The Children’s Picture Book as Artist’s Book: Turning the American Children’s Picture Book Form “Topsy & Turvy”

By Stella Reinhard.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Perhaps because Children’s Picture Books are written for a child audience, this relatively new field recurrently has difficulty being taken seriously by scholars in other fields as either literature or as art. Respected artist, book author and professor Johanna Drucker states, in her article The Artist’s Book as Idea and Form from A Book of the Book, that Artist’s Books interrogate “the conceptual or material form of the book as part of its intention, thematic interests, or production activities” and that they are “almost always self-conscious about the structure and meaning of the book as a form” (378). After assembling a consensus definition of the term “Artist’s Book,” this paper explores, as a case study, the work of an American author/illustrator who was an early experimenter with this type of book. Peter Newell (1862 to 1924), creator of novelty children’s books that explore the book form as a part of the narrative, earned the following description by Michael Hearn, Trinkett Clark and H. Nichols B. Clark in Myth, Magic & Mystery: One Hundred Years of American Children’s Book Illustration: “Perhaps the most inventive American children’s book illustrator of the period . . . . He was also one of the first artists to recognize the picture book as a unique object.” This paper argues that Peter Newell’s books deserve careful consideration as possible picture book crossovers into the Artist’s Books genre because of the specific way Newell creatively interacted with the book form; because he crossed disciplines in creating his books by writing, illustrating and designing them himself; and because he consciously utilized new media and methods of art production in developing his style. The paper explores Newell’s techniques used in his book Topsys & Turvys, The Hole Book, and several other of his still unique, though often overlooked creations.

Keywords: Artist’s Books, Children’s Picture Books as Artist’s Books, Children’s Picture Books, Peter Newell, Picture Books as Art

International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.99-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.327MB).

Stella Reinhard

Adjunct Faculty in Communication Arts Department, & Ph.D. Candidate in Media, Art & Text, MATX (Media, Art & Text) Ph.D. Program, Communication Arts Department, School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA

With a work background as an Art Director and Graphic Designer and a Masters Degree in Children's Literature from Hollins University, Stella Reinhard now teaches for the Communication Arts Department in Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts as she earns her Ph.D. in the Interdisciplinary Program of Media, Art & Text (MATX) at that same University in Richmond, Virginia. Her research is leading her into areas exploring emerging and recurring patterns as she compares the historical development of Children's Literature as impacted by the technology that developed simultaneously around it with the significant changes occurring in the field today as ever newer e-media impact the Children's Narrative in general and the Picture Book form in particular.


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