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Chuck Richards (1957–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights

jungle gym jitters illustrator

Born 1957; Education: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, B.F.A., 1979; University of Wisconsin, Madison, M.F.A., 1983.

Addresses

Office—Iowa State University, Art and Design Department, 158 College of Design, Ames, IA 50011.

Career

Educator, illustrator, and author. Teacher of art at colleges and art schools beginning c. 1983; Iowa State University, Ames, associate professor of art and design.

When Dad's creativity goes too far, Jerry's backyard playscape turns terrifying in Chuck Richards' self-illustrated Jungle Gym Jitters. (Text and illustrations copyright © 2004 by Chuck Richards. Published by Walker & Company. Reproduced by permission.)

Writings

(Self-illustrated) Jungle Gym Jitters, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2004.

(Illustrator) Robin Pulver, Author Day for Room 3T, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Sidelights

After working as an art teacher for over two decades, illustrator Chuck Richards made his publishing debut with Jungle Gym Jitters, a picture book for children about the evolution of a simple backyard playscape into something almost scary. Inspired by cartoon artists such as Basil Wolverton of Mad magazine fame, Richards creates what a Publishers Weekly contributor described as "extraordinarily crafted drawings" that reveal hidden elements upon close examination. Noting that it took Richards five years to create the artwork for Jungle Gym Jitters, New York Times Book Review contributor David Small wrote that the illustrator's "fanatic, careful, obsessive art-making" results in a book that is "lively and spontaneous, page after exuberant page." In addition to his original story, the author/illustrator has also created art for Robin Pulver's Author Day for Room 3T.

Featuring a rhyming text, Jungle Gym Jitters focuses on the plight of Jerry J. Jingle, a boy whose dad, George Jingle, decides to build the best backyard jungle gym ever. As George sets to work to make his son's dreams come true, only the best will do. He follows jungle gym plans to a T and his efforts result in a sturdy but commonplace construction. Determined to create something special, the man begins rebuilding parts of his invention incorporating a mechanical silver loop-de-loop, a seesaw, jungle-creature decorations, and even live animals. Richards' colored-pencil illustrations, done on grey paper, follow the project of the compulsive builder and depict the huge celebration held after George's creation is complete, with children and grown-ups alike amazed by the awe-inspiring contraption. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that "children will pore delightedly over the teeming artwork" and added that Jerry's "playful, painfully competent" dad provides a "refreshing change of pace" from the typical picture-book father. Richards' illustrations were widely praised, Wendy Lukehart commenting in School Library Journal that the author/illustrator's "surreal scenes … are reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg's work in Jumanji," and another Publishers Weekly contributor deemed the volume a "spectacularly illustrated, over-the-top tale." Richards' images in Jungle Gym Jitters are "more crowded and frenetic," Lukehart added, "but the extreme perspectives, retro setting, and monochromatic tones" will fascinate young readers. In Booklist, Ilene Cooper cited the illustrator's "incredible eye for detail."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Jungle Gym Jitters, p. 493.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Jungle Gym Jitters, p. 919.

New York Times Book Review, April 10, 2005, David Small, review of Jungle Gym Jitters.

Publishers Weekly, September 20, 2004, review of Jungle Gym Jitters, p. 61; December 20, 2004, "Flying Starts," pp. 30-34.

School Library Journal, October, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of Jungle Gym Jitters, p. 128.

ONLINE

Chuck Richards Home Page, http://www.chuckrichards.us (April 11, 2006).

Iowa State University Web site, http://www.design.iastate.edu/ (April 11, 2006), "Chuck Richards."

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