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Carol Jones (1942-) - Sidelights

review mouse gingerbread readers

Illustrator Carol Jones began her career with a title retold by Ronald Melzack, The Day Tuk Became a Hunter and Other Eskimo Stories, and her work on folk-tales has continued from there. After providing illustrations for two books written by other authors, Jones began to choose stories on her own, retelling them and illustrating them at the same time. Whether using nursery rhymes, childhood songs, children's games, or fables, Jones's retellings are generally considered straightforward, and her illustrations well suited to each tale. She also uses a unique technique in the format of her books: she creates a die-cut window in every other page to allow readers to see where the characters are going, or where they've been. Jones began using this technique with Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and has continued using it in her retellings ever since.

One book that uses Jones' die-cut technique is Town Mouse, Country Mouse. Jones' retelling of the well-known Aesop fable allows readers to see how different the worlds of the two mice are by giving hints through her mouse-hole-like windows. A critic for Publishers Weekly called the book "charmingly illustrated, engagingly straightforward," and Mary Harris Veeder in Booklist praised Jones's illustrations for "bear[ing] up to long and pleasant scrutiny." Jones's retelling of Aesop's The Hare and the Tortoise again uses the window technique so that readers can always see both hare and tortoise, even when hare is far ahead of the slow tortoise. Kay Weisman, in her Booklist review, noted that "The cluttered pen-and-ink with watercolor illustrations . . . perfectly compliment the text."

Instead of turning to Aesop's fables for inspiration in What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?, Jones bases her picture book on a playground game. In the story, the wolf, whom readers can tell is ready to make trouble, invites all his barnyard "friends" over for a special dinner. Every two hours one of Mr. Wolf's guests arrives to ask what time it is, and Mr. Wolf tells them to get something else to add to the dinner celebration. When the wolf finally has all of his guests assembled at his house, he blows his cover, and the barnyard animals flee, having their own celebration without him in what a contributor to Publishers Weekly called "an enjoyable romp." Writing for Booklist, Marta Segal assured parents that "the cheerful, well-detailed silliness of the illustrations will prevent even the smallest child from being scared."

In The Gingerbread Man Jones retells the traditional folktale, but with "two nifty twists" according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The first twist is the use of her die-cut windows. The second is that among the Gingerbread Man's pursuers are characters from Mother Goose rhymes, including Little Miss Muffett, Humpty Dumpty, and Little Boy Blue. She stays true to the story, however, with the Gingerbread Man's familiar rhyme, allowing readers to chant it back whenever the Gingerbread Man calls it out. She also adheres to the traditional ending: the ultimate demise of the Ginger-bread Man in the mouth of the fox. "Readers will find something new with each look at the wonderfully detailed drawings" in The Gingerbread Man, praised a critic from Kirkus Reviews. Judith Constantinides in School Library Journal commented favorably on Jones's "minutely detailed and intriguing illustrations," and Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that readers "will be drawn into the pictures, especially since a small circular cutout shows where the cheeky run away has been and hints at what's waiting for him." Jones includes a recipe for gingerbread at the end of the book, so readers can bake their own gingerbread men.

Although Jones has developed a following with her original, self-illustrated retellings, she uses her die-cut technique when illustrating works by other writers as well. With Alice Cameron, she produced The Cat Sat on the Mat, a picture book following a cat from sitting place to sitting place, starting its day out on a mat and returning there by the end of the book. Designed for early readers, each object on which the cat is sitting is printed in red letters, to help children learn to read by associating with the pictures. "Jones' pen-and-watercolor illustrations have a warm, cozy feel," wrote Annie Ayers in Booklist.

"I was educated at the Bournville Primary School on the Cadbury estate on the outskirts of Birmingham," Jones once told SATA. "Father worked at Cadburys and our family lived on a factory estate. After primary school, I went to Moseley Secondary Art School. Then at sixteen, I attended Birmingham College of Art. I spent 1958-63 obtaining the National Design Diploma, specialising in book illustration. After a post graduate year working at a printers and Penguin Books, I moved to London, freelanced, and taught art two-and-a-half days a week at Clapham Girls Grammar, which paid the rent and living costs.

"I moved to Toronto, Canada, in 1967, my most successful assignment being The Day Tuk Became a Hunter and Other Eskimo Stories. I returned to London in 1968, and worked for the BBC on the children's programmes Play School and Jackanory, and did freelance work. I immigrated to Australia in 1972. After living in Sydney for six months, I settled in Wollowgong. I married a primary school teacher, Ron Johnston, and had two children, Mark and Sally." Selling water colour pictures inspired by her favorite book, The Wind in the Willows, through art shows and galleries was the step that took Jones to her renewed career as a children's book illustrator.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1994, Annie Ayers, review of The Cat Sat on the Mat, p. 756; April 15, 1995, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Town Mouse, Country Mouse, p. 1506; September 1, 1996, Kay Weisman, review of The Hare and the Tortoise, p. 139; October 15, 1999, Marta Segal, review of What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?, p. 454; February 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of The Gingerbread Man, p. 1017.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of The Gingerbread Man, p. 259.

Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1995, review of Town Mouse, Country Mouse, p. 85; October 4, 1999, review of What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?, p. 74; January 21, 2002, review of The Gingergread Man, p. 90.

School Library Journal, June, 1992, Rachel Fox, review of Hickory Dickory Dock, p. 94; October, 1994, Heide Piehler, review of The Cat Sat on the Mat, p. 86; June, 1994, Denise Anton Wright, review of Town Mouse, Country Mouse, p. 102; September, 1996, Heide Piehler, review of The Hare and the Tortoise, p. 198; November, 1997, Karen James, review of The Lion and the Mouse, p. 85; December, 1999, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?, p. 100; April, 2002, Judith Constantinides, review of The Gingerbread Man, p. 134.*

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