Brian Floca Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born in Temple, TX; Education: Brown University, A. B. (history); coursework at Rhode Island School of Design; New York School of Visual Arts, M.F.A.
office—c/o Author Mail, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Illustrator and author.
The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish, Orchard (New York, NY), 1997.
Five Trucks, DK Ink (New York, NY), 1999.
Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth: The Story of the Central Asiatic Expeditions, DK Ink (New York, NY), 2000.
The Racecar Alphabet, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
Up in the Air: The Story of the Wright Brothers (originally serialized in newspapers), Breakfast Serials, 2003.
Avi, City of Light, City of Dark (graphic novel), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Robert Kraske, The Voyager's Stone: The Adventures of a Message-carrying Bottle Adrift on the Ocean Sea, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Helen Ketteman, Luck with Potatoes, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Avi, Poppy (also see below), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Dick King-Smith, Jenius: The Amazing Guinea Pig, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
Dick King-Smith, Mixed-up Max, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1997.
Judith Rose Enderle and Stephanie Gordon Tessler, Where Are You, Little Zack?, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
Avi, Poppy and Rye (also see below), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Larry Dane Brimner, Lightning Liz, Children's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Dick King-Smith, King Max, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1998.
Marilyn Singer, Solomon Sneezes, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Lee Bennett Hopkins, selector, Sports! Sports! Sports! A Poetry Collection, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Avi, Ragweed (also see below), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Avi, Ereth's Birthday, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Avi, Tales from Dimwood Forest (includes Ragweed, Poppy and Poppy and Rye), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Avi, The Mayor of Central Park, HarperCollin (New York, NY), 2003.
Johanna Hurwitz, Ethan at Home, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Lisa Wheeler, Uncles and Antlers, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
Deborah Hopkinson, Billy and the Rebel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
Phyllis Shalant, Bartleby of the Big Bad Bayou, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
Also illustrator of other books. Illustrations of "Beatrice Black Bear" comic strip by John Grandits, in Click magazine.
Work in Progress
Illustrations for From Slave to Soldier, by Deborah Hopkinson, Poppy's Return, by Avi, and The Hinky-Pink, by Megan McDonald.
Texas-born illustrator and children's book author Brian Floca got his start creating illustrations for noted author Avi's City of Light, City of Dark. The 1993 book, a graphic novel detailing an alternative history of New York City that a Publishers Weekly contributor praised as "first-rate science fiction in comic-book form," required a special type of illustrator, and then-art student Floca was Avi's choice. That initial collaboration worked out so well that Avi has continued to work with Floca on books such as Poppy and The Mayor of Central Park, while Floca has also contributed his artistic talents to illustrating texts by Dick King-Smith, Deborah Hopkinson, and Judith Rose Enderle, among other authors. He has also begun to write his own books as well, including several highly praised concept books and works of nonfiction that draw on Floca's interest in history. His Up in the Air: The Story of the Wright Brothers, for example, is a novel based on the two Americans responsible for the first successful air flight; it was originally published in serial form in over 120 newspapers around the United States.
Floca's work as an illustrator has earned him consistent respect due to his attention to detail, his sense of humor, and his ability to create a book that is equally effective for one-on-one sharing and library story-hour gatherings. His work for Helen Ketteman's Luck with Potatoes features a resolute farmer whose switch from dairy farming to potato growing generates an unusual crop of spuds. "Even Floca's cows have personality and presence," noted Booklist contributor Janice Del Negro, adding that the artist's illustrations "add punch" to Ketteman's "very funny tale." Ann A. Flowers also praised Floca's work in a Horn Book review, writing that Luck with Potatoes is enhanced by "scratchy, energetic illustrations that set off the hardscrabble hill country to perfection." Other books that have benefitted from Floca's sense of whimsey include Where Are You, Little Zack?, a counting book by Enderle and Sephanie Gordon Tessler that features "busy, highly populated" pen-and-ink and watercolor art that a Publishers Weekly reviewer dubbed "the most innovative feature" of the book.
In 1997 Floca published his first original picture book, The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish, which finds a grade-school student accidentally left behind overnight in a natural history museum after a trick played against his teacher during a school field trip backfires. Enjoying the humor in the story's text, Susan Dove Lempke gave particular praise to "Floca's boisterous story and exuberant pictures" in her Booklist review. Young truck-lovers
can be inspired by Five Trucks, which examines the activities at an airport in a simple manner that Horn Book reviewer Marilyn Bousquin dubbed "engaging and age appropriate." The reviewer added that Floca shows skill in building on his basic text by adding interesting details into the book's watercolor artwork, and his "ability to interweave so much story and atmosphere into a concept book is sure to raise our expectations" for his future work. Also noting that the book is appropriate for its target readership, Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan added that Five Trucks is "simple enough for a two-year-old … without being boring or simpleminded."
Moving from the airport to the racetrack, Floca's The Racecar Alphabet sends pre-readers on a high-speed "journey through the alphabet, framed as a history of the race car," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. As the pages move from A to Z, the race cars depicted advance in technology through the years, from a 1901 Ford and the early Renaults to the Ferrari Formula I cars driven by modern drivers. Floca uses both unusual perspective and "loose ink drawings and streaky water-colors [to] create an astonishing sense of movement and speed," observed a Kirkus Reviews writer. While Floca's artwork "captures both the blur of action and the meticulous details so important to fans," in the opinion of the Publishers Weekly reviewer, his alliterative text provides "functional fare for phonetics fanatics and fun for everyone else," as Phelan quipped in Booklist. Noting that "not many alphabet books convey this kind of excitement," Horn Book contributor Susan Dove Lempke called The Racecar Alphabet "a special treat for young race fans."
Floca proved his skills as an author were far from rudimentary with Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth: The Story of the Central Asiatic Expeditions. Published in 2000, this picture book for students in grades three through five details discoveries relating to dinosaurs made during Roy Chapman Andrew's expeditions to Mongolia and the Gobi desert in the 1920s. Mixing well-researched facts with enough fiction to create an "engaging adventure," Lempke maintained in Booklist that the "sweeping, delicately detailed watercolor illustrations" in Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth "distinguish this from most dinosaur books." A Horn Book contributor agreed, noting that Floca's "attention to scientific detail is … excellent" and that the compelling text will inspire young readers to continue "reading and learning about the science and history of paleontology."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 1, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of Luck with Potatoes, p. 326; April 1, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish, p. 1333; June 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Five Trucks, p. 1825; February 15, 2000, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth: The Story of the Central Asiatic Expeditions, p. 1108; November 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Racecar Alphabet, p. 500.
Horn Book, January-February, 1996, Ann A. Flowers, review of Luck with Potatoes, p. 64; January-February, 1997, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of Jenius: The Amazing Guinea Pig, p. 60; July-August, 1998, Ann A. Flowers, review of Poppy and Rye, p. 482; March, 1999, Marilyn Bousquin, review of Five Trucks, p. 188; March, 2000, review of Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth, p. 208; November-December, 2003, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Racecar Alphabet, p. 729.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of The Racecar Alphabet, p. 1271.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1993, review of City of Light, City of Dark, p. 105; February 10, 1997, review of Where Are You, Little Zack?, p. 83; October 20, 1997, review of Counting Feathers, p. 75; January 5, 2004, review of The Racecar Alphabet, p. 60.
School Library Journal, June, 2000, Patricia Manning, review of Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth, p. 164; November, 2003, Jeffrey A. French, review of The Racecar Alphabet, p. 92.
Brian Floca Web site, http://www.brianfloca.com/ (October 21, 2004).
Newspaper in Education Web site, http://www.nieworld.com/ (October 21, 2004), interview with Floca.
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