E.B. Lewis (1956–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Illustrator, Sidelights
(Earl Bradley Lewis)
Born 1956, in Philadelphia, PA. Education: Attended Tyler School of Art, Temple University.
Agent—Dwyer & O'Grady Inc., P.O. Box 239, East Lempster, NH 03605.
Artist and illustrator. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, instructor in illustration. Exhibitions: Work included in permanent collection of Pew Charitable Trust.
Society of Illustrators, Philadelphia Water Club Society.
Notable Book selection, American Library Association, 1996, for Down the Road by Alice Schertle; Notable Books for the Language Arts citation, 2002, for The Other Side; Coretta Scott King Award, 2003, for Talkin' about Bessie, by Nikki Grimes; Caldecott Honor Book, 2005, for Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson.
Jane Kurtz, Fire on the Mountain, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
Doreen Rappaport, The New King, Dial (New York, NY), 1994.
Tololwa M. Mollel, Big Boy, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Alice Schertle, Down the Road, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1994.
Dakari Hru, The Magic Moonberry Jump Ropes, Dial (New York, NY), 1995.
Mary Matthews, Magid Fasts for Ramadan, Clarion (New York, NY), 1995.
Jane Kurtz and Christopher Kurtz, Only a Pigeon, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Nancy Antle, Champions, Dial (New York, NY), 1997.
Nancy Antle, Staying Cool, Dial (New York, NY), 1997.
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, I Love My Hair!, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
John Steptoe, Creativity, Clarion (New York, NY), 1997.
Gavin Curtis, The Bat Boy and His Violin, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Fatima Shaik, Jazz of Our Street, 1998.
Clifton L. Taulbert, Little Cliff and the Porch People, Dial (New York, NY), 1999.
T. Obinkaram Echewa, The Magic Tree: A Folktale from Nigeria, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Tololwa M. Mollel, My Rows and Piles of Coins, Clarion (New York, NY), 1999.
Lucille Clifton, The Times They Used to Be, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
Jane Kurtz, Faraway Home, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
Doreen Rappaport and Lyndall Callan, Dirt on Their Skirts: The Story of the Young Women Who Won the World Championship, Dial (New York, NY), 2000.
Clifton L. Taulbert, Little Cliff's First Day of School, Dial (New York, NY), 2001.
Jacqueline Woodson, The Other Side, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, Bippity Bop Barbershop, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Clifton L. Taulbert, Little Cliff and the Cold Place, Dial (New York, NY), 2002.
Nikki Grimes, Talkin' about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, Orchard (New York, NY), 2002.
Bebe Moore Campbell, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, Joe-Joe's First Flight, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
Dianna Hutts Aston, When You Were Born, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Jacqueline Woodson, Coming on Home Soon, Putnam (New York, NY), 2004.
Margot Theis Raven, Circle Unbroken: The Story of a Basket and Its People, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Mary Ann Rodman, My Best Friend, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.
Nikki Grimes, Danitra Brown, Class Clown, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
This Little Light of Mine, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Richard Michelson, Happy Feet: The Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hoppers and Me, Gulliver (Orlando, FL), 2005.
Margot Theis Raven, Christmas John and the Night Boat, Farrar Straus (New York, NY), 2006.
Angela Johnson, Lily Brown's Paintings, Orchard (New York, NY), 2006.
Elisa Lynn Carbone, Night Running: How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Illustrator E.B. Lewis once offered the following third-person recollection to SATA: "Comfortable in his role as the 'class clown,' young Earl Bradley Lewis's shattering moment of truth came when he was a sixth grader seated in the auditorium of a Philadelphia public school. Near the end of one particularly inspiring assembly program, the guest performer asked randomly selected students what they wanted to be when they grew up. Lewis's straight-faced, serious answer, 'I want to be a lawyer!' caused a general outburst of incredulous laughter. As a result of this embarrassing but pivotal moment, Lewis made up his mind to show everyone that he could become 'somebody' and make outstanding contributions to society.
"Lewis ultimately decided upon a career in art. In 1975 he enrolled in Temple University's Tyler School of Art where he majored in graphic design and illustration while also studying art education. After graduating from Tyler, Lewis began teaching, freelancing in graphic design, and painting. Since 1985 his watercolors have been exhibited and sold in galleries nationally and included in distinguished collections such as the Pew Charitable Trust."
In his work as a children's book illustrator, Lewis's first assignment, was to create art for Jane Kurtz's picture book Fire on the Mountain. Published in 1993, the book was praised by School Library Journal contributor Jos N. Holman, who wrote that the artist's watercolors "captur[e] … the warmth and simplicity of the tale" and "bring the story to life, complementing the emotion, expression, and character of the printed words."
Lewis has gone on to complete illustrations for numerous other children's books, including texts by such noted authors as Tololwa M. Mollel, Alice Schertle, and Lucille Clifton. His artwork for Mollel's Big Boy was received with typical enthusiasm by reviewers, among whom a Publishers Weekly commentator asserted: "Mol-
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lel's story is an engaging fantasy for little ones with big aspirations, but it is Lewis's crisp, understated watercolors that steal the show."
Talkin' about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, written by Nikki Grimes, won Lewis the 2003 Coretta Scott King award. Relating the story of the African-American aviator noted for being the first woman of her race to become a licensed pilot, Grimes's text is accompanied by "painterly illustrations" that "deepen" the story, according to Ellen Feldman in her New York Times review. "Lewis' paintings, subdued in tone and color, reflect the spirit of the verse through telling details and sensitive, impressionistic portrayals," wrote Carolyn Phelan in Booklist, while Harriett Fargnoli noted in School Library Journal that the work is "well conceived, well-executed, [and] handsomely illustrated."
Many of Lewis's works, particularly his illustrations depicting earlier periods in history, have won him praise from critics. Of the illustrations he created for Natasha Anastasia Tarpley's Joe-Joe's First Flight, which is set in 1922, New York Times contributor Daniel B. Schneider wrote that, "rich in period detail, yet slightly blurred and indistinct, as though traced from weathered old photographs," the artwork is "exquisitely well suited to the story." Marianne Saccardi, reviewing the same title for School Library Journal, noted that "Lewis's large watercolor paintings capture the flavor of this period."
Michael Cart, writing in Booklist, noted that Lewis's "warm watercolors … catch the affectionate spirit" of Clifton L. Taulbert's Little Cliff and the Cold Place, a picture book set in the 1950s. Lewis moves a decade ahead in illustrating My Rows and Piles of Coins, Tololwa M. Mollel's picture book set in Tanzania during the 1960s. Grace Oliff, writing in School Library Journal, wrote that Lewis's "watercolor paintings authentically depict Tanzanian village life" during that period. In 2005 Lewis was awarded a Caldecott Honor Medal for his work on Coming on Home Soon, a story by Jacqueline Woodson that is set during World War II.
In addition to bringing to life the past, Lewis illustrates many books set in modern times, often accenting the passage of time. When You Were Born shows a family and neighbors welcoming a new baby; Sally R. Dow commented that Lewis's "eye-catching images … are sophisticated yet childlike." Lewis used the text for the African-American spiritual "This Little Light of Mine" for his book of the same title. Focusing on one young boy's cheerful disposition as the light in the song, the book's art serves as an "evocative interpretation," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The illustrator has collaborated on several fictional stories with Grimes, including their Danitra Brown, Class Clown, which is set in a present-day classroom. My Best Friend, written by Mary Ann Rodman, is a another modern story of friendship. He continues to illustrate titles, both modern and period, for such authors as Margo Theis Raven, Angela Johnson, and Elisa Lynn Carbone.
When Lewis began his career as an artist, he did not expect to illustrate children's books; in fact, he turned down an illustration contract before rethinking his career path. "Some of the best artwork in the country is being done in children's books," the artist asserted to Kevin Riordan for the South Jersey Courier-Post. On his home page, Lewis described the types of books he chooses to illustrate: "I like the strong human interest stories," he wrote, "the kind that evoke emotion … stories that touch the heart."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 15, 1994, Janice Del Negro, review of Fire on the Mountain, p. 432; March 1, 1995, p. 1248; February 15, 1996, p. 1026; November 1, 2002, Michael Cart, review of Little Cliff and the Cold Place, p. 509; November 15, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Talkin' about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, p. 602; January 1, 2003, review of Bippity Bop Barbershop, p. 799.
Courier-Post (South Jersey, NJ), February 5, 2004, Kevin Riordan, "E.B. Lewis' Illustrations Help Bring Life to Books."
Horn Book, March-April, 1996, pp. 191-192; July-August, 1996, pp. 460-461.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2002, review of Talkin' about Bessie, p. 1530; December 15, 2004, review of This Little Light of Mine, p. 1204.
Newton's Book Notes, May 19, 2005, Holly Newton, review of This Little Light of Mine.
New York Times, February 9, 2003, Ellen Feldman, review of Talkin' about Bessie; October 9, 2003, Daniel B. Schneider, review of Joe-Joe's First Flight.
Publishers Weekly, September, 1994, review of Fire on the Mountain, p. 69; January 23, 1995, review of Big Boy, p. 70; June 5, 1995, p. 60; January 1, 1996, p. 70.
School Library Journal, December, 1994, Jos N. Holman, review of Fire on the Mountain, p. 99; April, 1996, p. 117; June, 2001, Marianne Saccardi, review of Little Cliff's First Day of School, p. 131; October, 2002, Harriett Fargnoli, review of Talkin' about Bessie, p. 183; July, 2003, Marianne Saccardi, review of Joe-Joe's First Flight, p. 108; September, 2003, Grace Oliff, review of My Rows and Piles of Coins, p. 85; December, 2004, Sally R. Dow, review of When You Were Born, p. 96.
E.B. Lewis Home Page, http://www.eblewis.com (February 20, 2006).
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