Elaine Clayton (1961-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1961, in Texas; Education: Atlanta College of Art, B.F.A., 1984; attended Georgia State University, 1986, School of Visual Arts, New York City, M.F.A., 1996. Hobbies and other interests: "Riding horses, western and English style, inline skating, playing with my dog Ah Wing, traveling, learning to speak Italian."
Agent—William Reiss, John Hawkins and Associates, Inc., 71 West 23rd St., Suite 1600, New York, NY 10010.
Illustrator and author. Cesar Chavez Migrant Camp, Mobile, AL, head start teacher, 1980; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, gallery instructor, 1980-85; St. Anthony's Summer Camp, Atlanta, art instructor, 1983; Woodruff Memorial Arts Center Gallery, Atlanta, gallery manager, 1984; Paideia School, Atlanta, assistant teacher and artist-in-residence, 1985-89; Mary Lin Elementary School, Atlanta, artist-in-residence, 1985; Atrium School, Watertown, MA, elementary teacher, 1990-94. Volunteer with Glen Mary Missionary. Exhibitions: Has presented work at exhibitions at Woodruff Memorial Arts Center, Atlanta, GA, 1984; Visual Club, New York, NY, 1995; Art Directors Club, New York, NY, 1996; and New York Women's Foundation, New York, NY, 1996.
Pup in School, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
Ella's Trip to the Museum, Crown (New York, NY), 1996.
The Yeoman's Daring Daughter and the Princes in the Tower, Crown (New York, NY), 1999.
ILLUSTRATOR; "HAMLET CHRONICLES" SERIES
Gregory Maguire, Six Haunted Hairdos, Clarion (New York, NY), 1997.
Gregory Maguire, Five Alien Elves, Clarion (New York, NY), 1998.
Gregory Maguire, Four Stupid Cupids, Clarion (New York, NY), 2000.
Gregory Maguire, Three Rotten Eggs, Clarion (New York, NY), 2002.
Gregory Maguire, A Couple of April Fools, Clarion (New York, NY), 2004.
Gregory Maguire, One Final Firecracker, Clarion (New York, NY), 2005.
(Illustrator) Al Carusone, The Boy with Dinosaur Hands, Clarion (New York, NY), 1998.
(Illustrator) Stephanie Greene, Show and Tell, Clarion (New York, NY), 1998.
(Illustrator) April Halprin Wayland, Girl Coming in for a Landing, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Editor, "Puzzle Gallery Books," Crown, 1997. Contributor of reviews and illustrations to magazines and newspapers, including Drawing, Raygun, Curio, Drawing Instructor, Southline, and New York Times.
Work in Progress
As an artist, Elaine Clayton's most familiar work to many school-age readers may be her illustrations for Gregory Maguire's popular "Hamlet Chronicles" series. These chapter books for middle-grades students follow a fifth-grade class as they deal with the usual school-age travails of friendship and family issues, as well as less-common problems such as four newly released cupids run amok and genetically engineered chicks. However, Clayton is also the author of several self-illustrated books for younger readers, including Pup in School, Ella's Trip to the Museum, and The Yeoman's Daring Daughter and the Princes in the Tower.
As an artist, Clayton also provides illustrations for April Halprin Wayland's novel-in-poems, Girl Coming in for a Landing. The poems, written in the first person, follow the life of an early-teenage girl as she navigates such adolescent challenges as shaving her legs for the first time, crushes on boys, and her first kiss. Clayton's "eclectic collage artwork," as Christine M. Heppermann described it in Horn Book, "add[s] to the volume's personalized feel," and School Library Journal contributor Lauralyn Persson wrote that readers will "find the book's … sophisticated mixed-media illustrations on most pages appealing."
Clayton's first self-authored book, Pup in School is a simple story about a puppy who finally finds the courage to stand up to his class bully, Rodney-dog, after he watches a movie about a brave cow-dog. For her second self-illustrated work, Ella's Trip to the Museum, Clayton switches to human protagonists. When Ella and her class go to an art museum, the young girl is carried away by the exhibits. In her imagination, she dances with painted ballerinas and a sculpted Roman goddess, much to the displeasure of the docent and a security guard. "No silly-walking in the museum!," the guard sternly informs the little girl as she cavorts about, but by the end of the book, even Ella's more well-behaved classmates have joined in the fun. The students' "blissed-out expressions show without a doubt that fine art should transport its viewers," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
The Yeoman's Daring Daughter and the Princes in the Tower was inspired by an actual, historical mystery: what happened to the English princes Edward and Richard? In 1483 the boys' uncle, Richard, duke of Gloucester, had them imprisoned in the Tower of London so he himself could be crowned king, and the two were never seen nor heard from again. Historians generally assume that Richard III had the princes murdered, but Clayton imagines another possible outcome. In her telling of the story, a young commoner named Jane, the daughter of one of the Tower's guards, works there herself as a seamstress. One of Jane's duties is making robes for royal coronations, and she begins to worry about the fate of princes Edward and Richard when she overhears the duke of Gloucester plotting against them and realizes that the coronation robes have been ordered in an adult's rather than child's size. When she begins writing letters to the boys, Clayton's tale is spun through the letters passed between Jane and the young captives. "The epistolary conceit works well," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "hinting at daily activity in the Tower as well as palace intrigue." Clayton's paintings for the book were also praised by Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido, who noted that "the view of the Tower and surroundings is properly looming and impressive."
Clayton told Something about the Author: "I grew up in a big family and learned the importance of lively conversation and storytelling. As I grew up, my private world was one involving characters I drew, whole families of people with stories I made up. Before and while studying art in college, I worked with children—never doing art without being at times surrounded by children to even out the intensity of painting and drawing, and never working with children without bringing my creative process (and theirs) to the forefront.
"Eventually, children asked that I put my stories on paper, not disposable marker boards or chalk boards where they disappear when story time is over. I had to do as they asked since, as a teacher, I expected stories from them on paper! This is when I began pursuing publication of my work, and I have loved the entire process. I make stories involving the same types of characters I made up as a child, always meeting new ones in real life along the way. I want more than anything to encourage children to delight in their view of the world and, through art and stories, change the world by showing us what they see."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Clayton, Elaine, Ella's Trip to the Museum, Crown (New York, NY), 1996.
Booklist, April 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Yeoman's Daring Daughter and the Princes in the Tower, p. 1429; April 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Three Rotten Eggs, p. 1328; October 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Girl Coming in for a Landing, p. 400.
Horn Book, September-October, 2002, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Girl Coming in for a Landing, p. 584.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of Three Rotten Eggs, p. 339; June 15, 2002, review of Girl Coming in for a Landing, p. 889.
New York Times Book Review, May 19, 1996, review of Ella's Trip to the Museum, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, June 28, 1993, review of Pup in School, p. 75; June 3, 1996, review of Ella's Trip to the Museum, p. 82; March 22, 1999, review of The Yeoman's Daring Daughter and the Princes in the Tower, p. 92; July 8, 2002, review of Girl Coming in for a Landing, p. 50.
School Library Journal, October, 1993, Kay McPherson, review of Pup in School, p. 97; June, 1996, p. 99; October, 2000, Eva Mitnick, review of Four Stupid Cupids, p. 164; August, 2002, Lauralyn Persson, review of Girl Coming in for a Landing, p. 220.*