Meet Authors & Illustrators

Peter Catalanotto

   Author-illustrator Peter Catalanotto spoke at the December meeting of the Children's Book Guild of Washington DC. Catalanotto studied illustration at Pratt Institute, then worked odd jobs until Richard Jackson gave him his first break illustrating the cover of a children's book. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful working relationship.

   Catalanotto has illustrated his own stories as well as those written by others. When working with another writer's text he tries to invent ways to give the story added dimension, utilizing such techniques as placing the title page after the first few pages of the story. But his ideas sometimes aren't readily accepted. In My Mother's Voice, although there is no mention of a father in the text, Catalanotto placed a small image of the dad leaving home on the title page and had him returning at the end. The author was opposed to this. Despite Catalanotto's best persuasive efforts, the editor had the father digitally removed from the illustrations.

   Naturally, Catalanotto has more autonomy when creating both text and artwork. Emily's Art is about two best friends who are class artists. Its theme is the harmful nature of school art contests and the importance of nurturing children's creativity in a nonjudgmental way. Some of Catalanotto's ideas spring from his family life. In Ivan the Terrier, a dog modeled on Catalanotto's rambunctious Jack Russell disrupts a series of familiar nursery-tale scenarios. In The Painter, a more serious work, a little girl and her work-at-home father come to terms with his need for alone-time in the studio.

   Every writer and illustrator wants to do an alphabet book. In Matthew A. B. C. Catalanotto presents Mrs. Tuttle, who has 25 Matthews in her kindergarten class and distinguishes them by associating the first letter of each boy's last name with one of his attributes. For example, Matthew A., who is affectionate, is shown continually glued to Mrs. Tuttle. Here Catalanotto departed from his more staid portrait-flavored style for a looser line and brighter palette. In addition to making kids laugh, in showcasing each Matthew's wacky uniqueness Catalanotto hoped to give children a new way to appreciate their own classmates' idiosyncrasies.

   Throughout his talk, as Guild Member Joyce Schwartz pointed out during the Q's & A's, Catalanotto repeatedly referred to his work as "painting" books, rather than illustrating them. Likewise, in his presentation to the Guild, he painted for us a vivid picture of his work, how he thinks about it, and how he hopes it will affect young readers.

Contributor: Laura Krauss Melmed
First published in the Children's Book Guild newsletter--Volume XXVII, No. 4, Jan. 2007

For additional information about Peter, click here.

 

Reviews

All I See
Cynthia Rylant
Pictures by Peter Catalanotto
   What seems to be a simple story about a shy boy and a painter is an inspiring message to kids to encourage their own artistic visions. The boy and the artist each paint what they see, but their visions are very different--each has his own creativity. Rylant's text is warm, lyrical, and romantic. The artwork is also filled with the warmth of sunshine and shared summer days at the lakeside. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1997 (orig. 1988), Orchard, $15.95, $15.99 and $6.95. Ages 5 to 7. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
ISBN: 0-531-05777-1
ISBN: 0-531-08377-2

Book
George Ella Lyon
Paintings by Peter Catalanotto
   This oversize picture book, really an illustrated free verse poem, pays tribute to books and reading. The full page paintings embrace both the words and the sprit of the text and bibliophiles will find themselves in complete agreement with the author's exalted view of books and reading. While younger readers may also agree with the sentiments expressed, they may wish they were reading a book that actually did the things this book talks about books being able to do. Teachers of English, though, will delight in the extended metaphors that make up this literacy tribute and will be tempted to use this book as a springboard for their students to use when creating their own pieces of poetry. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1999, DK Publishing, $16.96. Ages 4 up. Reviewer: Judy Katsh (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 2000; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002; California Department of Education; California
ISBN: 0789425602

Christmas Always
Peter Catalanotto
   It's Christmas Eve, and Katie cannot sleep. Several fanciful sprites visit her bedroom--the Sandman, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy raise a ruckus. The Sandman manages to weave his spell before the most magical visitor of all, heralded by jingling bells, appears. Watercolor illustrations help tell the story of Katie's special night. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1996 (orig. 1991), Orchard, $15.95, $16.99 and $5.95. Ages 4 to 9. Reviewer: Dr. Judy Rowen (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-531-05946-4
ISBN: 0-531-08546-5

Circle of Thanks
Susi Gregg Fowler
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
   Fowler's tale of cooperation in nature is a quiet, lovely read, but perhaps a little misleading to impressionable kids. It's highly unlikely that an otter pup would feed a raven, or that a caribou would free a fox from a trap, or that the fox would guide a human mother to her missing child. It makes a nice story, but be sure to tell your children it's ONLY a story. The real Alaska tundra "ain't no" Disney paradise. Other than that, Fowler resists anthropomorphizing the critters; each lives in its own place in this harsh but beautiful land. Catalanotto's watercolors are rich and warm; he has a particularly nice touch with varying shades of Alaskan skies. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1998, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 4 up. Reviewer: Donna Freedman (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 1999; Bank Street College of Education; United States
ISBN: 0-590-10066-1

Daisy 1, 2, 3
Peter Catalanotto
   There are 20 Dalmatians in Mrs. Tuttle's training class, and they are all named Daisy. How can she tell them apart? Easily, as it turns out. Each dog has a unique characteristic, such as "one peculiar spot," "two name tags," three musical instruments, etc. Young children will enjoy the lively illustrations of Dalmatians doing tricks, wearing pink slippers, hoarding chew toys, and engaging in a variety of other silly activities. But as a counting book, meant to help preschoolers learn numbers, this book seems rather complex and, in places, quite obscure. For example, where should the reader look for twelve things to count on the Dalmatian dressed as Cinderella? And some children may find the reclining Dalmatian wearing blue eye shadow and red toenail polish somewhat creepy. Amusing as this book is, it will probably not be the well-thumbed counting book that parents and children reach for again and again. 2003, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon and Schuster, $15.95. Ages 4 to 6. Reviewer: Barbara Carroll Roberts (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-689-85457-9

The Dream Shop
Katharine Kenah
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
   As Pip is falling asleep one warm summer night, she remembers her cousin Joseph's description of a shop on an island above the ice and below the stars where dreams can be purchased. She follows his directions and finds herself pushing a shopping cart in a small wooden store with expanding walls. Shoppers in pajamas are taking things from shelves, and a clerk wearing an apron covered with butterflies tells her to choose what she'd like to see in her dreams. She selects a baby pig the color of cream and a boxed sunset before she spots Joseph coming toward her. He challenges her to go deeper into the store to find more interesting objects. When they discover an ancient map with a swirling sea and a notation of "Here Be Dragons," they wonder if they have chosen a dream that may be a bit too exciting. After a wild chase, Pip manages to place a baby dragon into the map. Then she is back on her cot at home. Joseph bicycles up in the early morning light, bringing her a baby pig the color of cream. Colorful, realistic illustrations capture the mood of the story and add subtle details of their own. A good choice for bedtime reading. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 2002, HarperCollins, $16.95 and $16.89. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-688-17900-2
ISBN: 0-688-17901-0

Emily's Art
Peter Catalanotto
   First-grader Emily lives to draw. When Ms. Fair announces that the school is having an art contest, Emily submits a picture of her dog, Thor, whom she has depicted with very large ears "Because Thor hears everything." The judge, whose sole qualifications are that she is the principal's mother and her cousin is married to an artist, inspects the paintings, and declares Emily's "rabbit" to be "exquisite." When she learns it is a dog, however, she declares that she hates dogs and pins the blue ribbon on Kelly's butterfly. Emily, devastated, determines she'll never paint again, and ends up in the nurse's office with a heart that hurts. But Kelly, in the nurse's office with Emily because she is dizzy, asks Emily to show her how to draw a dinosaur, and the two friends find their equilibrium once more as Emily begins to draw. Catalanotto's oversize watercolors capture the joy of a first-grader's art, the fussiness of the judge and the way that Emily wants to disappear (by making her figure transparent) when her work is rejected. Dedicated to "all the children who paint with their hearts," this is an excellent choice for those discussing the concepts of fairness, judging and being judged. 2001, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, $16.00. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Cherri Jones (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K-Grade 6 13th Edition, 2002; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 2001; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, June 2001; Cahners; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Reading List, 2003-2004; Nominee; Arkansas
   Georgia Children's Book Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; Picture Storybook; Georgia
   Young Hoosier Book Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; Grades K-3; Indiana
ISBN: 0-689-83831-X

Getting Used to the Dark: 26 Night Poems
Susan Marie Swanson
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
   Twenty-six poems are accompanied by pencil illustrations that create shadows against the light of the lyrics. The entire book has a feeling of the night and all the things seen there. The stanzas reflect the reality of our dreams, and the fears we sometimes have. Combining deep metaphors with everyday kid concerns makes this a great addition to any collection, as seen in the following quote: "Can't miss the bus again. / Can't sleep. / The scattered bits of light say, / Wait for the sun." Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1997, DK Publishing, $14.95. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Sheree van Vreede (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 1998; Bank Street College of Education; United States
ISBN: 0-789-42468-1

Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue
Peter Catalanotto
   Introducing young children to a variety of colors will be enjoyable with this amusing story about a fun-loving litter of kittens. When Mrs. Tuttle's cat, Sophia, has sixteen calico kittens, she's left with the arduous task of finding homes for all of them. After seeing how cute the kittens are, everyone in the neighborhood comes to her rescue and decides to adopt the kittens. So, one by one, the kittens are placed with their new owners--a variety of workers from the community, including a firefighter, a construction worker, a landscaper, a karate teacher, a chef, a ballerina, a pediatrician, and a crossing guard. As each kitten is adopted by its new owner, the author cleverly matches the kitten's collar to a corresponding color in the worker's uniform or equipment. Once all of the kittens find new homes, Mrs. Tuttle surprises Sophia with a reunion party, which features her sixteen kittens dressed in their colorful collars accompanied by matching balloons. What's so ingenious about this book's presentation is that the author uses a gray watercolor wash to illustrate each scene with just a splash of the featured color to capture the reader's attention. With minimal text and simple illustrations, this book effectively introduces young readers to a variety of different colors, as well as teaches them about various community workers. This wonderful book is a perfect companion to the author's previous bestsellers, Daisy 1, 2, 3 and Matthew A, B, C. This is part of the "A+ Books" series. 2005, Richard Jackson Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $15.95. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Debra Briatico (Children's Literature).
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Please Touch Museum Book Award Winner 2006 Age 4 to 6 United States
ISBN: 0-689-86562-7

Letter to the Lake
Susan Marie Swanson
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
   It's a bitterly cold and icy day when Rosie begins an imaginary letter to the lake where she spends her summers: "Dear Lake, When I think of you, I think of rocks hiding under the waves, like secrets. Remember me, your friend Rosie?" Rosie dreams of floating on her back under a cloudless blue sky as she and her mother get ready for work and school in the cold, gray dawn. Rosie remembers the lake's blue water, the blackberries, the green trees, and the dragonflies. The paintings show the gray winter scenes that Rosie sees, and the colorful summer scenes that she imagines. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1998, DK Ink, $15.95. Ages 4 to 10. Reviewer: Cheryl Peterson (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002; California Department of Education; California
ISBN: 0-789-42483-5

The Longest Wait
Marie Bradby
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
    "Neither snow nor rain nor heat of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." This quotation, long associated with the postal system in this country appropriately describes this story of a dedicated postal carrier who goes out in a blizzard to deliver mail. His family watches him leave, worries and waits for his safe return. Luminous watercolors vividly portray the winter storm and the anxious family waiting inside. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1998, Orchard Books, $15.95. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Deborah Palgon (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, Third Edition, 2001; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
ISBN: 0-531-06871-4
ISBN: 0-531-08721-2

Mama Is a Miner
George Ella Lyon
Paintings by Peter Catalanotto
   A little girl daydreams about the pride and fear she feels about her mother's job as a coal miner. Bits and pieces of mining vocabulary, day-to-day living and working, which is often a struggle, and Appalachian folk rhymes combine to present a portrait of the life of a coal mining family. Some knowledge of coal mining is helpful in understanding the language and format. The paintings enhance the day-dreamy effect of the little girl's perspective on life in the coalfields. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1994, Orchard, $15.95 and $16.99. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Booklist Book Review Stars, June 1994; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
ISBN: 0-531-06853-6
ISBN: 0-531-08703-4

Matthew A.B.C.
Peter Catalanotto
   "Mrs. Tuttle has 25 children in her class. They are all named Matthew." This could pose a problem for some teachers but certainly not for someone as perceptive as this kindergarten teacher. Not only does each Matthew have a different surname, but each has a distinctive characteristic that, coincidentally, begins with the same letter as his last name. Catalanotto is right on with his humor. Kindergarten boys will giggle at Matthew N. standing in a purple cape and underpants as we learn he is "nearly naked." Matthew G. is glued to his chair and a very stiff Matthew T. is "fiercely tense." Teachers will recognize Matthew L. He's the one whose nose leaks. When the principal brings in a new student, Matthew Zee, it is quite obvious what his obsession is. Catalanotto creates some funny sight jokes with these 26 unique boys against very simple backgrounds. Children of this age are always intrigued when they discover someone else has the same name. They will soon discover uniqueness doesn't come from one's name but rather from one's personality. 2002, A Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $14.95. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2003; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Fanfare Honor List, 2002; Horn Book; United States
   Kirkus Book Review Stars, May 1, 2002; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Emphasis on Reading, 2003-2004; Nominee; Grades K-1; Alabama
   Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; Grades K-3; Pennsylvania
   Texas Reading Club, 2004; Texas
ISBN: 0-689-84582-0

Mother to Tigers
George Ella Lyon
Illustrations by Peter Catalanotto
   Based on a true story, this beautifully illustrated picture book introduces young readers to Helen Frances Theresa Delaney Martini, the first woman zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo and founder of the zoo's animal nursery in 1944. With carefully chosen text, the author gently tells Helen's story and describes how this dedicated, hard-working woman made a difference in the lives of several young animals. After convincing her husband, Fred, to get a job at the Bronx Zoo, Helen accepts his invitation to care for a small, sickly lion cub named MacArthur. Not long after, she takes on the challenging task of nursing a litter of three Bengal tigers back to health. When it becomes obvious to her that other zoo babies need special care, she decides to create a one-of-a-kind nursery at the Bronx Zoo. Over the years, she raises twenty-seven tigers and cares for a variety of young animals including yapoks, marmosets, gorillas, chimpanzees, deer, ring-tailed lemurs, lions, jaguars, and leopards. Catalanotto's remarkable illustrations are a wonderful combination of watercolor, charcoal and torn paper. The author also includes a fascinating "Author's Note" at the end of the book. This is the sixth picture book collaboration by this amazing author-artist team. Other books of note include Mama Is a Miner, Dreamplace, and Book. 2003, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.95. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Debra Briatico (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Amelia Bloomer Project, 2004; American Library Association-SRRT; United States
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2004; H.W. Wilson
   Choices, 2004; Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, March 2003; Cahners; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Children's Crown Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; United States
   Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 2004-2005; Nominee; Grades K-3; Pennsylvania
   Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award, 2005; Nominee; Grades K-3; Washington
   Young Hoosier Book Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Picture Book; Indiana
ISBN: 0-689-84221-X

My Mother's Voice
Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
   The watercolor drawings in this title depict the bond between a young girl and her mother, as the poetic words describe a daughter's knowledge of her mother's love for her. Short and sweet, like a poem, the words are few, but there is no confusion as to the feelings portrayed in this book. From daylight to dark, a girl describes her mother's voice, whether it is singing while she gardens, shouting encouragement at the ballgame, or quietly showing her daughter a shy little rabbit near their home. As she gets her off to school, the mother gives encouragement to her daughter, awaiting a new day. When darkness comes, the mother's there to tuck her little girl into bed with a few comforting words. The artist portrays a woman and child who look alike with their short, red hair. A black-and-white cat appears at home, giving the poem a sense of reality and coziness. 2006, HarperCollins Children's Books, $15.99. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Debbie West (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-06-029509-0
ISBN: 0-06-029510-4

The Painter
Peter Catalanotto
   A warm, inviting story of an artist and his family, and in particular, his relationship with his daughter. They spend a lot of time together because his studio is in their home. After spending a whole day without him, she is allowed into his studio, and they both paint pictures with her "work of art" displayed on the final spread. Creative and original, the book is filled with bright cheery, family focused watercolors by an outstanding artist. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1995, Orchard, $15.95 and $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, September 1995; Cahners; United States
ISBN: 0-531-09465-0
ISBN: 0-531-08765-4

The Rolling Store
Angela Johnson
Paintings by Peter Catalanotto
   Johnson, who is a past winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, writes a wonderful story linking the past with the present. Two friends recreate a "rolling store" on a wagon as one tells the other a story of the traveling store from the days when her granddaddy was young. The store was a source of great happiness and adventure for the granddaddy as it was the only shopping opportunity available then. The man who brought the traveling store to town sang a familiar song, which alerted the townspeople of his arrival. The illustrator has intricately woven the girls' present playtime activities with images of the grandfather's memories of the past. The result is a charming experience for readers of all ages. Enjoy it with a grandchild or friend as it is bound to spark a discussion of the way things used to be. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1997, Orchard, $16.99 and $15.95. Ages 3 up. Reviewer: Susan Hoyle Fournier (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 1998; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, Third Edition, 2001; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1997; United States
ISBN: 0-531-30015-3
ISBN: 0-531-33015-X

We Wanted You
Liz Rosenberg
Paintings by Peter Catalanotto
   The young life of a boy and his transition to manhood is captured beautifully here in the affecting illustrations of this new adoption picture book. This poignant tale of parents waiting for their son is rendered in simple, direct prose. The story conveys the powerful connection that these family members have developed with each other over the years of their son's boyhood. Impressionist-like paintings of Enrique's arrival, his case of the measles, fishing trips, birthday parties, graduation and other milestones all pass by as his parents tell their story of longing for a child and becoming a family. Interestingly, the milestones are not in sequence. So, for example, the reader sees Enrique washing his car on the first page and as a young birthday boy on the second. The unusual sequencing of illustrations works well with the text. It shows how a parent might reminisce about some important events in his or her child's life. The child must know and feel that he belongs because, his parents say, "We were yours all along. We wanted you so much back then. And we still do." Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 2002, Roaring Brook Press/The Millbrook Press, $23.90 and $16.95. Ages 3 to 8. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D. (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2003; Bank Street College of Education; United States
ISBN: 0-7613-1597-7
ISBN: 0-7613-2661-8

Who Came Down That Road
George Ella Lyon
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
   Mother and child ponder the past in discussing who might have traveled down an old, old road. The story looks backwards from the pioneer settlers all the way to prehistoric man and animals. The road is just a trace through the woods, but folks have been traveling it thousands of years. Each page of this storybook reveals who and what preceded a young boy and his mother on the road they are walking. This dramatic and personal book fosters a rich understanding of our world. Not currently available but worth searching for at your local library or used book source. 1996 (orig. 1992), Orchard Books, $5.95 and $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1992; United States
ISBN: 0-531-07073-5
ISBN: 0-531-05987-1

 

Updated 01/09/07

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