Meet Authors & Illustrators

Brian Pinkney

   Although obviously proud of his award-winning father, Brian Pinkney is quick to tell audiences that he is not Jerry. Brian knew at nine that he wanted to be an illustrator, and he learned what illustrators do by watching his father illustrate books and by serving as one of his models, a role he later reversed when he had his father model for the ghost in The Boy and the Ghost (1989). Even before his formal training at the Philadelphia College of Art, Brian illustrated his school papers for extra credit, which he readily admits he needed, with used art materials that his father let him borrow.

   On a typical day, Brian is up by 7:00 am, goes out for breakfast, taking a pad of paper to write notes to himself and make outlines, and returns by 8:00 am to work in his studio. Usually illustrating two or three books at a time, he has definite steps and stages to his work. He begins with rough sketches, progresses to tight sketches, and then produces finished drawings. For visual stimuli, he goes to the New York Public Library to look at books, photographs, and drawings and sketches what he finds.

   Reading the story on which he is working over and over, he next places his drawings in a sequence of cartoon frames. Then he prepares a complete layout of 16 double-page spreads for the 32-page book. Only when he begins the actual-size dummy does he decide the placement of the text within the illustrations. All though this process, Brian draws and redraws, drawing things over and over, drawing just to keep his hand moving, reminding it how to draw.

   Brian works from slides and photographs and with live models, and he draws in black and white to visualize contrasts and avoid confusion with the colors a model might be wearing. He frequently listens to music, anything from classical to rap, to create a mood. For Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (1998), for example, he listened to Ellington's jazz recordings and watched video footage to study movement. Similarly, while working on Alvin Ailey (1993), he talked with Ailey's mother, interviewed dancers who had worked with him, and attended dance classes to look at figures. He even took dance lessons to learn how to produce accurate dance movements.

   Scratchboard is Brian Pinkney's signature technique. With this medium, the artist covers a specially treated white board with black drawing in and then scratches or scrapes it off the areas that are to appear white in the finished work. Brian then adds color to these areas with watercolors, rubbed in oil paints or oil pastels, or acrylics. In addition to those books already mentioned, others of his works that are examples of this technique include: Sukey and the Mermaid (1992), Max Found Two Sticks (1994), Faithful Friend (1995), Bill Picket, Rodeo Ridin' Cowboy (1996), and Adventures of Sparrowboy (1997).
For more information visit Brian Pinkney.

Contributor: Priscilla A. Ord

 

Reviews

The Adventures of Sparrowboy
Brian Pinkney
   Life on Thurber Street was just like any other ordinary street, in any town, until one day's events changed everything. Henry, the paperboy, encounters a sparrow who gives him the ability to fly. Just like his favorite comic book hero, Falconman, Henry flies through the neighborhood saving children from bullies, as well as a bird from the paws of a hungry cat. Mysteriously, when the bird is unable to fly, Henry returns its power of flight. Join Henry as he rids his neighborhood of trouble and returns it to normal once again. Written and illustrated in comic book style by Caldecott Honor artist Pinkney, the book's unique format is simple yet eye-catching. 1997, Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 9, $16.00. Reviewer: Melinda Medley Sprinkle
ISBN: 0-689-81071-7

Alvin Ailey
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   Alvin Ailey was that rare force that changes the world forever. His world was dance. This dramatic children's book celebrates the life of the dancer from Texas. The story rocks and sways with movement in this simple biography of a man who "moved smooth like quicksilver" and never let loose his dream to dance. The illustrations were created with an alluring artistic technique where a black overlay is etched carefully to reveal a subtle, underlying rainbow of colors. 1993, Hyperion Books, Ages 5 to 9, $13.95 and $4.95. Reviewer: Deborah Zink Roffino
ISBN: 1-56282-413-9
ISBN: 0-7868-1077-7

Bill Picket Rodeo-Ridin' Cowboy
Andrea D. Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   This historical biography provides a unique glimpse into the Old West. Beginning with a description of a wagon train heading to Texas from South Carolina, the book points out that some of the travelers were slaves. A descendant of those slaves was Bill Pickett. As a small child, he discovered he could wrestle a steer to the ground by biting it in the upper lip as trained bulldogs did. After inventing "bull dogging" human-style, Bill went on to bring his unique talent to the rodeo circuit to introduce a new event to the sport. Bill Pickett is one of many African-American cowboys who played major roles in the history of the Old West. The afterward and further reading list included in this book will help guide young readers to learn more about these unique cowboys. Andrea Pinkney's text chronicles Bill Pickett's life from his grandparents forced migration to his death in 1932. Highlighting his rodeo feats, she also discusses the importance of family and the pivotal role storytelling played in the homes of the Pickett clan. Brian Pinkney's trademark scratchboard illustrations give a startling and vibrant quality to the text. Using mostly browns, red, and blues, he sets a dusty, cowboy mood. 1996, Harcourt Brace, Ages 8 to 12, $16.00. Reviewer Alexandria LaFaye
ISBN: 0-15-200100-X

Cendrillon
Robert D. San Souci
Illustrations by Brian Pinkney
   This Cinderella tale is told by the godmother, a Caribbean washerwoman, who loves a lonely little drudge and helps her prepare for a magical night at a rich man's party. Author Robert D. San Souci and artist Brian Pinkney, creators of the critically acclaimed Sukey and the Mermaid, team up again to bring young readers a well-researched Creole folktale with arresting scratchboard illustrations. 1998, Simon and Schuster, Ages 5 to 9, $16.00. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
ISBN: 0-689-80668-X

Cosmo and the Robot
Brian Pinkney
   Cosmo's best friend is a gentle robot named Rex. One day Rex bumps his robot head. After that he isn't himself any more. In fact Rex becomes downright mean. When Rex has to be taken to the asteroid dump, Cosmo knows that his life on Mars will never be the same. Even the awesome new Solar System Utility Belt can't cheer Cosmo. When Cosmo and his sister, Jewell, are playing near the asteroid dump, Rex attacks his sister. Cosmo saves the day and then, using his special tools, he saves Rex too. Quirky watercolors highlight this humorous story. 2000, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, $15.95. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
ISBN: 0-688-15940-0

Cut From the Same Cloth
Robert D. San Souci
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   Most of us are familiar with the likes of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, but few have heard the tall tales of Bess Call, Old Sally Cato, Otoonah or other legendary American women. Robert D. San Souci explains why and remedies the situation with the tales of those and twelve other bigger-than-life women-mythical male counterparts-in Cut From the Same Cloth. Mr. San Souci groups his stories by geographical region, introduces each with information on its cultural origins and provides extensive notes and a bibliography for further reading. Brian Pinkney's crosshatch, linoleum-cut prints extend his text with wit and beauty. 1993, Philomel, Ages 10 up, $17.95. Reviewer: Beverly Kobrin
ISBN: 0-399-21987-0

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
Patricia McKissack
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   This collection contains ten original ghost stories with African American themes ranging from the time of Slavery to the Civil Rights Era. Keeping with the oral storytelling tradition, these tales should be told at a special time called the dark-thirty-the half hour before sunset-when ghosts seem all too believable and shadows play tricks on the mind. Suspenseful, heart-stopping stories such as "Boo Mama," "The Chicken-Coop Monster," and "The Woman in the Snow" are accompanied by eerie black and white scratch-board illustrations. 1992, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 8 up, $16.00 and $17.99. Reviewer: Debra Briatico
ISBN: 0-679-81863-4
ISBN: 0-679-91863-9

Dear Benjamin Banneker
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   Benjamin Banneker, the eighteenth century astronomer, mathematician, and almanac writer, was also an outspoken critic of the standards of the day. Banneker, a free black man, faced stigma with the same clarity as he charted the heavens, writing directly to Thomas Jefferson to question the integrity of the new country. Andrea's writing paints a full picture of a man who keenly observed the land and heavens, and searched for the truth in both science and in life. Brian's scratchboard illustrations depict the man and his time. 1994, Harcourt, Ages 5 to 10, $15.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-15-200417-3

Duke Ellington
Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   As a small boy, Duke hated taking piano lessons. Then he heard the "soul-rousing romp" of ragtime. Later he entertained with his "fine-as-pie good looks and flashy threads." His compositions were "smoother than a hairdo sleeked with pomade." While Andrea fills the telling of his life with rhythmic lilting dialect and writing studded with era idioms, Brian keeps time with his scratchboard illustrations full of the kind of movement Duke inspired. There are also lots of facts about Duke's famous songs, the members of his band, and an amazing rendering of what the music sounds like. Another splendid picture book biography by the Pinkneys. 1998, Hyperion, Ages 5 up, $15.95 and $16.49. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-7868-0178-6
ISBN: 0-7868-2150-7

The Elephant's Wrestling Match
Judy Sierra
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   The monkey beats out this irresistible summons to all the animals. The leopard, crocodile, and rhino respond without success but the tiny bat...ah yes, it is often the smallest who are the cleverest. In word-perfect prose, Ms Sierra's text sings out in total harmony with the scratchboard paintings in which the animals charge off the pages. A memorable blending of talents for this Cameroon tale. 1992, Lodestar, Ages 5 to 9, $14.00. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
ISBN: 0-525-67366-0

The Faithful Friend
Robert D. San Souci
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   This magical tale from the island of Martinique tells of two devoted friends, Clement and Hippolyte, who "were so close that the happiness of one was the happiness of both." Cursed by a quimboiseur (a wizard) and pursued by zombies, each friend offers to lay down his life for the other and thereby returns the curse to its wicked source. Pinkney's graceful scratchboard illustrations of bright island scenes full of banana trees and hibiscus blossoms contrast with moody night scenes when the beautiful zombies scheme. 1995, Simon & Schuster, Ages 5 to 10, $16.00. Reviewer: Victoria Crenson
ISBN: 0-02-786131-7

I Smell Honey
Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   Several African-American writers are bringing books to young babies. I Smell Honey shows a mother and child preparing dinner with a sensory vividness that lets you "hear catfish cracklin'" and "red beans bubblin'." 1997, Red Wagon/Harcourt, Ages 6 mo. to 3, $4.95. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-15-200640-0

In the Time of the Drums
Kim L. Siegelson
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   Both textually and visually, In the Time of Drums is a captivating tale. Mentu was born on a Sea Island off the Georgia coast and has never known Africa. However, in the care of his Ibo conjure-woman grandmother Twi, he learns the stories, songs and drum rhythms of his people. When a slave ship full of Ibo people arrives at the island, Twi takes action. With the words "Come with me, my brothers and sisters. I will take you home," she leads them into Teakettle Creek and, walking under the water, back to their homeland. Mentu grows and passes along his strength-the stories, songs and drum rhythms-to his own children. The Author's Note clarifies the history of the tale and the author's relationship to it. 1999, Jump at the Sum/Hyperion, Ages 9 to 12, $15.99. Reviewer: Heidi Green
ISBN: 0-7868-0436-X

Pretty Brown Face
Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   Several African-American writers are bringing books to young babies. Pretty Brown Face shows a father admiring his young son 's "as special as can be" features. A mylar mirror encourages babies to look at their own faces. 1997, Red Wagon/Harcourt, Ages 6 mo. to 3, $4.95. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-15-200643-5

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa
Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   This handsome book explains the history of and offers suggestions for the observance of Kwanzaa, including the making of homemade gifts. Pinkney's trademark scratchboard illustrations lend a robust and celebratory air to the text. 1993, Puffin, Ages 5 to 9, $14.99 and $14.89. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
ISBN: 0-8037-1292-8
ISBN: 0-8037-1293-6

Shake Shake Shake
Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   The bold illustrations feature an attractive little girl and her brother shaking a beaded gourd, which is an African percussion instrument known as a shekere. There isn't much of a story, just pictures of the kids shaking the shekere. This board book series, which features African Americans, includes I Smell Honey, Pretty Brown Face, Shake Shake Shake, and Watch Me Dance. 1997, Red Wagon/Harcourt, Ages 6 mo. to 3, $4.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-15-200632-X

Watch Me Dance
Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   The bold illustrations feature an attractive young girl and her baby brother, who is watching and imitating from his playpen. She jumps, twists, shakes and rolls and spins around in time to the music coming from the radio. It's a nice addition to collections that need board books featuring African Americans or for anyone interested in broadening children's view of society. The series consists of I Smell Honey, Pretty Brown Face, Shake Shake Shake, and Watch Me Dance. 1997, Red Wagon/Harcourt, Ages 6 mo. to 3, $4.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-15-200631-1

When I Left My Village
Maxine Rose Schur
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Schur's book, When I Left My Village, is about Jewish immigration. But for an American raised on Russian immigration stories, it is a new view of this ancient story. Beautifully illustrated by Brian Pinkney, it is the story of 12-year-old Menelik. An Ethiopian Jew, or Beta Israel, he has faced discrimination all his life. Now his family finds itself involved in escaping from Ethiopia. They must walk across Ethiopia into Sudan to get to the plane that will take them to Israel. Israel is very different, and not at all what they expected. Menelik fears he'll never belong. But as his Hebrew improves, he begins to know that this will be his true home. Not difficult reading, but emotionally gut-wrenching for the youngest. 1996, Dial, Ages 7 to 11, $14.99 and $14.89. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
ISBN: 0-8037-1561-7
ISBN: 0-8037-1562-5

Wiley and the Hairy Man
Judy Sierra
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
   This is a conjure tale from Alabama in which Wiley must outsmart the Hairy Man three times so that the creature will stay away "for good and forever." Judy Sierra's storytelling talents shine brightly in this version. The musical cadences flow naturally, helping the reader keep the beat. The pictures are oil paintings on scratchboard, an ideal medium for depiction the rural setting of this story. Not only is Wiley a spunky and resourceful lad, but his mother has sufficient knowledge of conjuring magic to match wits with the ogre-ish Hairy Man. An engrossing tale for any time of the year. 1996, Lodestar, Ages 7 to 11, $15.99. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
ISBN: 0-525-67477-2

 

Added 2000

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