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Giselle Potter Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Education: Studied at Rhode Island School of Design.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 597 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10017.

Career

Illustrator for books and magazines, including New Yorker, New York Times, and Land of Nod catalogue; author.

Honors Awards

Notable book citations, American Library Association, for Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale and Gabriella's Song.

Writings

(Self-illustrated) Lucy's Eyes and Margaret's Dragon: The Lives of the Virgin Saints, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1997.

(Self-illustrated) The Year I Didn't Go to School, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.

(Self-illustrated) Chloe's Birthday … and Me, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2004.

ILLUSTRATOR

Candace Fleming, Gabriella's Song, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.

Anthony L. Manna, Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.

Candace Fleming, When Agnes Caws, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1999.

Cari Best, Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!, DK Publishers (New York, NY), 1999.

Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, The Big Box, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 1999.

Pat McKissack, The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2000.

Mary Pope Osborne, Kate and the Beanstalk, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2000.

Cari Best, Shrinking Violet, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.

Barbara M. Joosse, Ghost Wings, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2001.

Amy MacDonald, Quentin Fenton Herter Three, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

Mary Pope Osborne, The Brave Little Seamstress, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.

Cari Best, When Catherine the Great and I Were Eight!, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

Ursula Hegi, Trudi & Pia, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Sidelights

Giselle Potter led an unconventional life as a young girl and has followed her muse as an adult author and illustrator of children's books. The daughter of parents who supported themselves as traveling puppeteers, she spent a great deal of time on the road as a child, helping to entertain audiences and amusing herself by drawing and keeping a journal. From grandparents who were painters she inherited talent and received encouragement when she spent long hours doing her own art. Today Potter is a highly regarded illustrator whose quirky pictures often grace stories about unusual, adventurous, and family-oriented heroines.

Potter took her formal training at the Rhode Island School of Design, augmenting her work there with independent studies in Italy and Indonesia. As a fledgling professional she landed work with the New Yorker and New York Times, and from there moved into children's books. As an illustrator she is perhaps best known for her collaborations with Cari Best on several "Catherine the Great" books, including Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! and When Catherine the Great and I Were Eight! These titles look back lovingly at author Best's Russian grandmother who lived in New York City. In her Booklist review of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!, Shelle Rosenfeld commended Potter's "festive, whimsical artwork" that is "filled with rich detail and diverse, expressive characters."

Potter has also teamed with Mary Pope Osborne on two somewhat fractured fairy tales, Kate and the Beanstalk and The Brave Little Seamstress. These humorous stories offer a feminist spin on two standard folktales, giving the hero's role to plucky heroines who use their wits to save the day. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote of Kate and the Beanstalk: "There's much to enjoy in this spunky picture book, which puts a fresh face on an old favorite." In Booklist, Julie Cummins noted that Potter's mixed media illustrations "affix just the right amount of sauciness to the cheeky heroine."

Rare indeed is the child who doesn't dream of taking a year off school to travel to an exotic land for strange adventures. Potter actually lived out this dream when she was seven years old. That year, she journeyed with her parents and baby sister to Italy, where they ventured from town to town, performing puppet shows and living out of steamer trunks and a carnival truck. Even though she was very young at the time, Potter kept a journal that included not only her observations of the strange country and its customs, but also her sketches of people and places she visited along the way. The Year I Didn't Go to School uses first person narrative and mixed media illustrations to recall that somewhat less-than-idyllic year in Italy, with actual snippets from Potter's journals appearing in the endpapers. In School Library Journal, Wendy Lukehart called the book "a madcap journey from a gifted storyteller," and a Publishers Weekly critic felt that the "captivating account makes the exotic setting come alive." Carol Doup Muller concluded in the New York Times Book Review: "While Potter's text makes clear the emotional ambivalence inherent to awfully big adventures, her artwork tips the book's balance toward delight."

Potter told Bookpage's Heidi Henneman that she drew inspiration for The Year I Didn't Go to School from her journal that somehow survived all those years. "It's great to look at my childhood from this perspective," she said, "and it's so nice to work with material that I created myself way back when."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1999, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!, p. 258; April 1, 2002, Julie Cummins, review of The Brave Little Seamstress, p. 1335; November 1, 2002, Karin Snelson, review of The Year I Didn't Go to School, p. 500; August, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of When Catherine the Great and I Were Eight!, p. 1986.

Horn Book, March, 1999, review of When Agnes Caws, p. 188; November, 1999, Margaret A. Bush, review of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!, p. 727.

New York Times Book Review, December 22, 2002, Carol Doup Muller, review of The Year I Didn't Go to School, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, August 11, 1997, review of Gabriella's Song, p. 400; December 21, 1998, review of When Agnes Caws, p. 67; July 19, 1999, review of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!, p. 194; September 4, 2000, review of Kate and the Beanstalk, p. 106; April 2, 2001, review of Ghost Wings, p. 64; March 25, 2002, review of The Brave Little Seamstress, p. 63; June 24, 2002, review of The Year I Didn't Go to School, p. 56; June 30, 2003, review of When Catherine the Great and I Were Eight!, p. 78.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Kate McClelland, review of Kate and the Beanstalk, p. 151; April, 2002, Susan Pine, review of The Brave Little Seamstress, p. 118; November, 2002, Wendy Lukeheart, review of The Year I Didn't Go to School, p. 147.

ONLINE

BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/0209bp/giselle_potter.html/ (December 23, 2003), Heidi Henneman, "Skipping Class with Giselle Potter."*

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