Scottsdale Public Art exhibits famous children’s books
“Pictures Tell Stories: Children’s Book Illustrations,” a new Scottsdale Public Art exhibit, opened July 5 at the Civic Center Public Gallery.
Until September 20, 2021, the exhibition features works of art from the collections of two retired librarians, Cathy Bonnell and Mary J. Wong, who have agreed to share their passion for children’s literature and illustration. . They have hundreds of original picture book artwork in their collections, and they know how vital these pictures and books play for young minds to see and understand their place in the world. Thousands of children have benefited from their enthusiasm and advocacy for reading and libraries.
Wong started collecting after meeting Jack Gantos, the author of the books “Rotten Ralph”, winner of the Newbery Medal. Wong asked her to report to the school where she was working at the time, and they became friends. During one of his trips to Phoenix, the author gave him an original illustration of “Rotten Ralph”.
“I had no idea that I could ‘own’ an original illustration from a picture book,” Wong said. “I now have about 200 – maybe more – original artwork on the walls of my house. Adding original artwork to my collection has become an addiction that soothes my soul.
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Wong, a resident of Peoria, has spent her career as an elementary special education teacher, reading specialist and librarian in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. She said the illustrations add layers to the story and encourage readers to look beyond the words on the page. And for first-time readers, illustrations can help develop new vocabulary
Bonnell, a Phoenix resident and librarian for the Washington School District for 30 years, became addicted to picture books while taking a children’s literature class at California State University in Los Angeles. During her time as a school librarian, Bonnell brought in many writers and illustrators of children’s books to speak with students from her schools. The illustrations had an impact on both the students and the librarian. Soon she began to collect.
“Many illustrators are happy to sell you pieces if they can tell you that you really appreciate them,” she said. “Several said, ‘I’d rather you had it than stack it under my bed.’ There is hardly a space in my house that doesn’t have framed picture book art.
Over the years, Wong and Bonnell have befriended hundreds of children’s book authors and illustrators, collecting their original artwork and first edition books. From now on, many of these works will be shared with the community through this exhibition.
Among the works of art are illustrations of Juana martinez-neal (“Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story” and “La Madre Goose”), artist Tempe Molly inactive (“Flora and the Flamingo” and others), artist from Tucson Adam rex (“Frankenstein makes a sandwich”), three-time winner of the Pura Belpré Prize Rafael Lopez (“Drum Dream Girl” and “Tito Puente Mambo King”), Robin brickman (“A night in the coral sea”) and Wendy watson (“Rabbits at bedtime”).
Wendy Raisanen, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art, first saw Wong’s collection a few years ago. Since that time, she wanted to organize an exhibition of children’s book art. When she also discovered the Bonnell collection, she decided to make the exhibition a reality.
“I am so inspired by the passion they have for illustrators and authors of children’s picture books,” said Raisanen. “Many of these artists live in Scottsdale, Phoenix and other cities in Arizona. I hope that young artists, illustrators and storytellers can also be inspired.
Scottsdale Public Art will host a reception for the exhibition from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, August 20 at the Civic Center Public Gallery. Learn more about ScottsdalePublicArt.org. The exhibition is accessible free of charge during library opening hours. The gallery is located inside the Scottsdale Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Boulevard, Scottsdale.