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Betsy Lewin (1937–) Biography - Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Born 1937, in Clearfield, PA; Education: Pratt Institute of Art, B.F.A., 1959. Hobbies and other interests: Traveling to wilderness areas throughout the world, hiking, canoeing, and observing wildlife.

Career

Freelance writer and illustrator. Exhibitions: joint exhibition with Ted Lewin at National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Abilene, TX, 2002.

Honors Awards

Pick of the List, American Booksellers, 1990, for Araminta's Paintbox, and 1993, for Ho! Ho! Ho! The Complete Book of Christmas Words, written by Lynda Graham Barber; Children's Choice, 1994, for Yo! Hungry Wolf, written by David Vozar, and Somebody Catch My Homework, written by David L. Harrison; Best Books, School Library Journal, 1995, for Booby Hatch; Notable Book for Children designation, Smithsonian magazine, 1999, and Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children designation, National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)/CBC, 2000, both for Gorilla Walk; John Burroughs Award, American Museum of Natural History, and Outstanding Trade Books for Children Award designation, NSTA/CBC, both 2000, both for Elephant Quest.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Animal Snackers, Dodd (New York, NY), 1980, revised with new illustrations, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.

Cat Count, Dodd (New York, NY), 1981, revised with new illustrations, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.

Hip, Hippo, Hooray, Dodd (New York, NY), 1982.

Betsy Lewin

Booby Hatch, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.

Walk a Green Path, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1995.

Chubbo's Pool, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1997.

What's the Matter, Habibi?, Clarion (New York, NY), 1997.

Wiley Learns to Spell, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

(With husband, Ted Lewin) Gorilla Walk, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Ted Lewin) Elephant Quest, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Groundhog Day, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Ted Lewin) Top to Bottom Down Under, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

ILLUSTRATOR

Helen Kronberg Olson, The Strange Thing That Happened to Oliver Wendell Iscovitch, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1983.

Berniece Freschet, Furlie Cat, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1986.

Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, Penny, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1987.

Arnold Adoff, Greens: Poems, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1988.

Maria Polushkin, Kitten in Trouble, Bradbury Press (New York, NY) 1988.

Maria Polushkin, Here's That Kitten, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Peter Limberg, Weird: The Complete Book of Halloween Words, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Karen Ackerman, Araminta's Paintbox, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

Lynda Graham Barber, Mushy: The Complete Book of Valentine's Words, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Winifred Morris, What If the Shark Wears Tennis Shoes?, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

Lynda Graham Barber, Gobble: The Complete Book of Thanksgiving Words, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Harry Allard, The Hummingbirds' Day, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991.

Patricia Reilly Giff, The War Began at Supper: Letters to Miss Loria, Dell (New York, NY), 1991.

Carolyn Haywood, Eddie and the Fire Engine, Beach Tree, 1992.

Grace Maccarone, Itchy, Itchy Chicken Pox, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Russell Hoban, Jim Hedgehog and the Lonesome Tower, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1992.

Russell Hoban, Jim Hedgehog's Supernatural Christmas, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1992.

Lynda Graham Barber, Doodle Dandy: The Complete Book of Independence Day Words, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Joanne Ryder, First Grade Elves, Troll (Metuchen, NJ), 1993.

Joanne Ryder, First Grade Ladybugs, Troll (Metuchen, NJ), 1993.

Joanne Ryder, First Grade Valentines, Troll (Metuchen, NJ), 1993.

Stephen Krensky, Fraidy Cats, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

Joanne Ryder, Hello, First Grade, Troll (Metuchen, NJ), 1993.

Lynda Graham Barber, Ho! Ho! Ho! The Complete Book of Christmas Words, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Ida Luttrell, Mattie's Little Possum Pet, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

David L. Harrison, Somebody Catch My Homework: Poems, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1993.

David Vozar, Yo! Hungry Wolf: A Nursery Rap, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.

David L. Harrison, The Boy Who Counted Stars: Poems, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA) 1994.

Caroline A. Levine, The Detective Stars and the Case of the Super Soccer Team, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.

Steven Kroll, I'm George Washington and You're Not!, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.

Evan Levine, What's Black and White and Came to Visit?, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Grace Maccarone, The Classroom Pet, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Grace Maccarone, The Lunch Box Surprise, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Grace Maccarone, My Tooth Is about to Fall Out, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

David Vozar, M.C. Turtle and the Hip Hop Hare: A Nursery Rap, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1995.

Grace Maccarone, The Gym Day Winner, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Grace Maccarone, The Recess Mess, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Grace Maccarone, Sharing Time Troubles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Jackie French Koller, No Such Thing, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1997.

David Vozar, RAPunzel: A Happenin' Rap, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.

Carol Sonenklar, Bug Girl, Holt (New York, NY), 1998.

Elizabeth Nygaard, Snake Alley Band, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.

Grace Maccarone, I Have a Cold, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Mary Skillings Prigger, Aunt Minnie McGranahan, Clarion (New York, NY), 1999.

Grace Maccarone, The Class Trip, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Elizabeth Winthrop, Promises, Clarion (New York, NY), 2000.

Patricia Lauber, Purrfectly Purrfect: Life at the Acatemy, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Nikki Grimes, Is It Far to Zanzibar?: Poems about Tanzania, Lothrop (New York, NY), 2000.

Doreen Cronin, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Simon &Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.

Elizabeth Winthrop, Dumpy La Rue, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2001.

Grace Maccarone, First Grade Friends: Softball Practice, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Barbara M. Joosse, A Houseful of Christmas, Holt (New York, NY), 2001.

Mary Skillings Prigger, Aunt Minnie and the Twister, Clarion (New York, NY), 2002.

Laura Krauss Melmed, A Hug Goes Around, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Doreen Cronin, Giggle, Giggle, Quack, Simon &Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Sarah Weeks, Two Eggs, Please, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.

Grace Maccarone, The Sleep Over, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

Doreen Cronin, Duck for President, Simon &Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Erica Silverman, Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2005.

Karla Kuskin, So, What's It Like to Be a Cat?, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.

Doreen Cronin, Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack: An Alphabetical Adventure, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.

Erica Silverman, Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Partners, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Doreen Cronin, Dooby Dooby Moo, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.

Doreen Cronin, Click, Clack, Splish, Splash: A Counting Adventure, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.

Eileen Spinelli, Heat Wave, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Sidelights

The lively and whimsical illustrations of Betsy Lewin grace the pages of dozens of books for children, including both her original stories and the tale of other writers. Growing up in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, Lewin revealed her creativity and imagination early on. "Drawing and painting have always been my main interests," she once told SATA, "and there was never a doubt in my mind when I was a child that I would be anything but an artist." Lewin completed her formal training in fine arts at New York City's Pratt Institute, and in 1963, she married fellow author/illustrator Ted Lewin. Though the couple have lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn, New York, for many years, they share a love of the outdoors that has led them to travel all over the world. The adventurous Lewin has observed animals in Africa, Australia, Brazil, and the Galapagos Islands. She has also hiked into a volcanic crater in Hawaii, canoed through the Everglades in Florida, and watched whales off the coast of Baja California in Mexico, and such incidents from her vast travels have found her way into many of her books. "My books combine my love of drawing, the sound of words, and the touching humor in much animal behavior," Lewin explained to SATA. "I observe and draw animals and wildlife and paint flowers in watercolors."

In Walk a Green Path Lewin introduces young readers to many of the exotic places she has visited. In a series of large watercolor paintings she depicts the plants native to various regions of the world: her detailed art brings to life giant lily pads in the Amazon River; tiny mosses growing on a dead stump in a woodland near a lake in upstate New York; the lush, dense greenery of the Australian rain forest; and potted flowers sunning themselves on an iron staircase in New York City. Each spread is accompanied by a short statement describing the vegetation and a brief poem expressing Lewin's impressions of the scene. "Most of the writing is intensely, compactly personal," stated a writer for Kirkus Reviews, "giving readers the impression that they are tagging along Lewin's trail." In a review for Booklist, Mary Harris Veeder called the illustrations "the most memorable part of the book, beautifully conveying a sense of Lewin's affection for growing things." Kathy Piehl, writing in School Library Journal, added that Walk a Green Path should "encourage readers to view their own surroundings with renewed attention."

Lewin goes on many of her travels in the company of her husband, and in several books the Lewins collaborate in relating these shared experiences. A 1997 trip to the mountains of Uganda is the subject of Gorilla Walk, a profile of the habitat of the rare mountain gorilla that was praised for its "handsome paintings and carefully focused text" by Horn Book contributor Margaret A. Bush. As Bush added, the Lewins share with their readers "intriguing glimpses of both the rarely seen animals and the ambiguities of ecotourism." Another collabora-One of Lewin's most popular picture books, Animal Snackers is a collection of rhyming poems that describe the meal-time habits of a varied roster of dinner guests.tion by the well-traveled couple, Elephant Quest opens a window on to the savannahs of Africa as the Lewins' "cheerful, humorous tone combines with reverence for the beauty and variety of nature," according to another Horn Book writer. In Top to Bottom Down Under armchair travelers can explore the vast continent of Australia, ranging from Kakadu National Park in the north to Kangaroo Island in Australia's cooler southern climes. Illustrated with Ted Lewin's paintings and Betsy Lewin's field sketches, Top to Bottom Down Under was praised by School Library Journal contributor Patricia Manning as an "eye-catching and informative … treat for animal lovers and adventurers alike." Citing the inclusion of animal facts in the book, Booklist reviewer Karin Snelson wrote that Top to Bottom Down Under allows readers to share the creative couple's "contagiously cheerful Aussie expedition."

Like many of her fictional picture books, Booby Hatch grew out of Lewin's travels, in this case to the Galapagos Islands. The picture book tells the story of Pepe, an unusual bird known as a blue-footed booby, that hatches from his egg to live along the islands' rocky shore. As Pepe grows up he learns how to fly, dive into the ocean and catch fish, and avoid being eaten by bigger animals. Before long, he meets a female booby and engages in a mating dance. Lewin's story ends with another egg nestled among the rocks, as the cycle of life begins again. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, praised the book as "a simple, appealing nature study for young children." In School Library Journal, Ellen Fader called Booby Hatch "a lovely book that succeeds in every way," adding that "Lewin's watercolor landscapes are spare and evocative."

At the start of her career, Lewin published several picture books that have proved so enduring that she has more recently re-illustrated them for new generations of children. Animal Snackers, a collection of unrhymed couplets that pair with illustrations to describe the way different animals deal with dinnertime, was first published in 1980. While the original version featured artwork incorporating bread-dough animals, Lewin reissued the book twenty years later, this time creating the ink-and-watercolor illustrations she has become known for. The new edition of the book, which also includes several new poems, was praised by several reviewers, including Rachel G. Payne, who in School Library Journal wrote that Lewin's "new art offers clearer and more naturalistic images of the snacking creatures." A Kirkus Reviews writer deemed the book "a light brush" with nature that will "leave young readers … rolling in the aisles." Featuring pen-and-ink art in its 1981 edition, Cat Count was also reissued with watercolor art, its simple rhyming text recounting a child's ten friends and their cat-filled households, with resident felines ranging in population from one to ten. From partying cats and circus cats to sleeping cats, musical cats, and very, very lazy cats, the book contains fifty-five cats in total,… until one particularly fat cat proves to be a mother cat as well. "Cat lovers and children just learning how to count will be entranced by this colorful, energetic book," wrote Booklist contributor Diane Foote, while in School Library Journal Joy Fleishhacker noted that Lewin's picture-book revival "glows with warmth and visual humor."

In addition to creating art for both her fictional stories and her real-life adventures, Lewin illustrates books for many other writers, most of which feature animals as prominent characters. Mattie's Little Possum Pet, written by Ida Luttrell, tells the story of a woman named Mattie who, on her way to pick flowers, finds a possum lying on its back with its tongue hanging out and its eyes rolled back in its head. Mattie feels sorry for the little creature, which is actually playing dead, and takes it home with her. Her cat and dog do not trust the possum, however, and before long the wild creature proves them right by causing trouble and arranging for the pets to take the blame. Finally, Mattie realizes that the mischievous possum has been fooling her all along and is better off living out in the wild. "Excitement, action, and fun characterize Lewin's lively drawings, which seem to have been effortlessly and spontaneously executed," Anna Biagioni Hart wrote in a review for School Library Journal.

Other animal tales enhanced by Lewin's illustrations include What's Black and White and Came to Visit?, by Evan Levine, as well as a series of books by Doreen Cronin that include Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Duck for President, and Giggle, Gaggle, Quack. What's Black and White and Came to Visit? begins when a young girl named Lily discovers a skunk in the drainpipe of her house. Her parents are not sure how to get the skunk to come out without causing it to create an odor. They call the fire department, but the firemen do not know how to handle the situation either. Before long the police department, the town's expert yodeler, and a variety of other characters have taken over Lily's lawn in a noisy disagreement about how to proceed. Finally, the skunk is forced to abandon its hiding place in the drainpipe and run back into the woods in order to find some much-wanted peace and quiet. In a review for School Library Journal, Mary Lou Budd noted that "Lewin's pen-and-ink drawings, colored in with soft, watercolor pastels, deftly express the story's fun, action, and emotion."

Duck for President, like Click, Clack, Moo and others in Cronin's humorous series, features a clever barnyard resident with a lazy streak and ambitions that range beyond the quiet of his rural home. Caught up in the excitement surrounding the presidential election, Duck decides that being voted chief of the barnyard will allow him to delegate his chores and be boss instead. Pitted against Farmer Brown, Duck's energetic campaigning wins him the election and causes him to set his sights on the state governorship and, ultimately the presidency of the United States. Noting that the book is entertaining to both youngsters and more history-savvy adults, a Publishers Weekly contributor added that "Lewin's chunky-outlined watercolors … cater to the younger crowd with her usual dashes of humor and daffy sweetness."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 1992, p. 1680; August, 1993, p. 2071; October 15, 1994, p. 436; March 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Booby Hatch, p. 1248; June 1, 1995, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Walk a Green Path, p. 1778; August 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Chubbo's Pool, p. 1907; August, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Gorilla Walk, p. 2054; April 1, 2003, Diane Foote, review of Cat Count, p. 1403; January 1, 2005, Karin Snelson, review of Top to Bottom Down Under, p. 866.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1982, p. 50; October, 1996, review of Chubbo's Pool, p. 68; September, 1997, review of What's the Matter, Habibi?, p. 17.

Horn Book, June, 1981, p. 294; November, 1999, Margaret A. Bush, review of Gorilla Walk, p. 758; January, 2001, review of Elephant Quest, p. 111.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1995. review of Walk a Green Path; March 1, 2003, review of Cat Count, p. 390; August 15, 2004, review of Animal Snackers, p. 809; February 15, 2005, review of Top to Bottom Down Under, p. 231.

Publishers Weekly, March 16, 1990, p. 68; March 23, 1992, p. 72; July 19, 1993, p. 253; October 11, 1993, p. 88; August 8, 1994, p. 428; June 2, 1997, review of What's the Matter, Habibi?, p. 70; August 2, 1999, review of Gorilla Walk, p. 84; July 24, 2000, review of Elephant Quest, p. 95; February 16, 2004, review of Duck for President, p. 170.

School Library Journal, June, 1990, p. 105; June, 1992, p. 95; September, 1993, Anna Biagioni Hart, review of Mattie's Little Possum Pet, p. 210; September, 1994, Mary Lou Budd, review of What's Black and White and Came to Visit, p. 188; April, 1995, Kathy Piehl, review of Walk a Green Path, p. 126; May, 1995, Ellen Fader, review of Booby Hatch; September, 1996, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Chubbo's Pool, p. 184; September, 2000, Margaret Bush, review of Elephant Quest, p. 251; April, 2003, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Cat Count, p. 132; October, 2004, Rachel G. Payne, review of Animal Snackers, p. 144; March, 2005, Patricia Manning, review of Top To Bottom Down Under, p. 196.

ONLINE

Betsy Lewin Home Page, http://www.betsylewin.com (April 12, 2006).

Oliver Lewis Biography [next] [back] Ted Lewin (1935–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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