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Philippe Dupasquier Biography (1955-) - Sidelights

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Artist Philippe Dupasquier has written and illustrated many children's books of his own, as well as illustrating numerous books by prominent British authors. Dupasquier, the father of two children, once commented: "Apart from my work in children's books, I would like to have more time for painting and watercolor as fine art. The family is a major theme in my books. It is also my favorite 'activity' when I am not working."

Dupasquier's first self-illustrated work, Dear Daddy, tells the story of little Sophie, who waits for her father to return home from a year-long sea voyage with the merchant marine. The text consists of Sophie's letters to her father describing events in her life. The pictures on the bottom half of each page show Sophie's birthday party, the delivery of a piano to her house, the growth of her baby brother's first tooth, and other occasions. The pictures on the top half of each page, meanwhile, show the details of her father's life aboard ship. The Side-by-side pictures show the concurrent lives of Sophie and her seafaring father, while the girl's letters form the tender story of Philippe Dupasquier's gentle self-illustrated picture book. (From Dear Daddy. ) story concludes with a happy family reunion. A Junior Bookshelf reviewer called Dear Daddy "a delightful, moving little book," while Joan McGrath of School Library Journal predicted young readers would find it "warm and reassuring."

Our House on the Hill is intended for very young children on the verge of reading. It contains no words but, like Dear Daddy, tells the story of a family's experiences over the course of a year using two sets of illustrations that complement one another. On each left-hand page is a birds-eye view of a house and yard during a given month. The landscape includes many small details of the season, such as hot dogs on the barbecue or laundry drying on a line. On each right-hand page is a series of small pictures that tell a story about one of the details from the previous page. In a review for School Library Journal, Nancy Seiner commented that Dupasquier's "lively sketches, filled in with soft watercolors, make the characters and their surroundings come to life," and claimed that families would enjoy reading the book again and again.

The Great Escape, Dupasquier's next book, is a "brilliant and breathless account of a prisoner's escape and the madcap chase after him," according to Julia Eccleshare in Times Literary Supplement. Told in pictures, the story follows the escaped prisoner and his police pursuers through a circus, a wedding, a museum, a hospital, a foxhunt, and a variety of other interesting places. The prisoner finally goes through a sewer that leads him back inside the prison. Susan H. Patron, writing in School Library Journal, commented that Dupasquier's "full-color cartoon drawings are crowded with funny details and lots of action."

Dupasquier returned to the wordless picture book format with I Can't Sleep. This time, a young girl, her parents, her brother, and her cat all have trouble sleeping one night. They gather in the kitchen for a midnight snack and then wander outside to look at the stars. Finally, they all fall asleep together in one bed just in time for the sunrise. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Dupasquier's artwork, noting that the "watercolors, appropriately hushed and rumpled, have a lively cinematic quality" that enhances the story and characters.

My Dad, published in 1991, is especially well-suited for "children having trouble at home," according to Beverley Mathias in School Librarian. In the story, a young boy thinks about all of his father's negative qualities, like not allowing the boy to do whatever he wants or paying too much attention to the boy's sister. After a while, though, the boy also thinks of many positive things about his dad, like when his dad reads to him or takes him on outings to special places. Mathias claimed that all children feel their parents are unfair at times, and this balanced portrait of a father might help children to understand a parent's role.

Dupasquier also wrote and illustrated a series of popular books about busy places that are familiar to children. The "Busy Places" series includes six titles: The Airport, The Building Site, The Factory, The Garage, The Harbor, and The Train Station. Each book follows the events that take place at that location during one twenty-four hour period. All of the illustrations in each book feature the same scene with new details appropriate to the time of day. For example, The Factory begins when the night watchman of a candy factory goes home in the morning. The story continues with the arrival of a group of schoolchildren for a tour and includes a number of comic mishaps in candy production. The action builds and then subsides, concluding when the night watchman returns in the evening. In each book, the area surrounding the work place is also pictured and contains changing details. In a review of the series for Times Literary Supplement, Barbara Sherrard-Smith noted that "the pictures are full of life and human interest, stimulating children to explore, examine, discover, to discuss and be involved, and look with new eyes at the next busy place they visit."

Dupasquier teaches preschoolers about colors and numbers in two self-illustrated titles, Red, Blue, Color Zoo and One, Two, Three, Follow Me! In Red, Blue, Color Zoo, each die-cut page features a horde of different animals, all drawn with the same colored pencil, including flocks of yellow butterflies, pink flamingos, and black bats. Each page is shaped like a crayon of that color, further emphasizing for children the theme of the book. One, Two, Three, Follow Me! also uses animals and die-cut pages. In this title, each page is shaped like its number. A new barnyard animal joins the crowd on each page. The hen, cow, pig, cat, and each new animal chase each other about, until number nine, when they all stop short at the shout of "Boo!" The animals turn and run in the other direction, sure that some fearsome creature lurks on page ten … but it is only a very small mouse with a very loud megaphone. This book "stands out from the [counting book] crowd," Kathryn Ross commented in the Scotsman.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 1986, p. 684.

Books for Keeps, November, 1988, p. 8; January, 1996, pp. 14-15.

Childhood Education, summer, 1989, Helen H. Shelton, review of Our House on the Hill, p. 242.

Junior Bookshelf, October, 1985, review of Dear Daddy, p. 211; October, 1990, p. 219; April, 1993, p. 58.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Quack, Quack!, p. 103.

Listener, November 29, 1984, p. 27; November 7, 1985, p. 32.

New York Times Book Review, March 25, 1984, James Fallows, review of Going West, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, February 27, 1987, review of Jack at Sea, p. 164; February 26, 1988, review of Our House on the Hill, p. 195; April 8, 1988, review of The Great Escape, p. 92; August 25, 1989, review of A Country Far Away, p. 61; February 9, 1990, review of The Sandal, p. 58; June 8, 1990, review of I Can't Sleep, p. 52; December 13, 1999, review of A Country Far Away, p. 85; February 3, 2003, review of Red, Blue, Color Zoo, pp. 77-78.

School Librarian, August, 1991, Beverley Mathias, review of My Dad, p. 100.

School Library Journal, March, 1985, p. 147; November, 1985, Joan McGrath, review of Dear Daddy, p. 69; October, 1987, Mary Jane Kibby, review of Jack at Sea, p. 110; August, 1988, Susan H. Patron, review of The Great Escape, p. 80; October, 1988, Nancy Seiner, review of Our House on the Hill, pp. 118-119; October, 1989, Rosanne Cerny, review of A Country Far Away, p. 104; May, 1990, Denia Lewis Hester, review of The Sandal, p. 81; August, 1991, Luann Toth, review of A Robot Named Chip, p. 145; August, 1994, Beth Tegart, review of Andy's Pirate Ship: A Spot-the-Difference Book, p. 129; July, 1999, Sarah O'Neal, review of A Sunday with Grandpa, p. 69.

Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), December 28, 2002, Kathryn Ross, review of One, Two, Three, Follow Me!, p. 7.

Times Educational Supplement, December 23, 1988, Bill Tidy, review of The Great Escape and A Country Far Away, p. 21; December 4, 1992, Neil Philip, review of Paul's Present, p. S8.

Times Literary Supplement, June 29, 1984, Barbara Sherrard-Smith, "The World Outside," review of the "Busy Places" series, p. 737; October 9-15, 1987, p. 1120; September 9-15, 1988, Julia Eccleshare, "Texts and Pretexts," p. 1000.*

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