Alexandra Day (1941–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Sandra Louise Woodward Darling)
Born 1941, in Cincinnati, OH; Education: Swarthmore College, B.A., 1963; trained as an artist at Art Students' League (New York, NY), 1963–64. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Fashion design and dressmaking.
Office—Blue Lantern Studio, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103-6900.
Fine artist, writer, illustrator, and book publisher. Freelance artist, 1965–; Green Tiger Press, San Diego, CA, founder and owner with husband, Harold Darling, and note cards and stationery designer, 1969–86; children's author and illustrator, 1983–; Blue Lantern Studio, San Diego, CA (after 1993 Seattle, WA), owner with H. Darling, 1986–, Laughing Elephant Publishing (gift-book and paper goods manufacturer), Seattle, co-founder, 1992–, creator of Darling &Co. imprint, 1999, reacquisition of Green Tiger Press from Simon &Schuster, 2004–. Young Men's Hebrew Association, New York, NY, former crafts teacher. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Every Picture Tells a Story, Los Angeles, and Art of Illustration, Seattle.
Special mention, Children's Jury, Bologna Book Fair, and Children's Choice Award, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, 1984, both for The Teddy Bears' Picnic; Parents' Choice Award for Illustration, 1984, for The Blue Faience Hippopotamus.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED; "CARL" SERIES
Good Dog, Carl, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1985.
Carl Goes Shopping, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1989.
Carl's Christmas, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.
Carl's Afternoon in the Park, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1991.
Carl's Masquerade, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.
Carl Goes to Daycare, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1993.
Carl Makes a Scrapbook, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1994.
Carl Pops Up, includes illustrations by Vicki Teague Cooper, Simon &Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Carl's Birthday, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1995.
Carl's Baby Journal, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Follow Carl!, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
Several "Carl" books have been translated into Spanish, Japanese, and French.
Frank and Ernest, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.
Paddy's Pay-Day, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
Frank and Ernest Play Ball, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
River Parade, Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
Frank and Ernest on the Road, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
A Bouquet, Blue Lantern Studio (San Diego, CA), 1996.
(With Cooper Edens) The Christmas We Moved to the Barn, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Boswell Wide Awake, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Cooper Edens) Darby, the Special Order Pup, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Cooper Edens) Special Deliveries, HarperCollins Children's Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Puppy Trouble (pop-up book), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.
The Flight of a Dove, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Not Forgotten: A Consolation for the Loss of an Animal Friend, Laughing Elephant (Seattle, WA), 2004.
Also author and illustrator of My Puppy's Record Book, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY).
Jimmy Kennedy, The Teddy Bears' Picnic (book and record set), Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1983.
Joan Marshall Grant, The Blue Faience Hippopotamus, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1984.
Cooper Edens, Children of Wonder, Volume 1: Helping the Sun, Volume 2: Helping the Animals, Volume 3: Helping the Flowers &Trees, Volume 4: Helping the Night, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1987.
Ned Washington, When You Wish upon a Star, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1987.
Abigail Darling, Teddy Bears' Picnic Cookbook, Puffin Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Christina Darling, Mirror, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor with Cooper Edens and Welleran Poltarnees) Children from the Golden Age, 1880–1930, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1987.
(Editor with Welleran Poltarnees) A.B.C. of Fashionable Animals, Green Tiger Press (San Diego, CA), 1989.
Best known for introducing readers to a lovable rottweiler named Carl, the author and artist Alexandra Day is the pen name of Sandra Darling. As Day, she is the creator of the picture-book classic Good Dog, Carl and its many sequels, as well as the author and/or illustrator of several other books. As Darling, she had become well-known in publishing circles, founding the historic Green Tiger Press in 1969 and reissuing—through imaginative marketing and publishing efforts that have also drawn on the talents of her husband, Harold Darling, as well as other family members—the illustrations and philosophy of the Golden Age of illustration. Green Tiger Press, which was sold to New York publisher Simon &Schuster in the mid-1980s, has since been reacquired by the Darlings under their more-recently established Seattle, Washington-based Laughing Elephant Publishing.
As the granddaughter of an architect and the daughter of a painter, Day grew up in a family where art was viewed as important. As she recalled in SAAS, "my home was always well supplied with those things necessary for creation, repair, and transformation—pencils, chalk, paint, brushes, paper, tools, wire, nails, glue, and so on. My sisters and I were always made to feel that these materials were there to be freely used. Even more significant was the assumption in our family that if you wanted something, whether it was a kite, a strawberry pie, a prom dress, or a tree house, with a little ingenuity and application (and help, if necessary) you could make it."
In this creative environment, Day also gained an early love of reading, telling SAAS that she read "Nancy Drew, the Black Stallion books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E. Nesbit, and wept with Black Beauty and Little Women." Her favorite authors included George Macdonald, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. The works of the authors, who posed fantastic stories, would greatly influence Day's later work.
After attending Swarthmore College, where she majored in English literature, Day moved to New York City and worked at the Young Men's Hebrew Association as a crafts teacher. She also took classes in figure drawing and painting at the Art Students' League and from Will Barnet. On a trip to California, she met Harold Darling, who owned a cinema and book store (housed in the same building), and they were married in 1967. Harold had three children from a previous marriage, and during the next seven years the couple had four more children, each named after lesser-known authors the bookish couple admired.
Drawing on the vast collection of antique children's books Day and Darling collected, in 1969, the couple founded Green Tiger Press. The business, located in San Diego, California, originally published postcards, notecards and bookmarks featuring artwork from such talents as Arthur Rackham, L. Frank Baum, and others. Three years later they published their first book, All Mirrors Are Magic Mirrors, written by Harold Darling, and sold 50,000 copies by mail order. As Day recalled, the company grew, hired staff, and expanded its publications; then, after a dozen years a quandary pushed her into a new phase of her career. Needing an illustration for an old song, "The Teddy Bears' Picnic," and not having an appropriate image, she decided to create the art herself. The book was a success, and Day soon found herself illustrating other books published by Green Tiger Press.
On a trip in Zurich, Switzerland, the Darlings discovered an antique German broadsheet titled Der brave Karo, about a poodle and a baby who played together while the baby should have been napping. Charmed by the story, the Darlings decided to create a similar work, casting the family rottweiler Toby in the poodle's role and Day's granddaughter Madeleine as the baby. Good Dog, Carl, published in 1985, proved to be "an even larger success than The Teddy Bears' Picnic," according to Day in SAAS. "It, and its sequels, continue to sell enormously, and I have to fight off the pressure to make a career of babies and dogs." Since 1989, when the loveable Carl made his second picture-book appearance in Carl Goes Shopping, she has published several more "Carl" books, each characterized by a brief text and Day's engaging paintings.
In Good Dog, Carl, a child's mother tells the family dog to watch the baby while she leaves the room; her words of praise upon her return are "Good dog, Carl!" Because the text is so brief, Day's illustrations, tell the story; rendered in what a People contributor described as "lustrous oils," Day's art is "a handsome counterpoint to the whimsy of the narrative." One of the last books to be published by Green Tiger Press prior to its sale to Simon &Schuster, the book sold over a half-million copies during its first five years. In addition to sparking a publishing phenomenon due to its small-press origins, the book also had another surprising effect. As Kelli Pryor explained in Entertainment Weekly as the "Carl" series took shape: "The warmth Day put into her realistically rendered oil paintings has earned the books so much adoration that it's not farfetched to speculate that Carl is partly responsible for boosting rottweilers … into the top five of the American Kennel Club's most-popular breeds list." While, over time, the models for Carl have changed as the Darlings' beloved family dogs have successively passed on, the personality of the original Toby shines through in all the "Carl" books.
In Carl Goes Shopping Carl watches over a toddler and carries her into various departments in the store. Calling the book a "thoroughly enjoyable adventure," a reviewer in Horn Book suggested that Day offers "the most pinchable baby and pettable dog of the season." After wreaking havoc everywhere they go, they return before the mother does. The third book in the series, Carl's Christmas, in the words of a Publishers Weekly critic, is "imbued with enough 'good will towards man' to warm a whole town." Carl takes care of a puppy and a baby in Carl's Afternoon in the Park, published in 1991. In this book "the dogs are as charmingly true to life as ever," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic.
Carl and his toddler charge continue to charm young readers in Carl's Masquerade, Carl Goes to Daycare, and Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, among others. When toddler Madeleine follows her parents to a costume party, the loyal rottweiler comes to her rescue in Carl's Masquerade. According to Roger Sutton, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, the picture book's setting "allows Day free rein for her deliberately outré painterly style and whimsical turn of imagination." In Carl Goes to Daycare the resourceful pup takes charge of Madeleine's preschool class when the teacher is accidentally locked outside. Ellen Mandel asserted in Booklist that this book "is sure to be a favorite in a deservedly popular series."
A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "everyone's favorite rottweiler is back in top form" in Carl's Birthday, in which Carl and Madeleine secretly aid her mother's party preparations, while in Follow Carl! Carl leads the neighborhood children in a game of Follow the Leader. As a reviewer in Publishers Weekly noted of the latter, "The combination of grassy settings, friendly village shops and, of course, tender companionship adds up to an excursion virtually any reader would enjoy." In Carl's Sleepy Afternoon the pup decides that an afternoon on his own would be better spent out and about than sleeping at home in the sun. When Madeleine and Mother go to town on errands, Carl is not far behind, catching a ride on a passing van. Spotting Madeleine in a bakery, the pup sneaks in and is given a cookie; helpful visits to a nearby druggist and a burning garage where he rescues a litter of stranded puppies round out Carl's day, and the two unsuspecting shoppers find him sleeping in the sun upon their return home. Noting that Carl's Sleepy Afternoon marks more than two decades of "Carl" books, a Publishers Weekly writer noted that the rottweiler "has lost none of his appeal—or his spunk," and added that "Day's stunningly realistic, brightly hued illustrations are as timeless and endearing as the plot." In Booklist John Peters deemed the book "another fan-pleasing, tongue-in-cheek outing" for Carl, while Lynn K. Vanca wrote in School Library Journal that Carl's Sleepy Afternoon "is a must-read for fans, and it stands well on its own."
In addition to the "Carl" books, Day has also written and illustrated a number of other highly praised children's books, including a short series featuring a bear named Frank and an elephant named Ernest. In the first book, Frank and Ernest, the watercolor-illustrated pair runs a '50s-style diner, using amusing diner dialogue which is explained in a glossary. Trev Jones, writing in School Library Journal, concluded that the book is "bound to become standard fare for story hour specials." Frank and Ernest Play Ball finds the pair managing a baseball team and using a dictionary to understand their job, while Frank and Ernest on the Road follows the duo as they find work as truckers, mastering Citizen's Band (CB) radio jargon along with readers. "Fans of the dynamic duo's previous adventures will appreciate this exploration of a new linguistic frontier," wrote Zena Sutherland in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, referencing Day's inclusion of a glossary of CB terms.
In the picture book Boswell Wide Awake Day tells the story of a little bear who gets up in the middle of the night and does work around the house that was left undone at bedtime. "Day turns the plot into something of a tour de force," noted a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, "bringing to her visual storytelling the same extraordinary tenderness and seamless blend of fantasy and realism that characterize her Carl books." Other picture books by Day include Puppy Trouble, a pop-up book in which a young, rambunctious pup gets into a series of small, harmless scrapes with trouble, and The Flight of a Dove. In the latter book, based on a true story, Day focuses on a preschooler named Betsy who has autism and lives in a very lonely world due to her condition. Betsy's first experience at a new school is a frightening one, until an interaction with the class dog, and her experience watching a beautiful dove flutter around the room makes Betsy feel more comfortable with her surroundings and results in her first spoken word. While noting the story's somber theme, School Library Journal contributor Linda Beck praised Day's illustrations, writing that "the beautiful artwork effectively highlights [Betsy's] … sense of isolation and [ultimate] happiness," while in Booklist Linda Perkins explained that "the lush watercolor art … brings the story to life" and "demonstrates the miraculous therapeutic power of animals."
Day has also worked with fellow illustration aficionado and artist Cooper Edens on several picture books, among them The Christmas We Moved the Barn, Darby, the Special0Order Pup, and Special Deliveries. Of Darby, the Special-Order Pup, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst in the School Library Journal wrote that Day has "created another canine that children will love" as much as they have her famous Carl the rottweiler. Peter F. Neumeyer, in a review for the Boston Sunday Globe, called Darby, the Special-Order Pup "that rare, sophisticated specimen—a picture storybook in which the illustrations tell their own story and play off their own jokes in counterpoint to the written text." Special Deliveries was called an "imaginative, funny book" that "is alive with great pictures" by reviewer Ellen Mandel in Booklist.
Continuing their publishing efforts as Laughing Elephant Publishing, Day and her family now make their home in Seattle, Washington, where they run Blue Lantern Studio and publish gift books and other paper products under the Green Tiger Press and Darling &Company imprints. While Day and Darling continue to oversee the company's direction, the business is also a family affair; in addition to family members serving in various production and business capacities, Day's creativity has also been inherited. She has illustrated the Teddy Bears' Picnic Cookbook, a cookery book written by her stepdaughter, Abigail Darling, and Mirror, illustrated by Day, was written by her youngest daughter, Christina Darling. In a Publishers Weekly review, a critic wrote that this fantasy storybook is a "good reflection on this mother/daughter team." Discussing their publishing philosophy on the Laughing Elephant Web site, the Darlings explain: "All of our imprints reflect our belief that values and ideals are enduring, and that the insights of past times are still valuable."
"The visual beauty of the physical world has always been of great importance to me, and the source of my lifelong impulse to be a visual artist," Day once noted of her work. "I became an illustrator because we had a publishing company, but I had already trained myself as a 'fine art' painter, and have continued this pursuit along with the book illustration. I think this accounts largely for both my style and my tendency to prefer books with very few words—that is, books in which the pictures, by their style, execution and content (all the things a good painting has) do the primary work of the book.
"My feelings of kinship with all creation and my conviction of the reality of a spiritual dimension to the universe are naturally very important in my choice of subject matter and in my attempt to convey what I believe we should strive for in our relations with our world."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Children's Literature Review, Volume 22, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 19, 1995.
Booklist, December 15, 1993, Ellen Mandel, review of Carl Goes to Daycare, p. 763; November 15, 1994, p. 610; January 1, 1996, p. 843; March 1, 1997, p. 1170; May 1, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of Special Deliveries, p. 1688; May 1, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of Special Deliveries, p. 1688; November 15, 2004, Linda Perkins, review of The Flight of a Dove, p. 580; September 1, 2005, John Peters, review of Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, p. 143.
Boston Sunday Globe, September 3, 2000, Peter F. Neumeyer, "Strong Animal Tales, from Then and Now," p. M3.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1990, p. 108; December, 1992, Roger Sutton, review of Carl's Masquerade, p. 109; March, 1994, Zena Sutherland, review of Frank and Ernest on the Road, p. 219.
Horn Book, January-February, 1990, review of Carl Goes Shopping, p. 50.
Entertainment Weekly, September 27, 1991, Kelli Pryor, "Day's Dog."
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1991, review of Carl's Afternoon in the Park, p. 1230; October 15, 1994, p. 1406.
People, September 23, 1991, "Top Dog," p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1990, review of Carl's Christmas, p. 123; November 22, 1993, p. 63; August 22, 1994, p. 54; October 23, 1995, review of Carl's Birthday, p. 67; January 13, 1997, review of Mirror, p. 75; June 29, 1998, review of Follow Carl!, p. 57; November 8, 1999, review of Boswell Wide Awake, p. 66; June 4, 2001, review of Special Deliveries, p. 79; October 28, 2002, review of Puppy Trouble, p. 74; September 13, 2004, review of The Flight of a Dove, p. 78; August 22, 2005, review of Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, p. 62.
School Library Journal, August, 1988, Trev Jones, review of Frank and Ernest, p. 80; February, 1994, p. 83; November, 1994, p. 74; December, 1995, p. 79; October, 2000, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of Darby, the Special-Order Pup, p. 120; May, 2001, Holly Belli, review of Special Deliveries, p. 114; September, 2004, Linda Beck, review of The Flight of a Dove, p. 157; October, 2005, Lynn K. Vanca, review of Carl's Sleepy Afternoon, p. 110.
Farrar, Straus &Giroux Kids Web site, http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com/ (December 1, 2005), "Alexandra Day."
Good Dog Carl Web site, http://www.gooddogcarl.com (April 12, 2006).
Laughing Elephant Web site, http://www.laughingelephant.com/ (December 3, 2005), "A Little History of the Laughing Elephant."
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