Alexandra Wallner (1946-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1946, in Germany; came to the United States 1952, naturalized citizen, 1964; Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A., 1968, M.F.A., 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, making pressed flower collages.
Agent—Kirchoff/Wohlberg, Inc., 866 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.
Illustrator and author. American Home, New York, NY, assistant art director, 1972-73; New Ingenue, New York, NY, associate art director, 1973-75; freelance illustrator and writer, 1975—. Illustrator for Kevin Corbett Designs, 1984, Portal Publications, 1985, and Argus Communications, 1986; co-owner of Greywood Studio. Educator and lecturer at writing conferences.
The Adventures of Strawberry Shortcake and Her Friends, illustrated by Mercedes Llimona, Random House (New York, NY), 1980.
Strawberry Shortcake and the Winter That Would Not End, illustrated by Mercedes Llimona, Random House (New York, NY), 1982.
Munch: Poems and Pictures, Crown (New York, NY), 1976.
Ghoulish Giggles and Monster Riddles, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1982.
Twelve Days of Christmas, Warner (New York, NY), 1989.
Jingle Bells, Warner (New York, NY), 1989.
Silent Night, Warner (New York, NY), 1989.
Deck the Halls, Warner (New York, NY), 1989.
Since 1920, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
Betsy Ross, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1994.
Beatrix Potter, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995.
The First Air Voyage in the United States: The Story of Jean-Pierre Blanchard, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.
An Alcott Family Christmas, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1997.
The Farmer in the Dell, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1998.
Sergio and the Hurricane, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.
Abigail Adams, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2001.
Grandma Moses, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.
ILLUSTRATOR WITH HUSBAND, JOHN WALLNER:
Kerby on Safari, Avon (New York, NY), 1984.
Bonnie Larkin Nims, Where Is the Bear?, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1988.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1989.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of George Washington, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1989.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Thomas Jefferson, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Helen Keller, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1991.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1992.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Robert E. Lee, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1994.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Davy Crockett, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Patrick Henry, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Paul Revere, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Patrick Henry, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.
David A. Adler, A Picture Book of Louis Braille, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1997.
Martha Gamerman, Trudy's Straw Hat, Crown (New York, NY), 1977.
Malcolm Hall, The Friends of Charlie Ant Bear, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (New York, NY), 1980.
Joanne E. Bernstein and Paul Cohen, Un-Frog-Gettable Riddles, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1981.
Jean Bethell and Susan Axtell, A Colonial Williamsburg Activities Book: Fun Things to Do for Children Four and Up, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1984.
Marcia Leonard, King Lionheart's Castle, Silver Press, 1992.
Teddy Slater, Alice Meets the Aliens, Silver Press, 1992.
Gary Hines, The Christmas Tree in the White House, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1998.
Rachel Mann, The Blue Mittens, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Meish Goldsh, Famous Fliers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Gary Hines, Thanksgiving in the White House, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.
Also illustrator of children's textbooks; author and illustrator of stories for children's magazines.
Alexandra Wallner is an author and artist who has produced picture-book biographies of notable woman such as Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and has also created original fiction and illustrating adaptations of traditional tales. Sometimes working in collaboration with her husband, fellow illustrator John Wallner, she has also contributed art work to the writings of others, including David A. Adler's picture-book biography series on notable Americans. Praising Wallner's self-illustrated picture book Sergio and the Hurricane, Booklist reviewer John Peters noted that the author/illustrator's "neatly drawn scenes, in muted colors, convey a sense of calm urgency" before the coming storm, and its storyline effectively teaches children how to deal with other forms of severe weather.
Born in Germany, Wallner moved to the United States with her family at age six. She fell in love with drawing and writing at an early age, since she was an only child and there were few other children living nearby. Her love of reading also helped Wallner learn her new language; "I spoke no English until the first grade," she once explained to Something about the Author (SATA), "and learned [English] by reading comic books: Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Little Lulu, Katy Keene, Archie—not a bad way for a person to learn a language; pictures and words right there together. I loved the bright colors and clever stories."
Wallner was inspired to become an artist by her mother, a painter "greatly influenced by the 'Trash Can School' of art. She painted town scenes, bar scenes, and portraits and also wrote humorous stories.… I suppose, subconsciously I was imitating her." After graduating from high school, Wallner attended the Pratt Institute, where she earned her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees. From there she moved into the art department at the New York City-based magazine American Home, hoping to gain experience in the commercial art field. "It was in my position with New Ingenue that I really learned typography, layout, illustration, and graphic design," Wallner explained of her move to a new periodical in the early 1970s. "When my husband, who is also an illustrator, started his studio, he was having so much fun with illustration, that I decided I would do it too." Beginning in 1990, Wallner started focusing almost exclusively on writing and illustrating books for children.
As she explained to SATA, Wallner's biographies of notable women are inspired by her interest in history, as well as her respect for women "who did not have easy lives but overcame difficulties gracefully, women like Betsy Ross, Beatrix Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Louisa May Alcott. In the midst of a difficult life the last three women turned to writing to express themselves. I feel a close kinship with them." In her self-illustrated Betsy Ross she reveals that Ross may not have been the seamstress who made the first American flag. The book also describes Ross's Quaker life, her multiple marriages, and her upholstery business. According to Deborah Stevenson in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Wallner moves Ross "from a cameo role to a starring part … using her to explain early American urban life." Wallner takes "pride in detail," noted Five Owls reviewer Mary Bahr Fritts, while Carolyn Phelan maintained in her Booklist review that "bright color and many details … tell the story and recreate" the Revolutionary era in American history.
Regarding Wallner's biography Beatrix Potter, a contributor to the New Jersey Education Association Review noted that the author makes the life story of the British author "accessible to readers" through use of a "simple text and appealing illustrations." Potter grew up in a very restrictive household and spent most of her time in solitude, writing and filling notebooks with sketches of plants and animals. She became not only a well-known children's author but also a prominent conservationist in her native England. Wallner's illustrations reflect Potter's "many periods of loneliness," stated a reviewer in School Library Journal, while a New Advocate reviewer wrote that the book's "exquisite illustrations provide detailed glimpses into late nineteenth-century English life."Noted author Wilder wrote about growing up in pioneer country in such works as Little House on the Prairie, and is the subject of another of Wallner's biographies for children. Wilder's father dreamed of making a living off the land, and so the family traveled west until they came to the prairie, where they made their home. Some of the events and places Wilder encountered along this journey became material for her later writings. Pamela K. Bomboy, reviewing Laura Ingalls Wilder for School Library Journal, praised the book as an "accurate, concise beginning biography" with "folk-art" illustrations that range from a rendering of "patterned fabrics of pioneer clothing to a panoramic view of a sea of prairie grass." Marilyn Bousquin, writing in Horn Book, described Wallner's book as a "seamless interdependence" of word and picture that "captures both the hard realities of pioneer life and the hearthlike warmth of Laura's family life."
There are other biographies in Wallner's series on notable women. Grandma Moses is about the New York woman, born Anna Mary Robinson, who first gained fame for her brightly colored primitive paintings at age eighty. Abigail Adams focuses on the independent minded woman whose wise choice in a husband—John Adams was the second president of the United States—and success as a mother—son John Quincy Adams was U.S. president number six—were the result of her intelligence, strong moral values, and energetic optimism. Noting that Wallner's text in Abigail Adams depicts the subject as "a woman who was ahead of her time," School Library Journal reviewer Ilene Abramson added that the "pictures in a folk-art style contribute greatly to the text." Also noting Wallner's "naif" style, a Horn Book reviewer commented that the pastel portraits "suggest a woman of many moods." In Booklist Phelan praised Grandma Moses as a "charming biographical introduction" for young readers, and described the text as "clearly written" and full of "well-chosen quotations" from the artist's own writings. Remarking on the watercolor illustrations in Grandma Moses, Lolly Robinson noted in Horn Book that "Wallner's style … is suited to her subject: sedate" and "carefully composed."
In addition to writing and illustrating, Wallner also works as a teacher. "Since 1995, I've been teaching writing and illustrating for children's picture books at the International Women's Writing Guild summer conference. Its important to me to share my knowledge with other women. I encourage them to write brief stories. At the end of one week, they have made a small book. Their sense of accomplishment is tremendous. I am also involved in the IWWG's Mentor Program which helps high school girls complete a writing project by the end of a school term. I encourage people to express their creativity with art and writing, because that is what I do." Reflecting on her choice of career, Wallner added of being an artist and writer: "It helps me understand the world."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 15, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of Betsy Ross, p. 1086; September 1, 1996, p. 138; October 1, 1997, Kay Weisman, review of Laura Ingalls Wilder, p. 335; September 1, 1998, April Judge, review of The Farmer in the Dell, p. 123; October 1, 1998, Helen Rosenberg, review of A Christmas Tree in the White House, p. 335; September 15, 2000, John Peters, review of Sergio and the Hurricane, p. 251; March 15, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Abigail Adams, p. 1402; March 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Grandma Moses, p. 1206.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1994, Deborah Stevenson, review of Betsy Ross, p. 237; January, 1998, p. 181.
Five Owls, March, 1994, Mary Bahr Fritts, review of Betsy Ross, p. 87.
Horn Book, November-December, 1997, Marilyn Bousquin, review of Laura Ingalls Wilder, p. 647; July, 2001, review of Abigail Adams, p. 479; July-August, 2004, Lolly Robinson, review of Grandma Moses, p.470.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1992, p. 1136; March 1, 2004, review of Grandma Moses, p. 230.
New Advocate, spring, 1996, review of Beatrix Potter, p.163.
New Jersey Education Association Review, March, 1996, review of Beatrix Potter.
Publishers Weekly, September 30, 1996, p. 91; February 26, 2001, review of Abigail Adams, p. 88.
School Arts, May-June, 2004, Ken Marantz, review of Grandma Moses, p. 64.
School Library Journal, May, 1991, p. 87; December, 1996, review of Beatrix Potter, p. 45; November, 1997, Pamela K. Bomboy, review of Laura Ingalls Wilder; November, 2000, Maryann H. Owen, review of Sergio and the Hurricane, p. 136; April, 2001, Ilene Abramson, review of Abigail Adams, p. 136; September, 2003, Laurie Edwards, review of Thanksgiving in the White House, p. 180; May, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of Grandma Moses, p. 138.*
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