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Michael Garland (1952–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Born 1952, in New York, NY; Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A., 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Painting landscapes.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dutton's Children's Books, 345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

Career

Author and illustrator of children's books. Formerly worked as a janitor in a nursing home and as a cab driver.

Honors Awards

Certificates of merit, Society of Illustrators, 1981–88, 1990–92; Booklist Editor's Choice designation, and National Council on Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Children's Trade Book designation, both c. 1989, both for My Cousin Katie.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

My Cousin Katie, T.Y. Crowell (New York, NY), 1989.

Circus Girl, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Dinner at Magritte's, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Mouse before Christmas, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Angel Cat, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1998.

An Elf for Christmas, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1999.

The Big Stone, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1999.

Icarus Swinebuckle, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2000.

Christmas Magic, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Last Night at the Zoo, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2001.

Mystery Mansion: A Look-Again Book, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The President and Mom's Apple Pie, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Christmas City: A Look-Again Book, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Great Easter Egg Hunt: A Look-Again Book, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Miss Smith Reads Again, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2006.

ILLUSTRATOR

Lucille Clifton, Sonora the Beautiful, Dutton (New York, NY), 1981.

Dale Carlson, The Frog People, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.

Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Found among the Papers of the Late Diedrich Knickerbocker, Caroline House (Honesdale, PA), 1992.

Max Lucado, Alabaster's Song: Christmas through the Eyes of an Angel, Word Publications (Dallas, TX), 1996.

Elizabeth Friedrich, Leah's Pony, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1996.

Corinne Demas Bliss, Electra and the Charlotte Russe, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1997.

Marlene Targ Brill, Diary of a Drummer Boy, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1998.

Ann Tompert, Saint Patrick, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1998.

Ann Tompert, Saint Nicholas, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2000.

Holy Bible: Children's Illustrated Edition, Nelsonword (Nashville, TN), 2001.

Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom, The Best Place to Read, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Ann Tompert, Joan of Arc: Heroine of France, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.

Stu Smith, Goldilocks and the Three Martians, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2004.

James Patterson, SantaKid, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.

Kimberly Wagner Klier, Firefly Friend, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Gloria Estefan, The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog, Rayo (New York, NY), 2005.

Steven Kroll, Pooch on the Loose: A Christmas Adventure, Marshall Cavendish Children (New York, NY), 2005.

Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom, The Best Time to Read, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.

Sidelights

Michael Garland, a native New Yorker who earned a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute in 1974, began his career as an illustrator of children's books. He has since both written and illustrated works for the young in a number of areas, including biography, picture books, and puzzle-and-story combinations. Both as an author and illustrator, Garland's work is known for its imagination, charm, and energy. His illustrations have been referred to as "a slick fusion of soft and razor-edged computer images that sport electric coloring and quirky shading" by a Kirkus Reviews contributor, writing about The Best Place to Read; and a "blend [of] mostly flat, postmodern perspectives with photo-collage elements and a spectrum of styles, from painterly to folk-like to … almost puckish" by a Publishers Weekly critic reviewing Joan of Arc: Heroine of France. Sonora the Beautiful and The Frog People, both issued by Dutton, were the first titles containing Garland's art work.

Garland suspected from a very young age that he would grow up to be an artist. "I wasn't the smartest one in my class or the best athlete in any sport," he recalled on the Penguin Group USA Web site, "but when they passed out the paper and crayons, it was my time to shine." Drawing was a frequent feature of Garland's early work, as well as painting; he is particularly respected for his skill in acrylic painting. Electra and the Charlotte Russe was his first foray into computer-assisted illustration, a technique for which he has also become well known. He continues to use both traditional methods—painting and drawing—as well as computer techniques in his art.

My Cousin Katie, Garland's debut as an author/illustrator, is the story of a young child and her life on a farm. During the visit of a cousin, all of the farm activities are depicted both visually and by means of the text, and the reader sees Katie as a real participant in the life of the farm. Garland employs a simple vocabulary to depict this experience, making the story appropriate for young children. School Library Journal reviewer Janet DiGianni called attention to the illustrator's technique of rendering scenes and objects from a child's perspective, thus reinforcing Katie's view of the scale of life. Critics have commented on Garland's use of a realistic style imbued with a certain idealism that conveys a romantic vision of rural farm life.

Like My Cousin Katie, Circus Girl presents a child's life that is substantially different from the more-familiar urban or suburban model. The author has imagined, in book form, the life of an extended family of circus performers. Father performs as a clown, while mother is a tightrope walker. Alice, the circus girl, and the rest of the family are all involved in the work that makes the show possible. There is no plot, but rather a group of scenes depicting everyday activities that make up life in the circus. Garland again employed a realistic style, with a bright palette of acrylic paints. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist praised the fanciful final scene where the father, in full clown regalia, reads a bedtime story to Alice and cages full of enthralled wild animals.

Garland has also produced several "search-and-find" combination story and puzzle books. Christmas Magic: A Look-Again Book, Mystery Mansion: A Look-Again Book, Christmas City: A Look-Again Book, and The Great Easter Egg Hunt: A Look-Again Book are all structured around a boy named Tommy and his aunt Jeanne. The aunt uses rhymed clues to lead Tommy on mysterious searches through fantastic landscapes—The Great Easter Egg Hunt, for example, features a ten-foot-tall chocolate bunny and a Fifth Avenue Easter parade that has been crashed by Santa Claus, a Halloween witch, and a leprechaun. At the end of each hunt is a lovely surprise.

Garland's hunts are complex—over four hundred animals are hidden in the illustrations for Mystery Mansion, for example—and this makes finding the hidden objects all a challenge that will keep puzzle-loving kids coming back. The "Look-Again" books have received favorable notice for their opulent and complex illustrations and have been recognized for presenting challenges both to the intellect and the imagination. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted of Mystery Mansion that the digital art adds considerably to the attractiveness of the book and the experience it evokes, while Linda L. Walkins, reviewing The Great Easter Egg Hunt for School Library Journal, called the artwork "vibrant" and "eye-catching." "Garland … pulls out all the digital stops" in Christmas City, Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist, adding that the author/illustrator creates "an ornately detailed, architectural fantasy of a grand metropolis."

Another of Garland's self-illustrated titles, Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook, features a very unusual teacher. Miss Smith styles her bright, orange-red hair in spikes
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and wears a leather jacket, but to the students in her class, the most unusual thing about her is her magical leather-bound storybook. When she opens it and reads, the characters come out to roam the classroom, which itself is transformed into a forest or pirate ship or whatever else is called for in the tale. When she finishes the story, though, everything returns to normal. Then one day, when Miss Smith is late to school, the principal opens the magic book to read—and promptly flees in terror when a dragon emerges from the pages. The students add to the chaos, reading the beginnings of more and more stories but never finishing any of them, causing characters from the Cowardly Lion to the Mad Hatter to crowd into the school. As with Garland's other books, "the lively, bright illustrations have a glossy, computer-generated quality … that young readers will appreciate," Catherine Threadgill remarked in School Library Journal.

Dinner at Magritte's, also written and illustrated by Garland, is a clear acknowledgment of the author/illustrator's long-held interest in surrealism. In the New York Times Book Review, the book was complimented for its wit and value as sophisticated entertainment. In fact, Garland's work often has a fanciful quality to it. The President and Mom's Apple Pie, a tale of President William Howard Taft's legendary appetite, and Icarus Swinebuckle are both stories recognized for their charm and humor. The former title, for example, imagines what might have happened if Taft had gotten distracted on a trip to a small town in 1909. A small boy narrates how the 300-pound president came to his town to dedicate a new flagpole, but instead set off in search of the source of a wonderful smell. His quest takes him to an Italian restaurant, a barbeque joint, and Mrs. Wong's Hunan Palace before he finds the source: an apple pie cooling on the boy's own windowsill. "The colorful, playful illustrations capture the energy of the comical situation," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher also praised Garland's illustrations for this title, noting that the "bold, eye-popping artwork fairly leaps off the page."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 1989, Denise Wilms, review of My Cousin Katie, p. 70; November 1, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Found among the Papers of the Late Diedrich Knickerbocker, p. 513; June 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, review of Circus Girl, p. 1856; March 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Leah's Pony, p. 1187; October 15, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of The Mouse before Christmas, p. 414; February 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Saint Patrick, p. 916; November 1, 1999, Kathy Broderick, review of An Elf for Christmas, p. 538; February 15, 2000, John Peters, review of Icarus Swinebuckle, p. 1117; July, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Last Night at the Zoo, p. 2019; September 1, 2001, Catherine Andronik, review of Christmas Magic, p. 120; March 1, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of The President and Mom's Apple Pie, p. 1140; October 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Christmas City: A Look-Again Book, p. 335; February 15, 2005, Julie Cummins, review of The Great Easter Egg Hunt: A Look-Again Book, p. 1084.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1993, review of Circus Girl, p. 247; April, 1995, review of Dinner at Magritte's, p. 273; November, 2001, review of Christmas Magic, p. 102.

Catholic Library World, March, 1999, Charlotte Decker, review of Angel Cat, p. 48.

Childhood Education, fall, 2001, Valerie Deysher, review of Last Night at the Zoo, p. 49.

Children's Book Review Service, winter, 1990, review of My Cousin Katie, p. 62; January, 1999, review of Angel Cat, p. 50; April, 1999, review of The Big Stone, p. 104.

Horn Book, July-August, 1995, Mary M. Burns, review of Dinner at Magritte's, p. 450.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1998, review of Angel Cat, p. 1531; September 15, 1999, review of An Elf for Christmas, p. 1499; April 1, 2000, review of Icarus Swinebuckle, p. 474; May 1, 2002, review of The President and Mom's Apple Pie, p. 653; November 1, 2002, review of Christmas City, p. 1618; December 1, 2002, review of The Best Place to Read, p. 1766; June 1, 2003, review of Miss Smith's Incredible Story-book, p. 803; December 15, 2004, review of The Great Easter Egg Hunt, p. 1201.

New York Times Book Review, September 24, 1995, review of Dinner at Magritte's, p. 29; June 16, 2002, Rebecca Boggs Roberts, review of The President and Mom's Apple Pie, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1993, review of Circus Girl, p. 54; May 22, 1995, review of Dinner at Magritte's, p. 59; October 6, 1997, review of The Mouse before Christmas, p. 54; January 26, 1998, review of Saint Patrick, p. 86; September 27, 1999, review of An Elf for Christmas, p. 55; March 6, 2000, review of Icarus Swinebuckle, p. 111; September 25, 2000, review of Saint Nicholas, p. 113; January 22, 2001, review of Last Night at the Zoo, p. 324; July 2, 2001, review of Mystery Mansion: A Look-Again Book, p. 75; September 24, 2001, review of Christmas Magic, p. 50; March 25, 2002, review of The President and Mom's Apple Pie, p. 63; February 10, 2003, review of Joan of Arc: Heroine of France, p. 187; June 9, 2003, review of Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook, p. 51.

School Library Journal, November, 1989, Janet DiGianni, review of My Cousin Katie, p. 80; November, 1992, Andrew W. Hunter, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 94; December, 1993, Louise L. Sherman, review of Circus Girl, pp. 86-87; March, 1996, Liza Bliss, review of Leah's Pony, p. 173; October, 1997, Carolyn Jenks, review of Electra and the Charlotte Russe, p. 88; March, 1998, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Saint Patrick, p. 207; May, 1998, Jackie Hechtkopf, review of Diary of a Drummer Boy, p. 107; October, 1998, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Angel Cat, p. 100; June, 1999, Jackie Hechtkopf, review of The Big Stone, p. 95; October, 1999, review of An Elf for Christmas, p. 67; October, 2000, review of Saint Nicholas, p. 63; May, 2001, Blair Christolon, review of Last Night at the Zoo, p. 115; September, 2001, John Peters, Mystery Mansion, p. 188; October, 2001, review of Christmas Magic, p. 65; June, 2002, Alicia Eames, review of The President and Mom's Apple Pie, p. 94; October, 2002, Maureen Wade, review of Christmas City, p. 59; March, 2003, Ann Welton, review of Joan of Arc, p. 225; May, 2003, Kathie Meizner, review of The Best Place to Read, p. 108; October, 2003, Catherine Threadgill, review of Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook, p. 125; February, 2005, Linda L. Walkins, review of The Great Easter Egg Hunt, p. 97.

Wilson Library Bulletin, November, 1992, Frances Bradburn, review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, p. 74.

ONLINE

Boyds Mills Press Web site, http://www.boydsmillspress.com/ (January 26, 2006), "Authors and Illustrators: Michael Garland."

Penguin Group USA Web site, http://us.penguingroup.com/ (January 26, 2006), "Michael Garland."

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