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Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Peter H. Reynolds

This article was first published in the summer 2007 issue of The Edge of the Forest. Many thanks to our fearless leader/editor Kelly for putting together such an awesome summer edition.

It's always nice to see illustrations which capture characters as they are described in the story's text and that young readers can point to and say, "Hey! That looks like me!" Such is the work of Peter Reynolds.

When the book Judy Moody was first published, the cover illustration of the title character immediately caught my eye due to the mischievous glint in her eye. With a pair of scissors in one hand and both hands placed firmly on her hips, she stood beside the phrase, "Judy Moody was in a mood. Not a good mood. A bad mood."

I found the book delightful, and was even more delighted when another Judy Moody book was published, and another, and another. I enjoy both the witty writing by Megan McDonald and the adorable illustrations by Peter Reynolds. It was this series that introduced me to Reynolds' works.

Judy's family members, friends, classmates, teachers, and pets are brought to life in black and white. The first chapter of the first book opens with a two-page illustration of Judy's room. Her cat, Mouse, is napping on the top bunk; Judy is asleep on the bottom bunk, her legs and feet sticking out at one end, her head hiding under the blanket.

One glance at this picture and readers will immediately know Judy has many hobbies. You can play many rounds of I Spy with young readers based on those two pages alone: look for a baseball, a baseball bat, a paint set, a sock monkey, a magazine, an empty cup, and more. A picture of the sun with the words "el sol" is tacked over the bunk beds, just as the real sun is peeking through the window.

Peter Reynolds also writes and illustrates his own picture books, some of which I've used for Storytime events. The Dot, which won the Irma S. and James H. Black Honor for Excellence in Children's Literature, has a great message: "Just make a mark." It encourages kids to try, try again, and see what they can do. I urge kids and adults to draw while or after reading this book. Start with one little dot on a piece of paper and let your imagination run wild! (Read my interview with Peter H. Reynolds.)

In February 2007, as part of Entrepreneurship Week USA, Reynolds spoke to middle school students in Massachusetts about making their mark. The students later helped paint "the world's biggest kid-created dot."

The "Make your mark" sentiment is echoed at Peter's official website, which also offers a gallery of his work. There are watercolors, doodles in pencil and pen, digital pieces, even sculptures. Many of the images from books are accompanied by earlier sketches, so you may see the evolution of the design and detail.

In addition to his original works, Reynolds has provided illustrations for other juvenile novels, such as the Olivia Kidney books by Ellen Potter, and created new covers for favorite stories, such as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.

No matter what the format or story, Reynolds' images stay true to the events and characters as they are described in the books while retaining his signature look. Unless the character is a non-human, like Judy's kitty Mouse, who has big white orbs, Reynolds usually draws eyes as two simple dots. Eyebrows tend to be raised and slighly angled. Mouths are small, slightly U-shaped, but able to express a range of emotions. (Look at the inside of Judy Moody covers to see her many moods!) Ears stick out. Faces are rounded, for the most part, though bodies come in different shapes and sizes. The characters are different races, heights, and weights. Some have freckles; others wear glasses.

What's my favorite Peter Reynolds picture? It's difficult to select just one. Since I'm partial to cats, the image of Mouse standing beside the toaster in Judy Moody Gets Famous! always makes me laugh.

Which Peter Reynolds books and illustrations have you read and seen? Use this mini-bibliography as a checklist.

Picture books written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds:

So Few of Me
The Best Kid in the World
My Very Big Little World
The Dot
Sydney's Star
The North Star
Rose's Garden
I'm Here
Sky Color

Picture books written by others, illustrated by Peter Reynolds:

Serendipity by Tobi Tobias
Someday by Alison McGhee (New York Times #1 Best Selling Children's Book in April 2007)
Little Boy by Alison McGhee
Tess's Tree by Jess Braillier
Free to Be You and Me 35th Anniversary Edition by Marlo Thomas & Friends
Drumming to the Beat of Different Marchers by Debbie Silver
Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Juvenile fiction written by others, illustrated by Peter Reynolds:

The Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald:

Judy Moody
Judy Moody Gets Famous
Judy Moody Saves the World!
Judy Moody Predicts the Future
Judy Moody, M.D.: The Doctor is In!
Judy Moody Declares Independence
Judy Moody Around the World in 8 1/2 Days
Judy Moody Goes to College
Judy Moody: Girl Detective the journals and activity books:

The Judy Moody Mood Journal
Judy Moody's Double Rare Way-Not-Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do

The Stink series by Megan McDonald:
(Stink is Judy Moody's little brother.)

Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid
Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers
Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express
Stink: Solar System Superhero
Stink and the Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown
Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk

Stink-O-Pedia: Super Stink-y Stuff from A to Zzzzz
Stink-O-Pedia, Volume Two: More Stink-y Stuff from A to Z

Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday
Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt

The Olivia Kidney books by Ellen Potter:

Olivia Kidney
Olivia Kidney and The Exit Academy (republished in paperback as Olivia Kidney Stops for No One, with a new cover by Emma Pile; inner illustrations still by Peter Reynolds)

The reissued Peter & Fudge books by Judy Blume:

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Double Fudge
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great

The Alley by Eleanor Estes (reissued version, cover only; internal illustrations by Edward Ardizzone)

The Tunnel of Hugsby Goode by Eleanor Estes (reissued version, cover only; internal illustrations by Edward Ardizzone)

Non-fiction works illustrated by Peter Reynolds:

Drumming to the Beat of Different Marchers: Finding the Rhythm for Differentiated Learning by Debbie Silver

If you find yourself in Massachusetts, make sure to drop by the The Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, MA. The store is co-owned by Peter.

Visit Peter's website.

Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Peter H. Reynolds
Interview: Megan McDonald
Book Review: The Judy Moody series (and Stink spinoff!)
Tags: articles, author spotlight, books, illustrators

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