Woodleigh Marx Hubbard Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born in Sharon, CT; Education: Evergreen State College, earned B.A.
Writer, illustrator, and artist. Jewelry designer, beginning 1998.
American Institute of Graphic Arts Award for Excellence, and Parent's Choice selection, Parent's Choice Foundation, both 1990, and Notable Children's Book citation, American Library Association, all for C Is for Curious: An ABC of Feelings; Parent's Choice illustration honor book designation, Parent's Choice Foundation, 1993, for The Moles and the Mireuk: A Korean Folktale; Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Award, and Bookbuilder's West Award, both 1993, both for Hip Cat; "Pick of the Lists" selection, American Booksellers Association, 1996, for The Precious Gift: A Navajo Creation Myth; Society of Illustrators Show includee, 2000, for Once I Was .…
C Is for Curious: An ABC of Feelings, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1990, published as C Is for Curious: An Emotional Address Book, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Two Is for Dancing: A 1, 2, 3 of Actions, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1991.
The Friendship Book, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Woodleigh Marx Hubbard's Twelve Days of Christmas, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1996.
All That You Are, Putnam's (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Madeleine Houston) Whoa, Jealousy!, Putnam's (New York, NY), 2002.
For the Love of a Pug, Putnam's (New York, NY), 2003.
Hubbard's works have been translated into several languages, including French, Japanese, and Korean.
Holly H. Kwon, reteller, The Moles and the Mireuk: A Korean Folktale, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1993.
Jonathan London, Hip Cat, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Margaret Wise Brown, Four Fur Feet, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.
Layne Longfellow, Visual Feast Recipe Journal, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Ellen Jackson, The Precious Gift: A Navajo Creation Myth, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Layne Longfellow, Imaginary Menagerie, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Niki Clark Leopold, Once I Was …, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.
Jonathan London, Park Beat: Rhymin' through the Seasons, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
An award-winning author and illustrator of picture books for children, Woodleigh Marx Hubbard is praised as a talented artist and an inventive creator of concept books. She graces both her own books and those she illustrates for other authors with bold, colorful, and vibrant gouache paintings that feature a distinctive impressionistic style. In addition to her concept books—among them an alphabet book, a counting book, and a book about friendship—Hubbard has produced a modish version of the traditional Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas," a pictorial paean to pug dogs in the humorous For the Love of a Pug, and All That You Are, the last a gift book for a special child that features artwork Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper praised as pairing "a childlike simplicity of line with sophisticated collage techniques."
In her illustrations Hubbard incorporates whimsical animals and stylized shapes and patterns that complement or enhance her texts; her paintings have been compared to the works of modern artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Joan Miro. Writing in School Library Journal, Marie Orlando called Hubbard's work "a unique blend of brilliant color, abstract art, and imaginative graphic design with a duality of concept." In addition to her illustration, Hubbard has been designing jewelry since the late 1990s, incorporating colored stones with the unusual antique pieces she discovers at estate sales and other sources.
Born in Sharon, Connecticut, Hubbard grew up in an artistic home; her father was an artist and her mother a writer. As she once explained to Something about the Author (SATA), "I was a terrible student, in part because I was a visual child; thinking in words and concepts was both awkward and challenging. I was made to feel stupid because my linear thinking process was not as developed as other students. When I illustrate a book or give a school presentation, my sole aim is to make children feel joyful and confident about learning." As a young adult, Hubbard traveled in Europe, where she was particularly influenced by French modernists. Initially working in pen and ink, she moved to color after losing her entire artistic portfolio while traveling from France to the United States.
Hubbard's first self-illustrated work, C Is for Curious: An ABC of Feelings, was published in 1990. In this picture book the author offers an emotion for every letter of the alphabet, from Angry through Zealous. Accompanying each word is an illustration of an animal depicting the emotion named; with "Angry", for example, Hubbard pairs a red-faced beast, while "Happy" features serene-looking cows jumping over the moon. "Artistically," declared Karen James in School Library Journal, C Is for Curious "is an exceptional work—colorful, original, unique."
While some reviewers felt that terms like "Xenophobic" might be more appropriate for older readers, Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan wrote that "parents and teachers seeking books to stimulate discussions of feelings may find the book a refreshing alternative to … volumes more typical of the genre." The critic also commented that the graphics distinguish C Is for Curious from "the hundreds of other ABCs and picture books on feelings." Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Roger Sutton claimed that, unlike "many other picture books mining the postmodern vein, this one never seems self-consciously arty or smirking in its weirdness."
Hubbard's Two Is for Dancing: A 1, 2, 3 of Actions and The Friendship Book, are considered similar in style and form to C Is for Curious. In Two Is for Dancing actions such as dreaming, singing, and reading are paired with the numbers one through twelve, and each action is brought to life in Hubbard's distinctive animal illustrations. "As before, emotional content is creatively conveyed by the art," noted a critic in Kirkus Reviews who concluded that the "joyous enthusiasm in each picture is pleasantly contagious." School Library Journal reviewer Marie Orlando claimed that Hubbard is "even more successful" than in her first book, and called the book "a treat for children to discover again and again."
The Friendship Book examines twelve adages about friendship, such as "Friends don't always agree" and "A friend keeps your secrets." "Again," noted a Kirkus Reviews writer, "the artist's contrasted colors and decorative animal figures … deftly express the subtleties of emotion." The reviewer concluded that children and adults alike "will be amused by the humor and the strength of the visual expression."
Hubbard also focuses on emotions in Whoa, Jealousy!, which helps young readers come to terms with the feelings that surface when they envy a friend's toys, clothing, or accomplishments. Personifying jealousy as a "No-good dirty Nasty Mean Feather-faced Chicken," and envy as a "Sneaky, Creepy, Sharp-tongued Snake," the author sets to work helping readers learn how to combat these foes, along with rivalry and greed, before they start to take over one's better judgement. In School Library Journal Helen Foster James praised the work as a "unique tool to spark discussion of emotions," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor cited the book's "lively design, fanciful figures, and playfulness" with graphic elements.
In her illustrated version of the traditional Yuletide carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas," Hubbard enhances the cumulative lyrics with, in the words of a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, "waggish gouache paintings and a playful cursive typeface" as well as twelve punch-out ornaments. Noting the invention and dazzling quality of Hubbard's paintings, a reviewer in School Library Journal commented: "There's no denying this rendition's color and energy."
Among Hubbard's collaborations with other writers is her illustration work for Holly H. Kwon's The Moles and the Mireuk: A Korean Folktale. The book is a re-telling of a Korean folktale about a mole father whose search for the perfect mate for his daughter takes him to the Mireuk, a tall, powerful statue. The Mireuk is only susceptible to the burrowing of moles, a fact that leads Father Mole to his future son-in-law, "the most perfect mole in the whole universe." Writing in Horn Book, Ellen Fader noted that the tale's "inherent humor is reinforced by the bold yet naïve illustrations" by Hubbard. Michael Shapiro claimed in his New York Times Book Review appraisal that both the text and the "impressionistic earth-tone illustrations … are well-suited to preschool listeners."
Hubbard has worked with author Jonathan London on the picture books Hip Cat and Park Beat: Rhymin' through the Seasons. Earning several awards for illustration, Hip Cat features Oobie-do John, a cool, saxophone-playing cat who travels to San Francisco to make his musical mark. At first, Oobie-do is rejected by the big clubs, which are owned by dogs, but he keeps practicing and playing until he becomes a sensation on the jazz scene. "Hubbard's vivid illustrations … offer just the right accompaniment to the jazzy text," applauded Virginia E. Jeschelnig in a review for School Library Journal, while a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that Hubbard creates "vibrant spreads that ideally complement" London's snappy text. In Park Beat the sounds of all four seasons echo in a park's changing landscape, and Hubbard's colorful illustrations are suitably "whimsical," according to School Library Journal reviewer Robin L. Gibson. Gibson praised in particular the illustrator's ability to "skillfully use … unusual perspectives to sustain interest."
While Hubbard's work is often compared to the colorful, abstract styles of Impressionist and Expressionist painters like Matisse and Picasso, she once told SATA that "Saul Steinberg and James Thurber rule the planet as far as illustration goes. Steinberg makes the most mundane thing imaginable (a rug or a bug) and wildly fascinating. Thurber's illustrations, in conjunction with his hilariously witty writing, have kept me in good spirits for years. I picked two artists that work for the most part in pen and ink, also my roots. Pen and ink is wickedly difficult and, when mastered, wow! As far as my contemporaries, many of them are fine artists and I am frequently humbled by the skill level of my peers. Also, I find illustrators as a group generous, deliciously eccentric, and very funny."
As for her own work, the author and illustrator told SATA that she hopes "to make learning fun, interesting, and easy." She further added that her purpose behind writing or illustrating a specific book "is always the same: to make the art as original and beautiful as possible while allowing learning to be a joy. Knowledge is power, knowledge is freedom; there's nothing that motivates me more than playing whatever small part I can in bringing this into the lives of children." When asked what advice she might give aspiring illustrators, Hubbard replied: "It's a privilege to be published. What I mean is, getting the chance to touch the lives and minds of young children. Make sure you fill your books with things that will inspire and uplift the soul."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Hubbard, Woodleigh Marx, The Friendship Book, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Hubbard, Woodleigh Marx, with Madeleine Houston, Whoa, Jealousy!, Putnam's (New York, NY), 2002.
Kwon, Holly H., The Moles and the Mireuk: A Korean Folktale, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1993.
Booklist, March 1, 1991, Carolyn Phelan, review of C Is for Curious: An ABC of Feelings, pp. 1391, 1394; January 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Imaginary Menagerie, p. 824; February 15, 1999, Kathy Broderick, review of Once I Was …, p. 1975; March 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of All That You Are, p. 1246.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1991, Roger Sutton, review of C Is for Curious, p. 121.
Colored Stone, March-April, 2005.
Horn Book, July, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of The Moles and the Mireuk: A Korean Folktale, p. 470; March-April, 1994, p. 225; May, 1999, review of Once I Was …, p. 318.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1991, review of Two Is for Dancing: A 1, 2, 3 of Actions, p. 1404; December 1, 1992, review of The Friendship Book, p. 1504; November 1, 1997, p. 1646; June 1, 2002, review of Whoa, Jealousy!, p. 805.
New York Times Book Review, October 31, 1993, Michael Shapiro, review of The Moles and the Mireuk, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, August 14, 1993, review of Hip Cat, p. 102; April 1, 1996, p. 76; September 30, 1996, review of Woodleigh Marx Hubbard's Twelve Days of Christmas, p. 88; November 10, 1997, review of Imaginary Menagerie, p. 72; January 24, 2000, review of All That You Are, p. 310; May 14, 2001, review of Park Beat: Rhymin' through the Seasons, p. 81; June 10, 2002, review of Whoa, Jealousy!, p. 60.
School Library Journal, January, 1991, Karen James, review of C Is for Curious, p. 76; January, 1992, Marie Orlando, review of Two Is for Dancing: A 1, 2, 3 of Actions, p. 92; July, 1993, p. 81; January, 1994, Virginia E. Jeschelnig, review of Hip Cat, p. 93; January, 1995, pp. 81-82; May, 1996, p. 105; October, 1996, review of Woodleigh Marx Hubbard's Twelve Days of Christmas, p. 41; April, 2000, Maryann H. Owen, review of All That You Are, p. 121; May, 2001, Robin L. Gibson, review of Park Beat, p. 128; July, 2002, Helen Foster James, review of Whoa, Jealousy!, p. 93; December, 2003, Martha Topol, review of For the Love of a Pug, p. 116.
Woodleigh Marx Hubbard Web site, http://www.woodleighhubbard.com (May 3, 2005).
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