Barbara Lehman (1963–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1963, in Chicago, IL; Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A. (illustration). Hobbies and other interests: Letterpress printing, Aikido, gardening, bookbinding.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., 5th Fl., Cambridge, MA 02140.
Illustrator, author, and commercial artist. Self-employed freelance artist; clients include New York Times, New York City Transit Authority, and McGraw-Hill.
Parents' Choice illustration award, 1993, for Moonfall; Caldecott Medal Honor Book designation, 2005, for The Red Book.
The Red Book, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
Museum Trip, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.
Nancy Lecourt, Abracadabra to Zigzag: An Alphabet Book, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1991.
Marsha Wilson Chall, Mattie, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1992.
Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide Pierce, Timothy Twinge, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1993.
Susan Whitcher, Moonfall, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1993.
Lynda Graham Barber, A Chartreuse Leotard in a Magenta Limousine, and Other Words Named after People and Places, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.
Susan Whitcher, Something for Everyone, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.
Lynda Graham Barber, Say Boo!, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
Susan Devins, Christmas Cookies!: A Cookbook with Cookie Cutters, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Award-winning commercial artist, illustrator, and children's book author Barbara Lehman has been praised for her imaginative, colorful cartoon art, which has appeared in both her own books and those with texts by other writers. In 2005 she was honored for her talents when The Red Book, a wordless picture book that captures the excitement and adventure to be found through reading, earned Lehman a prestigious Caldecott Honor designation.
Lehman was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in New Jersey. As a child, she loved to visit the art museums in nearby New York City. She began to draw at an early age, inspired in part by the prints of John Tenniel's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland that her father hand-colored and hung over her crib. To prepare herself for a career as an artist, she attended New York City's Pratt Institute and earned a B.F.A. in illustration. As a professional artist as well as an illustrator, she has worked as an animator, a graphic designer, and a window designer, although she admits that creating book illustrations gives her the most satisfaction.
Inspired by Lehman's view of the landscape from high atop a Manhattan skyscraper, The Red Book finds a young girl carried on a magical journey after she discovers a bright red book peeking out of a snow bank on a cold winter day during her walk to her city school.
Opening the book at school, she realize that it is magical; its pictures move, revealing a sun-lit island scene and a boy perusing a similar book. With a turn of the page, the boy's view zooms in, revealing the girl sitting at her desk in the city, and suddenly the two children are able to see each other! Inspired by the book, the girl buys a large bunch of balloons and rises into the air, determined to find the boy's island and leave her own world behind.
Telling its story through Lehman's pen-and-ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations and ending with an interesting twist, The Red Book was praised by Horn Book contributor Joanna Rudge Long for presenting a "pleasing puzzle that will challenge young imaginations and intellects." "As visually uncluttered as it is conceptually rich, Lehman's red book is a little treasure of its own," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, while in School Library Journal Kathy Krasniewicz deemed the book a "perfectly eloquent" work that "captures the magical possibility that exists every time readers open a book." In Booklist Jennifer Mattson recommended The Red Book as "ideal for fueling creative-writing exercises."
Museum Trip was inspired by Lehman's childhood visits to New York art museums. A wordless book, it follows a young boy on a class trip to the museum. When the boy bends over to tie his shoe, his class moves on without him, and when he stands up he finds himself alone. At first frightened, the boy soon discovers a tantalizing display of mazes. He negotiates his way through one maze after another, and at the end of the final maze he wins a medal for his skill, then rejoins his classmates who are boarding the bus back home. Gillian Engberg, reviewing Museum Trip for Booklist, wrote that "Lehman's clever celebration of the fun and power found in art and daydreamed departures will easily draw an audience."
In her work as a picture-book artist, Lehman has produced humorous watercolor illustrations for Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide Pierce's Timothy Twinge, in which a young worrier learns to be brave after his fear that aliens might enter his room at night comes true. "Lehman's bright cartoon-style watercolors will have plenty of appeal for children," predicted Janice Del Negro in Booklist. Discussing Nancy Lecourt's unusual alphabet book, Abracadabra to Zigzag: An Alphabet Book, several reviewers cited Lehman's illustrations for their ability to illuminate Lecourt's text, which introduces children to some of the more colorful expressions in the English language. "The clever and colorful watercolors make the title much more accessible than might be expected given the words involved," asserted Kathy Piehl in School Library Journal, adding that Lehman exploits both variety and identity to increase the appeal of the illustrations—varying the layout of the pictures but including a yellow dog somewhere in each in order to help sustain the interest of young audiences.
Lehman's signature watercolor cartoons for Susan Whitcher's Moonfall won the Parents' Choice illustration award. In Whitcher's story, one night Sylvie witnesses the moon's fall into a neighbor's lilac bush. After fifteen nights without a moon in the sky, the pragmatic young girl ventures out into the neighbor's garden to rescue the orb, but finds it tarnished and dented. A resourceful girl, she washes it in Magic Bubble solution, whereupon the moon dissolves. When Sylvie blows a huge bubble with the solution, the pearly globe floats up into the sky, a perfect moon replacement. "Whitcher's deceptively simple, effective text is engagingly partnered by Lehman's pleasantly satisfying watercolors," remarked Janice Del Negro in Booklist, while Susan Scheps wrote in School Library Journal that Moonfall "is destined to become a read-aloud favorite in many a household."
Lehman once told SATA: "Like many people in publishing I grew up loving books, and reading, and I 'always knew' I wanted to work professionally with books. Illustrating books gives me great pleasure. As a hobby I also do letterpress printing, using metal type and wood and linoleum cuts, as well as hand bookbinding. And I also read a lot—books for all age groups. My most favorite illustrators are: Hergé, Winsor McCay, and George Herriman."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 15, 1992, Kay Weisman, review of Mattie, p. 1527; July, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Moonfall, p. 1978; September 15, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Timothy Twinge, p. 157; October 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Red Book, p. 335; April 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Museum Trip, p. 46.
Horn Book, September-October, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Red Book, p. 570.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of The Red Book, p. 869.
New York Times Book Review, November 14, 2004, Roger Sutton, review of The Red Book, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1991, p. 59; June 14, 1993, p. 69.
School Library Journal, June, 1991, Kathy Piehl, review of Abracadabra to Zigzag: An Alphabet Book, p. 84; August, 1992, p. 134; October, 1993, Susan Scheps, review of Moonfall, p. 114; November, 2004, Kathy Krasniewicz, review of The Red Book, p. 110.