David McPhail's career as an illustrator and author has spanned over 25 books and resulted in well over 70 books for children. His incredible cast of characters - pigs and bunnies, bears and puppies - and countless others, has endeared him to innumerable children and their parents. He credits part of his quirky view of animal behaviour to a cat he once had that would perform dog tricks.
Some of his more recent titles include: Mole Music, a Kirkus "pointer"; Edward and the Pirates, a Publisher's Weekly bestseller; and Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore, an American Library Association Notable Book.
David completed his professional training at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and now lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he belongs to the Riverview Pizza Bowling League.
For more information visit David McPhail at his own web site.
ReviewsAngel Pig & the Hidden Christmas
Jan L. Waldron
Pictures by David McPhail
The piggies are quite distressed to realize that they have left their Christmas preparations until too late, and now they have no money for all the finery they had hoped to buy. An angel pig comes to tell them the true meaning of Christmas, so they are all aflutter making homemade presents and goodies. Soon they realize this is the best Christmas ever. A familiar message from a new addition to the anthropomorphic menagerie. 1997, Dutton, Ages 4 to 8, $14.99. Reviewer: Dr. Judy Rowen
Big Brown Bear
Watch the big brown bear as he tries to paint his tree house, when someone bumps into him and the paint spills. Then the big brown bear makes another attempt, this time using a new color. The words are whimsical and filled with rhyme. And the pictures by McPhail are amusing and adorable. 1999, Harcourt Brace & Company, Ages 5 to 7, $3.95. Reviewer: Bonnie Bruneau
A Bug, a Bear, and A Boy
What is it like to play hide and seek with a bear or to take a bath with a bug? In David McPhail's new book, young readers can follow the adventures of three friends: a boy, a bear, and a bug. In each "chapter" or episode, McPhail explores the concept of size by describing how the bear (large), the boy (medium), and the bug (small) approach each situation. McPhail's delightful illustrations and simple text make this book a natural for the easy-reader format. Lots of repetition, familiar situations (such as eating, bathing, sleeping, and playing), and short episodes combine to hit the mark for preschoolers and first graders. While the short episodes are helpful to a beginning reader, in this case they also prevent the development of a strong story line. Nevertheless, beginning readers will find great satisfaction in reading this "Hello Reader" series book all by themselves. 1998, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, Ages 3 to 6, $3.50. Reviewer: Eileen Hanning
A Bug, a Bear, and a Boy Go to School
Three friends, a boy, a bear and a bug, have a series of adventures together. They go to school, fly a kite, and go for a ride in the boy's wagon. In each case, size and weight differences play an important role in the story and each of the friends comes up with a creative solution to solve a problem. This easy reader is amusing and also conveys subtle messages about differences and problem solving. McPhail's delightful watercolors are full of expressive faces that reveal the puzzlement, joy and satisfaction that are part of each outing. Part of the "Hello Reader!" series, Level 1. 1999, Scholastic, Ages 3 to 6, $3.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
The Day the Dog Said, "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!"
One hot day the farm animals get together to talk about the weather and their hopes for rain. When the pre-storm winds begin to blow, the animals find they've gotten a little more than they wanted. The winds have blown their voices around! It's barnyard hilarity for the "just-learning-the-animal-sounds" set. Independent readers will keep reading if only to find out if the poor dog ever gets his own voice back! The full color cartoon animals may not always have the right words to say out loud, but thanks to McPhail's droll illustration style, their expressive faces manage to tell the whole story! 1997, Scholastic, Ages 5 to 7, $3.50. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
The Day the Sheep Showed Up
One day a new creature arrived at the barnyard. It's not a duck or a rooster or a pig or a cow. It's a sheep, who has come to teach the other animals that, while they are all different, in some ways they are all the same. This book is part of the "Hello Readers" series, which focuses on frequently used sight words, like "is," "the," and "and." It also emphasizes phonics and interpretation through pictures and text clues. As is customary with this series, parents are encouraged to get involved in the discovery process. 1998, Scholastic, Ages 5 to 7, $3.50. Reviewer: Sheree Van Vreede
Drawing Lessons from a Bear
This is a book about an artist that just happens to be a bear. This bear who lives in a forest recounts how he got started as an artist by scratching marks on the dirt floor of the family den. He also gives some tips to young artists on how to be an artist and what it is like to be one. This friendly bear talks about the need to practice drawing every day, but he does not mention the struggles and frustrations that every artist (especially young artists) encounter. Unfortunately, he implies that fame, medals and prizes, and meeting "kings, queens, and presidents" are all naturally part of an artist's career. The final piece of advice the bear gives the children is for them to just say, "I am an artist!" Maybe that's all you have to do. Just say it. McPhail's illustrations are furry, warm and huggable. 2000, Little Brown, Ages 6 to 8, $14.95. Reviewer: Sally J. K. Davies
Edward and the Pirates
McPhail uses rich, dark, acrylic on canvas paintings to set the mood for young Edward's love affair with books. Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, and finally pirates invade the very edges of the boy's existence until they truly come to life one dark and stormy night. This is a picture book that should sell any youngster on the adventurous joys of reading. 1997, Little Brown, Ages 2 to 7, $15.95. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
This book highlights the airplane trip, including security check and boarding, of a well-mannered little boy and his less-than-exemplary teddy bear. This bear, transformed into a real bear, does not conduct itself with dignity, and the colorful pictures capture all kinds of rollicking mischief. In addition to being humorous, the book can help children anticipate the procedures and conduct for a trip by plane. 1991, Joy Street/Little Brown, Ages 4 to 8, $14.95 and $4.95. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
A Friend for Growl Bear
Illustrated by David McPhail
Growl Bear is much loved at home but his "Gr-r-r-r-r-r-r" alienates and scares the forest animals. They treat him cruelly until they realize he only growls because he doesn't know how to speak. Very complex issues are raised in this great book about first friendship. It also lends itself to discussions about judging from appearances, different modes of communication, and compassion for others. The illustrations contribute with emotionally sensitive portrayals. 1999, HarperCollins, Ages 3 to 6, $14.95. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Retold and illustrated by David McPhail
A brand-new version of this classic story is printed on sturdy cardstock pages. Small details such as the mother bear's book that she placed on the arm of the chair ending up on the floor enhance this story of the little girl who wanders into an empty house and gets herself into trouble. Part of a series that includes Little Red Riding Hood, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and The Three Little Pigs. 1995, Scholastic, Ages 2 to 5, $4.95. Reviewer: Mary Clayton Rowen
The Ice Cream Store
Illustrated by David McPhail
Dennis Lee, one of Canada's national treasures, is a poet and lyricist whose poems are recited from memory by Canadian school kids. His latest collection, The Ice Cream Store, will be just as popular in the States. In the title poem, he sings, "Oh, the kids around the block are like an / ice cream store / 'cause there's chocolate, and vanilla, / And there's maple and there's more...." David McPhail's apt illustrations show a host of multi-racial kids acting out the poems. Mr. Lee plays with every form of poetry from quatrains to limericks to parodies of nursery rhymes "There's a mouse that lives on the moon / who plays the drum with a musical spoon...in a musical, mousical / Moo-sical, mouthical tune...."--and never misses a rhythmical beat. 1992, Scholastic, Ages 4 to 8, $14.95. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
If You Were My Bunny
Illustrated by David McPhail
This soothing test was a winner as a picture book and it will continue to be one in its board book form. The reassuring words of motherly love will delight little ones and comfort them as they drop off to sleep. The text can be sung to familiar tunes, which are listed at the end of the book. 1998, Scholastic, Ages 3 to 6, $7.95 and $6.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Just Clowning Around: Two Stories
Illustrations by David McPhail
A papa bear in his clown suit is helping baby bear master a few tricks. The best trick of all is papa bear balancing everyone and everything onto his bicycle. Whoa! What happened? Papa bear has run into the king of beasts and now the bicycle tire needs to be repaired. Is he up to the task? Part of the "Green Light Reader" series, Level 1, grades K-1. 2000, Harcourt, Ages 5 to 7, $10.95 and $3.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Little Red Riding Hood
The tale of Little Red Riding Hood, complete with its wolf-villain and sweet but plucky heroine, is a perennial and oft-retold favorite. McPhail's new version offers attractive illustrations and some nice modifications to the story. The pictures, also by McPhail, are colorful, detailed, and entertaining. McPhail's Little Red is cleverer and more resourceful than the "classic" character; she traps the wolf under the bed and bounces on him, calling out to attract attention. Grandmother, meanwhile, is hiding in the wardrobe. McPhail dispenses with both the eating and the Grimm brothers' bloody ending; his wolf is chased out of town by the woodcutter and other neighbors. Although the book's jacket describes it as "perfect for today's very young child," the vocabulary used is sometimes awkward for or incomprehensible to preschoolers. Although there is certainly no benefit to "talking down" to children, the use of words like "dawdle," "persisted," "morsel," and "hostile" does not serve to increase the understanding or enjoyment of very young children. Parents and teachers sharing this book with their children may want to modify both the narration and the dialogue to make the language more natural and appropriate to their children's level. 1995, Scholastic, Ages 3 to 8, $4.95. Reviewer: Marny Helfrich
Mole Music is an underground musical masterpiece. Mole is entranced with the violin, orders one, and then begins the demanding learning process. As he becomes more adept, his music rises to the world above his tunnel. People stop work to listen. Let Mole's music reach into people's hearts and melt away their anger and sadness. The pictures show mole's cozy underground home, as well as life above ground. Music notes appearing in the tree above Mole's home are the notes to "Beethoven's Ode to Joy," and "Brahms' Lullaby." The book is best used with small groups or one on one because of the details in the illustrations. 1999, Holt, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
Night Sounds, Morning Colors
Illustrated by David McPhail
Moving through the days and seasons of a child's year, Wells invites readers to open all their senses. With her vivid text to unlock them for you, it's an easy task. Exquisite imagery dances across the pages, starting with "When I Wake Up." McPhail's acrylic paintings glimmer as if they were backlit. His captivating use of light on a muted palette underscores the joyfulness of the senses, the tenderness of relationships, and the love of one another. Night Sounds, Morning Colors invites young readers to explore a big world filled with small delights. Likewise it reminds us adults that small delights surround us if we take the moments to experience them. 1994, Dial, Ages 5 up, $14.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Bagel
A vacation takes an unexpected turn. The passenger does not anticipate the havoc that a ship full of impertinent pigs will create. They turn the cruise into a catastrophe. The story is written in poetic form and the illustrations are hilarious. 1995, Dutton, Ages 5 to 8, $14.99 and $5.99. Reviewer: Elizabeth McAllister
Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore
This is a book with longevity. Babies will delight in the word sounds, toddlers thrill to the expectation of rhyming words, and older children and adults will giggle over the hilarity of a house brimming with pigging-out pigs! There is frivolity in rhyme and wildness in illustration and it's one of those books that just begs to be read aloud. 1993, Dutton, Ages 1 to 6, $14.99 and $4.99. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
As an antidote to rainy day boredom, a little boy asks his mother if he can sail his boat in the puddles. She agrees but asks the boy to avoid getting in the puddles himself. Equipped with a rain slicker, hat and boots, the boy finds the perfect spot for sailing his boat. He is soon joined by a menagerie of animals who make the little boy's day more interesting. McPhail's illustrations are beautiful and reminiscent of the illustrations in the books by Beatrix Potter. The illustrations in this book capture well every incident in the story and endear the reader to the little boy and his rainy day companions. 1998, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 2 to 5, $15.00. Reviewer: Shalini Murthy
Santa's Book of Names
Edward was having trouble learning to read. His teacher was concerned, but his parents counseled patience. On Christmas Eve, Edward's Dad was reading a story about Santa delivering presents around the world. Edward wondered how Santa could remember. The names are all in a book said his mother. That night Edward ends up on a wonderful adventure helping Santa deliver gifts, but to help, Edward must be able to read the names in Santa's book. Not only does Edward save the day, he finally accomplishes his goal of learning to read. It's a wonderful story with equally delightful ink and watercolor illustrations. 1997 (orig. 1993), Little Brown, Ages 4 to 8, $14.95 and $5.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Tall in the Saddle
Illustrations by David McPhail
Where does Dad really go every day when he leaves the house in a jacket and tie? The young boy in this story imagines that he is tall in the saddle, "still wearing his boots." Mrs. Fusspot's bicycle becomes a wild horse, a bronco, that "only my dad and I can tame." At the end of the day, he "swings me high on his shoulders. I ride home, tall in the saddle." This is an old-fashioned cowboy story, complete with rotten rustlers and lassos to rope stray calves. Neither the text nor the illustrations is especially dramatic or memorable, but Tall in the Saddle could spark a classroom discussion about the work parents really do when they leave home each day--and what children might like to do with a particular parent. 1999, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 3 to 7, $14.95. Reviewer: Karen Leggett
Those Can-Do Pigs
Vivid watercolor illustrations and catchy rhyming verse make this a fun book for early readers and listeners. In this story, a bunch of mischievous "can-do" pigs truly live up to their name--children can see them doing everything from building roads, to rowing a boat to the Bahamas, to rocketing to the moon! This book is one of a whole series that McPhail has written about his amusing pigs. 1996, Dutton, Ages 3 to 7, $14.99. Reviewer: Wendy Ricci
The Three Little Pigs
The classic folktale is retold and illustrated in attractive pastel watercolors. Each beautifully depicts the story line and characters. The text is to be read to a young child. The book is printed on sturdy card-stock pages that are perfect for little hands. 1995, Scholastic, Ages 1 to 5, $4.95. Reviewer: Elizabeth McAllister
Tinker and Tom and the Star Baby
This book does not quite measure up to the author's previous body of work, which contains some of the most delightful children's stories. The premise is a good one: a star baby falls to earth and is discovered by Tinker, a boy, and Tom, a bear, who refuel her spaceship so that she can return to her mother. However, the adorable star baby becomes quite menacing when Tinker's cat wants her food back. Young children may be put off by this star baby, who starts out so innocent looking, but who turns vengeful as she rages at the cat with bulging green eyes and green food smeared on her face. By pointing her finger, she suspends people and objects in the air. Even with a somewhat happy ending, this book is not recommended as a bedtime story. 1998, Little Brown, Ages 3 to 6, $14.95. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati
Why a Disguise?
Illustrated by David McPhail
This silly little book investigates the do's and don'ts of wearing a disguise. It may get you out of your turn at the dentist, or confuse your parents when it's chore time. Or maybe you might want to wear a disguise when relatives come over to avoid the cheek pinching and choruses of how you have grown. "But at the end of the day it's nice to know that you're still you." 1996, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 4 to 6, $14.00. Reviewer: Kristin Harris
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