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Pierre Pratt (1962–) Biography - Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Born 1962, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Education: Studied graphic design at the college level. Hobbies and other interests: Music, playing instruments, travel.

Career

Children's book author and illustrator. Began in magazine illustration.

Honors Awards

Canadian Governor General's Award, and Mr. Christie Award for best illustration, both 1991, both for Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests; UNICEF-Bologna Book Fair Award, 1992; Golden Apple Award (Bratislava), for Follow That Hat!; Governor General's Award for Illustration, and Mr. Christie Book Award in French-language category, both for My Dog Is an Elephant; "Totem" for Best French Album in Montreuil, France, 1994, for Marcel and Andre; Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature (French) Illustration, 1998, for Monsieur Ilétaitunefois, by Rémy Simard.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Follow That Hat!, Firefly Books (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Marcel & Andre, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1994.

Hippo Beach, Seuil Jeunesse (Paris, France), 1996, Firefly Books (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1997.

Beaux dimanches, Seuil (Paris, France), 1996.

Léon sans son chapeau, Autrement (Paris, France), 1997.

Collection pied de nez, 4 volumes, Éditions Chouette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1997.

La vie exemplaire de Martha et Paul, Seuil (Paris, France), 1998.

I See … My Mom; I See … My Dad, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

I See … My Sister; I See … My Cat, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Le jour où Zoé zozota, Les 400 Coups (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2005.

SELF-ILLUSTRATED; "VERY BUSY LIFE OF OLAF AND VENUS" SERIES

Shopping, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Park, Macmillan Children's Books (London, England), 2000, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Home, Macmillan Children's Book (London, England), 2000, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Car, Macmillan Children's Books (London, England), 2000, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Series has been translated into French.

ILLUSTRATOR

Benedicte Froissant, Les fantasies de l'oncle Henri, 1990, translated by David Homel as Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests, Firefly Books (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1990.

Rémy Simard, Mon chien est un éléphant!, Casterman, 1994, translated by David Homel as My Dog Is an Elephant, Firefly Books (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Rémy Simard, La bottine magique de Pipo, [Paris, France], translated as The Magic Boot, Firefly Books (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1995.

Hannah Roche, Corey's Kite, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1996.

Hannah Roche, Sandra's Sun Hat, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1996.

Hannah Roche, Su's Snowgirl, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1996.

Hannah Roche, Pete's Puddles, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1996.

Hannah Roche, Soleil, Hatier (Paris, France), 1996.

Hannah Roche, Vent, Hatier (Paris, France), 1996.

Hannah Roche, Pluie, Hatier (Paris, France), 1996.

Jacques Godbout, Une leçon de chasse, Boréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1997.

François Gravel, Klonk (novel), Hachette (Paris, France), 1997.

François Gravel, Le cauchemar de Klonk (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1997.

François Gravel, Klonk et le Beatle mouillé (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1997.

James Sage, Sassy Gracie, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

Rémy Simard, Monsieur Ilétainunefois, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998, translated by David Homel as Mister Once-upon-a-Time, 1998.

Hannah Roche, Have You Ever Seen a Chicken Hatch?, Zero to Ten (New York, NY), 1998.

Hannah Roche, Have You Ever Picked a Dandelion?, Zero to Ten (New York, NY), 1998.

Joceline Sanschagrin, Le cercle des magiciens, La Courte Échelle (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1998.

Hannah Roche, Have You Ever Seen a Frog Leap?, Zero to Ten (New York, NY), 1999.

Hannah Roche, Have You Ever Seen a Cat Purr?, Zero to Ten (New York, NY), 1999.

Joceline Sanschagrin, La marque du dragon, La Courte Échelle (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1999.

François Gravel, Klonk et le treize noir (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1999.

Laurent Chabin, La machine à manger des brocolis, Boréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2000.

François Gravel, Klonk et la queue du Scorpion (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2000.

François Gravel, David et le fantôme, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2000.

Joceline Sanschagrin, Le labyrinthe des rêves, La Courte Échelle (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2000.

Joël des Rosiers, Métropolis opéra: suivi de Tribu (poetry), Triptyque (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2000.

Matthieu de Laubier, Une joyeux Noël, Bayard Jeunesse (Paris, France), 2000.

François Gravel, David et les monstres de la forêt, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2000.

François Gravel, Coca-Klonk (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2001.

François Gravel, David et le précipice, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2001.

Hannah Roche, Une fleur est née!, Millepages (Paris, France), 2001.

Hannah Roche, Un poussin est né!, Millepages (Paris, France), 2001.

Ron Hirsch, No, No Jack!, Dial Books for Young Children (New York, NY), 2002.

François Gravel, David et la maison de la sorcière, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2002.

François Gravel, La racine carrée de Klonk (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2002.

Jacques Godbout, Mes petites fesses, Les 400 Coups (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2002.

Dayle Ann Dodds, Where's Pup?, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2003.

François Gravel, La testament de Klonk (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2003.

François Gravel, David et l'orage, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2003.

Cynthia Zarin, Albert, the Dog Who Liked to Ride in Taxis, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.

François Gravel, David et les crabes noirs, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2004.

François Gravel, Klonk contre Klonk (novel), Québec/Amérique (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2004.

François Gravel, David et le salon funéraire, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Quebec, Canada), 2005.

Emily Jenkins, That New Animal, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.

Halfdan Wedel Rasmussen, The Ladder (originally published as Stigen), translation by Marilyn Nelson, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Marsha Diane Arnold, Roar of a Snore, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2006.

Sidelights

Quebec-based artist and author/illustrator Pierre Pratt creates exuberant, distinctive illustrations for children's books. In addition to producing images for the texts of predominately French-language authors such as Rémy Simard, Hannah Roche, and François Gravel, he has also paired his brightly colored illustrations with his own stories, and has produced a series of board books focusing on the adventures of Olaf the elephant and Venus the mouse. Praising Pratt's contribution to Dayle Ann Dodds's humorous rhyming picture book Where's Pup?, about a small dog who becomes mislaid by his circus-clown owner, Horn Book writer Betty Carter cited the artist's "near-sunshine palette" and added that Pratt's illustrations "provide context, offering a colorful, but uncluttered circus setting" that enhances Dodds's "engaging story." In School Library Journal, Linda M. Kenton dubbed the book "a visually exciting charmer for storytime."

Pratt decided on his career course as a child, when drawing was his favorite pastime. "As far back as I can remember, I always drew," the illustrator noted on the Annick Press Web site. "When my father took me to hockey games, I would go home and draw the players!" During his teen years, Pratt became a fan of "Tintin" comics and was inspired to write and illustrate his own comic strips; following high school he enrolled in college to study graphic design.

Pratt's first illustration project, a story by Benedicte Froissant published in English translation in 1990 as Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests, is a surreal fantasy in
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which the chickens pictured on Uncle Henry's shirt come alive during an otherwise quiet dinner, though only the children at the table seem to notice. Pratt's drawings are "zany and inventive," averred Anne Denoon in Books in Canada; "although his characters are pretty grotesque, they seem ideally suited to the strange goings-on at the dinner table." While Quill & Quire reviewer Frieda Wishinsky termed Froissant's story "nothing but silly," she called Pratt's illustrations "exaggerated but in a quirky, stylized manner. The colours are warm and inviting and the pages well designed." Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests earned Pratt two major illustration honors, and established him as a contender in the arena of children's book illustration.

Pratt teams up with children's author Rémy Simard in several books that have been noted for their absurdist tendencies. In My Dog Is an Elephant, for example, a boy tries to save an elephant from being sent back to the zoo by disguising the creature as a moose, a dinosaur, a butterfly, and finally, as the boy's father. "Both author and illustrator draw their jokes from within the fantasy they have created," Janet McNaughton observed in Quill & Quire, adding: "This state of serious silliness is a worthwhile achievement in a children's book." Although Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, a contributor to School Library Journal, remarked that "most of the humor is rather mature" for the intended audience, and the illustrations are "bright, but not particularly attractive," other critics wrote that the quality of Simard's story equals that of Pratt's illustrations. As Diana Brebner commented in Books in Canada, "The high quality of the artwork" and the "delightful absurdity of the text" keeps the reader turning the pages until the unexpected ending.

For The Magic Boot Pratt and Simard create a picture book that explains why the land mass of Italy looks like a boot when viewed from above. Little Pipo's feet are too big for any boots made, so a good fairy gives him a pair of magic boots that will grow every time they are watered. After several mishaps occur, one of the boots gets tossed into the Mediterranean Sea. "The basic idea … is excellent," declared a reviewer in Junior Bookshelf, who added, however, that "somehow, we are left dissatisfied." Some critics faulted the book's narrative rather than its artwork; a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Pratt's illustrations "heighten the absurdity but don't deepen the story." The Magic Boot "isn't quite the tour de force that My Dog Is an Elephant was," McNaughton allowed, "but it proves that this pair is far from exhausting the creative potential of their partner-ship." Another collaboration, Mister Once-in-a-Time, won Pratt one of several Governor General awards for illustration he has received over his career.

Follow That Hat! marks Pratt's entry into children's literature in the role of writer. In the award-winning book, Leon chases his hat around the world, utilizing every form of transportation imaginable in the process. "Pratt's plot is admirable in its simplicity," McNaughton remarked in a Quill & Quire review. While Jane Robinson maintained in a Canadian Review of Materials appraisal that the story is "too 'clever' and too sophisticated for the younger reader," she added that experienced story-readers, if alerted, can sidestep "this pitfall and, that way, everyone could enjoy the work of this talented artist." Also expressing reservations about the story's text, Robin Baird Lewis wrote in Canadian Children's Literature that Pratt's illustrations, featuring "richly deep and textural colours, yummily scrumbled across black underpainting," more than compensate.

"I have lots of ideas, but sometimes it's difficult to get them out," Pratt noted on the Annick Press Web site, referring to the fact that his work sometimes requires him to tap into the visual inspiration behind other people's stories. "Once I start working, though, the ideas usually begin to flow," he added. Using oil pastel and acrylic paint in his works and incorporating heavy black lines, he often plays with perspective and draws on influences from Matisse to Edward Hopper to give his works an absurdist or sometimes merely silly slant. In fact, Pratt's illustrations are sometimes more successful with critics than the stories they accompany. "Pratt is undoubtedly one of the most original of the many gifted children's illustrators Quebec has given us in the last decade," remarked McNaughton in a 1992 Quill & Quire article, reflecting the award-winning artist's growing stature.

His lighthearted, quirky approach reflects the enjoyment Pratt takes in his work. In fact, he often incorporates musical interludes into his working day. "Often while I'm waiting for a painting to dry," he admitted, "I have fun playing the accordion, or the double bass, or the piano, or the guitar."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of No, No, Jack, p. 864.

Books in Canada, April, 1991, Anne Denoon, review of Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests, p. 37; December, 1994, Diana Brebner, review of My Dog Is an Elephant, p. 55.

Canadian Children's Literature, number 72, 1993, Robin Baird Lewis, review of Follow That Hat!, pp. 80-81.

Canadian Review of Materials, January, 1991, Adele M. Fasick, review of Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests, p. 26; January, 1993, Jane Robinson, review of Follow That Hat!, p. 23.

Horn Book, March-April, 2003, Betty Carter, review of Where's Pup?, p. 201.

Junior Bookshelf, June, 1996, review of The Magic Boot, p. 103.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of No, No, Jack!, p. 106; January 15, 2003, review of Where's Pup?, p. 141.

Publishers Weekly, August 28, 1995, review of The Magic Boot, p. 113; June 11, 2001, review of Park, Shopping, Car, and Home, p. 87; April 7, 2003, review of Where's Pup?, p. 69.

Quill & Quire, January, 1991, Frieda Wishinsky, review of Uncle Henry's Dinner Guests, p. 22; October, 1992, Janet McNaughton, review of Follow That Hat!, p. 33; September, 1994, Janet McNaughton, review of My Dog Is an Elephant; April, 2001, review of I See … My Mom/I See … My Dad, pp. 33-34.

School Library Journal, February, 1995, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of My Dog Is an Elephant, p. 82; November, 2001, Olga R. Kuharets, review of "Very Busy Life of Olaf and Venus" series, p. 133; July, 2003, Linda M. Kenton, review of Where's Pup?, p. 95.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 1, 2001, review of Home, p. 3.

ONLINE

Annick Press Web site, http://www.annickpress.com/ (December 1, 2005), "Pierre Pratt."

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