Tracey Campbell Pearson (1956-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1956, in Norwalk, CT; Education: Attended Syracuse University, 1975; Parsons School of Design, professional certificate, 1978. E-mail—firstname.lastname@example.org
office—P.O. Box 1114, Jericho Center, VT 05465. Agent—c/o Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003.
Children's book author and illustrator. American Greetings, Cleveland, OH, illustrator of greeting cards, 1978-80; freelance illustrator, beginning 1978; author and illustrator of books for children, beginning 1982.
Myrtle 2004 Silver Award, and Exhibit of International Children's Picture Books Top-Ten listee, both 1985, both for Sing a Song of Sixpence; Time magazine Best Books designation, 1986, for A-Apple Pie; Reading Top Magic Award, Parenting magazine, 1989, for The Missing Tarts; Yankee magazine All-Time Top 100 New England Children's Books listee, for The Howling Dog; 2005 Little Bo-Peep, Gold Award, 2000, for Where Does Joe Go?, and 2002, for Bob.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas: A Traditional Christmas Carol, Dial (New York, NY), 1983.
Dollhouse People: A Doll Family You Can Make, Viking Kestrel (New York, NY), 1984.
Old Macdonald Had a Farm, Dial (New York, NY), 1984.
Sing a Song of Sixpence, Dial (New York, NY), 1985.
A-Apple Pie, Dial (New York, NY), 1986, published as A Was an Apple Pie, Bodley Head (London, England), 1986.
The Storekeeper, Dial (New York, NY), 1988.
The Howling Dog, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1991.
The Purple Hat, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
Where Does Joe Go?, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1999.
Bob, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.
Little Bo-Peep (board book), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Hector Protector (board book), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Myrtle, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Little Miss Muffet, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
Diddle Diddle Dumpling, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
Joan Lowery Nixon, Beats Me, Claude, Viking Kestrel (New York, NY), 1986.
Joan Lowery Nixon, Fat Chance, Claude, Viking Kestrel (New York, NY), 1987.
B. G. Hennessy, School Days, Viking Kestrel (New York, NY), 1990.
B. G. Hennessy, The Missing Tarts, Puffin Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Jane Cutler, No Dogs Allowed, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.
Joan Lowery Nixon, That's The Spirit, Claude, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
Kimberly Olson Fakih, Grandpa Putter and Granny Hoe, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.
Reeve Lindbergh, There's a Cow in the Road, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1993.
Jane Cutler, Rats!, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Ruth K. Westheimer, Dr. Ruth Talks about Grandparents: Advice for Kids on Making the Most of a Special Relationship, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
Reeve Lindbergh, The Awful Aardvarks Go to School, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
Jane Cutler, 'Gator Aid, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1999.
Teri Daniels, G-Rex, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Reeve Lindbergh, The Awful Aardvarks Shop for School, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.
Jane Cutler, Leap, Frog, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including American Bookseller and Cleveland magazine.
Friends of author and illustrator Tracey Campbell Pearson can often put names to the assortment of animals that appear throughout the pages of the more than thirty books she has illustrated since beginning her career in the early 1980s. This is because Pearson often models the animal characters that appear in her illustrations for books such as Reeve Lindbergh's There's a Cow in the Road and her version of Old Macdonald Had a Farm after the dogs, cats, chickens, and assorted other creatures that share her Vermont home. Praised for the down-to-earth characters and old-fashioned values featured in her picture-book texts, Pearson has won awards for several of the books she has both written and illustrated, among them A-Apple Pie and Where Does Joe Go?, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised as a "fresh and funny … lighthearted romp."
Born in Connecticut in 1956, Pearson fell in love with art early, and in high school counted it one of her favorite subjects. Determined to become a fashion illustrator, she enrolled at Syracuse University, but quickly realized that New York City was where aspiring commercial artists needed to be. Moving to Parsons School of design, she continued to take fashion-illustration classes, until a group of her friends convinced her to take a book illustration class taught by noted writer/illustrator Maurice Sendak. "He was tremendous; a wonderful person; a wonderful teacher," she recalled to Something about the Author (SATA). "And when I studied with him, I fell in love with making books.
"One thing that Maurice was teaching that I try to remember more than anything when making a book is that the words are every bit as important as the illustrations. It's not enough to just illustrate the words. There should be a give-and-take relationship in which they both work from and for each other. Maurice was trying to teach us to make a book that can be looked at 100 times, and hopefully every time there is something new to be discovered in the picture. The other special thing that he does with his books is to create that rhythm. The whole book has it, and because of the pacing, the book just moves along. It takes an enormous amount of work to achieve that, to do something that looks as if no work at all was involved."
After graduating from Parsons, Pearson moved with her future husband to Ohio, where she worked as a desinger at American Greeting and also did freelance illustration for magazines and advertising agencies. Pearson and her husband returned to New York City where she shared a studio on Union Square with two fellow illustrators. She became busy creating soft sculptures in addition to pursuing illustration jobs. Finding herself a creating everything except children's books, Pearson moved her studio to her home in Connecticut, where she focused on her goal to publish her first book within the year.
Eventually returning to the East Coast, Pearson gave herself a year to publish her first book. As she once recalled to SATA: "I approached Dial, because I liked the books they did, and because it was a small house within a large house. First I went in with a book I'd also authored, and the people at Dial recommended that I try something in public domain. So I returned with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and I kept coming back with more and more dummies. They'd say, 'Why don't you try …' and I'd say, 'Okay,' and return yet again. Because if I didn't get published before the year's end, I was going to end up in the loony bin." Fortunately for Pearson's sanity, the week before Christmas she contacted Dial and was offered an illustration contract; We Wish You a Merry Christmas was published in 1983.
While Pearson's first self-written books were based on traditional stories, her more recent work has drawn on her imagination, experiences, and unique talents as a storyteller. Inspired by the small town in Vermont where she and her family make their home, Pearson's 1988 picture book The Storekeeper provides kids in both small towns and big cities alike with an idea of life at an old-fashioned general store. The Howling Dog recounts an event familiar to many people living in small country towns: a barking dog races through town in the middle of the night, waking up neighbors, agitating all the cats, dogs, and chickens along its path, and ultimately leaving everyone in town wide awake while it curls up at home and falls asleep. The story's "boisterous animals and rumpled citizenry are lovingly depicted," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who added: "As usual, Pearson makes a virtue of simplicity."
A rooster takes center stage in Pearson's 2002 picture book titled Bob. The life of Bob the rooster was going along just fine until the farmyard cat informs him that he isn't doing his job properly; instead of clucking with the henhouse chickens, he is supposed to be crowing. But what does crowing sound like? When Bob asks the meddling kitten, all he gets in response is "Meow"; other animals are also of no help as they are limited to barks, mooo's, quacks, and squeaks. Bob's question is finally answered when he meets a bird that looks a lot like him in a picture book that a Publishers Weekly contributor praised as a "simple barnyard tale" that Pearson has given "a vibrant sense of sound and movement" through her text, line drawings, and watercolor art. School Library Journal reviewer Marie Orlando praised in particular the book's "droll, repetitious text, perfect for reading aloud," while in Kirkus Reviews a critic noted that the author/illustrator brings a "unique whimsical touch to the pastoral beauty of the countryside," creating a "clever barnyard tale that combines subtle humor with colorful watercolor illustrations."
Described by Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper as "slightly more serious" in tone than much of Pearson's work, Myrtle introduces young listeners to a young mouse whose life is disrupted when a loud, aggressive young mouse named Frances moves next door, armed with scary faces, rubber snakes, and a generally horrid attitude. Afraid for herself as well as for her younger brother, Myrtle avoids going outside to play until her spunky Aunt Tizzy comes for a visit and tells her niece how she gently turned the tables on some equally awful lions during her trip to Africa. Summarizing the book's message as "a bully's roar is often worse than its bite," a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Myrtle as "affirming" and containing "lively illustrations." "Young readers will surely take comfort in Aunt Tizzy's wise yet fun approach," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, adding that Pearson's illustrations, done in bright colors, "keep the proceedings upbeat and entertaining" despite the book's serious point.
Although she has found writing picture books to be more personally challenging than illustrating texts penned by other authors, Pearson has continued to create simple picture books, including board books for the toddler set. From start to finish, a single thirty-two-page book can take up to two years to complete. "Each book has its own rhythm, its own feel," she once explained. "It's important to take each set of words in each story and make your own book out of them. Sometimes I think it's probably easier to find a system to keep turning out books. But you can't. You have to take each book as if it was a new experience."
Pearson enjoys drawing animal characters over humans, and she also prefers to draw from life rather than from photographs. In planning illustrations, she makes numerous sketches as preparation. "For Old MacDonald I had to draw a barn, and as I sat in the grass sketching, there were two bulls with rings in their noses who came up behind me. They came over and were slobbering over my shoulder. Then there are the difficulties of drawing cows. They look like they're standing stationary, grazing; but they're not. They're moving. They don't look like they're moving; but take my word for it, they're moving. I stand there sketching, and the cows have moved to there and back again without looking like they're moved at all!"
"The true test of a lasting picture book is not necessarily that it meets with public appeal or the praise of adults buying the book," Pearson also maintained in discussing the major challenge of her chosen career as a picture-book author/illustrator. "The true test of a picture book lies with the child. A true picture book is one that children check out over and over and over.
"The highest compliment ever paid to me was at a school when a fourth grader came up to me in the hall after I'd given my talk: 'Hey, Tracey Campbell Pearson!' he said. 'You are an awesome dude.' Well, to be awesome—or to be a dude—but to be an awesome dude. I was honored."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 15, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Grandpa Putter and Granny Hoe, p. 1104; July, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of That's the Spirit, Claude, p. 1943; October 15, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of No Dogs Allowed, p. 423; July, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of There's a Cow in the Road, p. 1975; February 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of The Purple Hat, p. 948; October 15, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of The Awful Aardvarks Go to School, p. 402; November 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Where Does Joe Go?, p. 525; November 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Bob, p. 611; January 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Myrtle, p. 880.
Childhood Education, Spring, 2003, Kimberly Rankin, review of Bob, p. 179.
Horn Book, January-February, 1992, Lolly Robinson, review of The Howling Dog, p. 61; November-December, 1992, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of That's the Spirit, Claude, p. 712; January-February, 1993, Margaret A. Bush, review of No Dogs Allowed, p. 84; May-June, 1996, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Rats!, p. 334; September, 1999, Nancy Vasilakis, review of 'Gator Aid, p. 609.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Bob, p. 1232; October 15, 2002, review of Leap, Frog, p. 1527; February 1, 2004, review of Myrtle, p. 137.
Publishers Weekly, August 30, 1991, review of The Howling Dog, p. 81; March 16, 1992, review of Grandpa Putter and Granny Hoe, p. 80; November 9, 1992, review of No Dogs Allowed, p. 85; June 21, 1993, review of There's A Cow in the Road!, p. 103; September 27, 1999, review of Where Does Joe Go?, p. 56; September 11, 2000, review of G-Rex, p. 90; July 8, 2002, review of Bob, p. 48; July 22, 2002, review of The Awful Aardvarks Shop for School, p. 182; March 1, 2004, review of Myrtle, p. 68.
School Library Journal, January, 1991, Denise Anton Wright, review of School Days, p. 74; October, 1991, Susanne Wolfe, review of The Howling Dog, p. 102; December, 1992, Jana R. Fine, review of No Dogs Allowed, p. 80; April, 1996, Maggie McEwen, review of Rats!, p. 106; April, 1997, Caroline Ward, review of The Purple Hat, p. 114; September, 1997, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Dr. Ruth Talks about Grandparents, p. 238; December, 1997, Christy Norris, review of The Awful Aardvarks Go to School, p. 96; September, 1999, Darcy Schild, review of 'Gator Aid, p. 180; October, 1999, Liza Bliss, review of Where Does Joe Go?, p. 122; July, 2000, Marian Drabkin, review of The Awful Aardvarks Shop for School, p. 82; August, 2002, Marie Orlando, review of Bob, p. 164; October, 2003, review of Bob, p. 36; May, 2004, Lisa Gangemi Kropp, review of Myrtle, p. 121.
Tracey Campbell Pearson Web site, http://www.traceycampbellpearson.com/ (October 25, 2004).
Visiting Authors, http://www.visitingauthors.com/ (October 26, 2004), "Tracey Campbell Pearson."*
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