Jon J. Muth Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born in Cincinnati, OH; Education: Studied stone sculpture and sho (brush calligraphy) in Japan; studied painting, printmaking, and drawing in England, Austria, and Germany.
Agent—c/o AFSA, 221 Lobos Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950.
Author, illustrator, and artist.
Eisner Award; Gold Medal, Society of Illustrators.
GRAPHIC NOVELS AND COMICS
Dracula: A Symphony in Moonlight and Nightmares (based on the story by Bram Stoker; originally published in comic-book format), Marvel Comics Group (New York, NY), 1986, second edition, Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine (New York, NY), 1992.
(Illustrator with others) J.M. DeMatteis, Moonshadow (originally published in comic-book format), Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1989.
(Illustrator) Walter Simonson, Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown (originally published in comic-book format), Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1990.
The Mythology of an Abandoned City (originally published in comic-book format, 1983–91), Tundra Publishing (Northampton, MA), 1992.
(Illustrator) Grant Morrison, The Mystery Play (originally published in comic-book format), Vertigo (New York, NY), 1994.
(Illustrator) J.M. DeMatteis, The Compleat Moonshadow (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
Swamp Thing: Roots (originally published in comic-book format), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
Contributor of artwork to comic-book series, including "Moonshadow," by J.M. DeMatteis, 1985–87, "Sandman" by Neil Gaiman, and others.
FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
The Three Questions (based on a story by Leo Tolstoy), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
(Reteller) Stone Soup, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Zen Shorts, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
John Kuramoto, Stonecutter, Donald M. Grant (Hampton Falls, NH), 1995.
Kelley Puckett, Batman's Dark Secret, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Patrick Jennings, Putnam and Pennyroyal, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Karen Hesse, Come on, Rain, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Eric A. Kimmel, reteller, Gerson's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
Remy Charlip, Why I Will Never Ever Ever Ever Have Enough Time to Read This Book, Tricycle Press (Berkeley, CA), 2000.
Jacqueline Woodson, Our Gracie Aunt, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2002.
Douglas Wood, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Sonia Manzano, No Dogs Allowed!, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2004.
Amy Hest, Mr. George Baker, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Linda Zuckerman, I Will Hold You 'till You Sleep, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Vanitas: Paintings, Drawings, and Ideas, Tundra Publishing (Northampton, MA), 1991.
Author and illustrator Jon J. Muth inherited his passion for the graphic arts while growing up as the son of an art teacher. Encouraging his growing talent, Muth's mother took her son to museums across the United States, exposing him to the works of a wide variety of paintings, prints, drawings, and other art forms. Muth debuted his paintings and drawings in a one-man invitational exhibit at age eighteen at Wilmington College. Determined to expand his influences, Muth traveled throughout England, Austria, Germany, and Japan, studying not only drawing and painting, but also stone sculpture, sho—brush calligraphy—and printmaking in classes and as an apprentice.
Muth began his professional career working as a comic-book illustrator, and quickly established himself as a talent in that field. In addition to developing and illustrating the groundbreaking "Moonshadow" series written by J. M. DeMatteis and portions of Neil Gaiman's well-known "Sandman" comic-book epic, Muth also wrote and illustrated several original story arcs based on existing characters and published in their entirety as graphic novels, among them Dracula: A Symphony in Moonlight and Nightmares for Marvel Comics and Swamp Thing: Roots for DC Comics. As Muth was quoted as saying on the Candlewick Press Web site, comic-book illustration is "a natural forum for expressions of angst and questioning one's place in the universe."
With the birth of his own children, Muth naturally began to turn toward children's literature, and took account of a new potential audience with the need to hear other messages. In addition to illustrating texts for a variety of children's-book authors, he has also created original texts to pair with his highly praised watercolor art. In The Three Questions, based on a story by noted Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, Muth encouraged young readers to consider the needs of others as well as oneself when making decisions. "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one?, and What is the right thing to do?" are the questions raised in the author/illustrator's gentle story about a boy named Nikolai who learns to find answers to his own questions by relying on the natural wisdom of animals, in this case a wise old turtle named Leo. Noting the Asian inspiration in Muth's art, School Library Journal critic Susan Hepler commented that the book's "languid watercolors, some sketchy and others fully developed,… become less dramatic and more ethereal as the story moves towards its thematic statement." In Publishers Weekly a reviewer praised Muth's "misty, evocative watercolors" as well as the text, which is "moral without being moralistic," while in Kirkus Reviews a critic dubbed The Three Questions "a soaring achievement."
Compared by several critics to The Three Questions, Zen Shorts contains another simple story that poses three thoughtful questions and imparts a resonant message based on Zen teachings. In this tale a giant panda named Stillwater appears at the home of three children. Over several days, Karl, Michael, and Addy each spend time alone with Stillwater as the bear shares both fun and Zen stories, while also posing a philosophical question to each child. Noting that the author includes a valuable commentary about Zen at the book's conclusion, Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg wrote that, for even young readers, "Stillwater's questions will linger … and the peaceful, uncluttered pictures … will encourage children to dream and fill in their own answers." Coop Renner noted the value of Zen Shorts as a teaching tool, commenting in his School Library Journal review that the "visually lovely" book draws on familiar images to "prod children to approach life and its circumstances in profoundly 'un-Western' ways," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded: "Every word and image comes to make as perfect as picture book as can be."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of The Three Questions, p. 1264; January 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Stone Soup, p. 900; March 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Zen Shorts, p. 1194.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2003, review of Stone Soup, p. 282.
Horn Book, July, 1999, Leo Landry, review of Come on, Rain!, p. 454; January, 2000, review of Putnam and Pennyroyal, p. 77; March-April, 2003, Margaret A. Chang, review of Stone Soup, p. 221.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of The Three Questions, p. 420; February 1, 2005, review of Zen Shorts, p. 179.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 1995, Charles de Lint, review of Stonecutter, p. 37.
Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2000, review of Gerson's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year, p. 78; September 11, 2000, review of Why I Will Never Ever Ever Ever Have Enough Time to Read This Book, p. 90; February 11, 2002, review of The Three Questions, p. 187; January 13, 2003, review of Stone Soup, p. 60; October 27, 2003, review of Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, p. 68; February 28, 2005, review of Zen Shorts, p. 66.
School Library Journal, June, 2002, Susan Hepler, review of The Three Questions, p. 104; December, 2002, Anna DeWind, review of Our Gracie Aunt, p. 114; February, 2003, Lee Bock, review of The Three Questions, p. 96; March, 2003, Grace Oliff, review of Stone Soup, p. 222; August, 2003, Teresa Bateman, review of Come on, Rain, p. 63; October, 2003, review of Our Gracie Aunt, p. 28; February, 2005, Coop Renner, review of Zen Shorts, p. 108.
Candlewick Press Web site, http://www.candlewick.com/ (October 7, 2005), "John J. Muth."
FireBlade Book Review Online, http://www.hoboes.com/ (July 10, 2001), Jerry Stratton, review of Moonshadow.
Lambiek Web site, http://www.lambiek.net/ (October 7, 2005), "John J. Muth."
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