Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Book Reviews

I wanted to share a few good reviews of the new book, "Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds." A nice review from The New York Times "Books about Fearless Women"- it should also appear in the Sunday Book Review as well. Amazing to be included in a review next to Chris Van Allsburg. the last decade especially, authors of children’s biographies have put their “Free to Be” ideals to paper, not only writing sophisticated history, but also exploring the lives of women quite different from the usual girl-crush suspects. Two new biographies, the bittersweet “Queen of the Falls,” written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, and the rollicking “Nurse, Soldier, Spy,” written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by John Hendrix, are admirable and enlightening examples.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books had this to say:

It’s a generally accepted fact that many women passed as men on Civil War battlefields, but the condition of secrecy, of course, rendered their stories untold. Much is known, though, about Sarah Edmonds, a young Canadian woman who enlisted in the Michigan Volunteer Infantry under the name of Frank Thompson. Serving first as a battlefield nurse, Sarah/Frank was recruited for espionage missions behind Confederate lines. Her spying days came to an end with a bout of malaria; unwilling to risk revealing her identity in a military hospital, she sought civilian medical attention instead. By the time “Sarah” had recovered, “Frank” was listed as a deserter, forcing Edmonds to retire from soldiering. Jones and Moss have sometimes conflicting, sometimes complementary takes on Edmonds’ story. Moss has her initially fleeing from an arranged marriage, and Jones from an abusive father. Moss emphasizes her nursing role and one mission as a spy; Jones discusses several of her disguises on various spy missions. Each title has a distinctive look: the jazzed-up folksiness of Hendrix’s pictures in Nurse and Oldroyd’s hazily atmospheric illustrations in Sarah. In a battle of the books, Nurse has a slight edge with snappier storytelling, a substantial historical note, remarks on the artist’s research, a glossary of Civil War terms, bibliographies, and an index, and even a pair of photographs of Edmonds and “Thompson.” There’s a pragmatic simplicity to Jones’ text, though, and she weighs in additionally with the “Thompson” photo, a brief note, and a briefer bibliography.

And a nice review from Booklist:

This lively picture book introduces Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian girl who began dressing as a man at 16, later moved to Michigan to escape an arranged marriage, and joined the Union army under the name Frank Thompson. She served as a field-hospital nurse and a spy. Rather than squeezing all of Edmonds’ eventful life into a short book, Moss introduces her in a few paragraphs and spotlights particular experiences in greater detail, such as her enlistment in the army, her recruitment as a spy, and a successful mission to disguise herself as a slave and gather information behind enemy lines. Author’s and illustrator’s notes, a glossary, and source bibliographies are appended. In ink-and-wash illustrations, Hendrix, who illustrated Abe Lincoln Crosses the Creek (2008), again displays his knack for visual narrative. The aerial view of Edmonds approaching the Confederate camp is particularly effective. This large-format picture book illustrates Edmonds’ courage and determination while conveying a good deal of information in a highly readable way.

From The Sacramento Bee, a nice roundup including "Nurse, Soldier, Spy." 

Readers won't stop until the last page of Marissa Moss' exciting Civil War story about Sarah Edmonds' life as a man in the Union Army. Moss drew from Edmonds' memoir for details about her military service as a fighter, nurse and spy. Edmonds had first dressed as a man in order to escape an arranged marriage. Even though soldier Sarah, serving as Frank Thompson, could outshoot and outride many of the country boys, they called her "our little woman" because of her small stature and baby face. She laughed. She fought in several major battles, including Bull Run and Fair Oaks and then, disguised as a freed slave, spied on the rebels. Vivid illustrations by artist John Hendrix match Moss' exciting account of Sarah's life in the Army.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Drawing in Church- Holy Week Edition

My favorite Gospel story is, by far, the account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. It seems every year I've tried to do a sketchbook drawing on Lazarus, and never get a good page out of it. Probably because I'm pressing hard to do 'a good page' (always a doomed pronouncement.)

Part of my affection for this story is the parallel to the coming resurrection of Jesus himself, but more of it has to do Jesus's reaction to death and doubt. If I were inventing the narrative of the perfect 'God-Man' character I think he'd look more like Superman than Jesus. But, confronted with the death of a friend and the anger and disappointment of his disciples, instead of acting like a Messiah-of-Steel, we see just how human Jesus was. Even with the knowledge that he can beat death, Jesus cries. Gone, but not lost, the ending of the life of his friend overcame him. I love that he looks right in Martha's face and refused to let her spiritualize the loss. If you read the account, what he says is, essentially, "Stop thinking about Pie-In-The-Sky! Stop pretending that God is far away! ... look at me, in my face, I AM the resurrection. It is me."

This week, Christians celebrate Easter, Jesus's stunning reversal of decay and death. Lazarus is who I think about before Easter. (Though I'm guessing he didn't look exactly like the friendly mummy I've drawn when he came out. Or, maybe he did.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spectrum 18 Selection

These two images were selected to appear in Spectrum 18: The Best of Contemporary Fantastic Art. I've never entered this annual before, as I've never considered my drawings to be a part of any 'fantasy art' tradition. But recently, more and more editorial illustrators have been getting work into the book- as the realm of fantasy art is defined less by unicorns and armor, and more by flights of imagination. This shift is part of a trend in our culture- the exaltation of Nerd-dom.  As a recovering/emergent nerd, I'm happy to welcome this return, and to be a part of a book celebrating Fantasy Art. One of the selected images is from my sketchbook, which is always really exciting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American Illustration 30 - Selected

I was notified this week that two of my drawings were selected for American Illustration 30, a juried annual of some of the best illustration work from the last year. The images selected were from my new book, "Nurse, Soldier, Spy," which is very exciting. It is the first time any of my children's book drawings have been selected to appear in the annual. Visually speaking, these are two of my favorite images from the entire book. I'm thrilled that they will be included in this years annual. See you in November at the opening!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Drawing in Church 4/10

My Dicken's book is all due this week, so it is a perfect time to post some new procrastination work from my pew-side sketchbook. I've done other drawings about Psalm 29, as the metaphors are visually irresistible. The new one above is from this week, and the one below is from 2003.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Stroller Op-Ed

I've got a drawing running on the Op-Ed page in the Sunday New York Times this weekend. This image is illustrating a very funny article about strollers in NYC. Thanks to guest art director, amazing illustrator, Josh Cochran.