by the name of Kate Greenaway published a book called Under the Window, written in simple rhyme. Having previously only illustrated books, Greenaway was pleased that her first solo book effort became an instant bestseller. Working with the firm of Edmund Evans, Greenaway’s art was reproduced using a method called chromoxylography, in which the colors were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks. This gave her books vibrant color and her subsequent books became as popular as established authors/illustrators Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. Greenaway’s contribution to children’s literature in the 19th century led the way for women in what would become the children’s book publishing industry. Her body of work has been recognized with creation of the Kate Greenaway medal in 1955, an award that honors an outstanding illustrated book for children in England.
Across the pond in the United States, a book of feline nature would change children’s literature. Wanda Gàg’s picture book, Millions of Cats, was published in 1928 and won a Newbery Honor. Gàg went on to win several more awards including another Newbery Honor for her book, The ABC Bunny, and two Caldecott Honors for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Nothing at All. Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book in print.
These exceptional women paved the way for modern female picture book authors such as Jane Yolen, who has published over 300 books. With two Caldecott medals and many more awards for her work in children’s literature, Yolen is one of the most influential modern picture book authors. Her picture book series, How Do Dinosaurs?, sold millions of copies worldwide. Yolen says, “I have always believed that literature begins in the cradle — the poems we say to the babies, the stories we tell them — prepare them to become part of the great human storytelling community.”
March is Women’s History Month so celebrate by reading a picture book written and/or illustrated by a phenomenal woman!
About Dianne de Las Casas
Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month, who tours internationally presenting author visit/storytelling programs, educator/librarian training, and workshops. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of more than twenty books, her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate, Dinosaur Mardi Gras, Beware, Beware of the Big Bad Bear, and The Little “Read” Hen. Her 12-year-old daughter is the culinary star, Kid Chef Eliana. Visit Dianne’s website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at PictureBookMonth.com.