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Lynne W(oodcock) Cravath Biography (1951-)


Lynne W. Cravath, the illustrator of numerous books for children, finds inspiration for her art all around her. "I have a friend who says that all my characters are just myriad little self-portraits of myself," she once told SATA. "In a sense, that's probably true. We can only paint what we know, and we paint the world the way we want to see it. As an illustrator, exposure to all types of people and events in the world around you is very important, along with a good sense of humor. Watching people—their characteristics, clothing, etc.—I carry around a sketchbook at all times and try not to be too obvious about scribbling down a stranger's best and worst features. Animals seem more oblivious to it."

Cravath continued, "All our experiences feed our art. I play the bass in a blues band, and then in the morning, I'm a mom with two kids. I love to travel and talk to people wherever I go." She has also drawn inspiration from other artists, such as Ludwig Bemelmans, who created Madeline, and Charlotte Voake. Her preferred medium is gouache. Its advantages, she once told SATA, include rich color and versatility—"you can make it very opaque, or you can add water or acrylic medium to make it transparent." What's more, she added, "It's a very forgiving medium. If you make a mistake, you can lift it out or paint over it." She sometimes works in other media, such as pen and ink.

Cravath's illustrations have graced a wide variety of stories, including three by Stuart J. Murphy: The Penny Pot, Spunky Monkeys on Parade, and Shark Swimathon. The Penny Pot, aimed at helping children learn to count, shows a little girl collecting pennies so she can accumulate enough money to have her face painted at the school festival. In this book, "Cravath's colorful cartoon illustrations match the story's playful tone," commented Lauren Peterson in Booklist, while School Library Journal reviewer Marty Abbott Goodman praised Cravath's use of "life-size, authentic-looking coins" and "multiethnic children" in her paintings. Spunky Monkeys on Parade teaches children about counting by twos, threes, fours, and so forth, with pictures of "vividly costumed, energetically parading" monkeys, reported Booklist contributor Ellen Mandel. Every one of the illustrations, according to School Library Journal's Anne Knickerbocker, "suggests plenty of movement and excitement." Shark Swimathon, meanwhile, gives a lesson in subtraction as a team of sharks tries to swim seventy-five laps to raise money to attend swimming camp. The laps they complete every day are subtracted from the total. Cravath portrays the sharks outfitted with book bags and bathing suits in her "bright cartoons," wrote Melinda Piehler in School Library Journal. The illustrations, added Catherine Andronik in Booklist, are full of "amusing details" that make each shark distinctive.

History and intercultural cooperation are the lessons of One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims, written by B. G. Hennessy. It uses the familiar rhyme (usually about Indians) to show the activities of young Pilgrim settlers in North America and Wampanoag Indian children as they prepare a dinner to celebrate the harvest—the celebration now known as Thanksgiving. Cravath's illustrations are full of "authentic detail," remarked Booklist's Peterson, who pointed out that Cravath includes notes on her research. School Library Journal commentator Adele Greenlee observed that Cravath's pictures "create a playful mood." Another culture, that of the West Indies, provides the setting for Tiny and Bigman. Phillis Gershator tells a story of a large, strong woman, Miss Tiny, who is capable of great physical feats but intimidating to men; she finds love, however, with a slim little man named Mr. Bigman. They defy traditional gender roles—he cooks, she does carpentry—and become a happily married couple and eventually parents, with Tiny protecting their house during a hurricane so their baby will have a home. Cravath's paintings are "exuberant" and "a lively portrayal of Caribbean life," noted Shelle Rosenfeld in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, meanwhile, described the illustrations as "bold and cheery."

Cravath has also lent her talents to a pair of mysteries by Patricia Reilly Giff, Kidnap at the Catfish Cafe and Mary Moon Is Missing. The central character is youthful detective Minnie, an orphan who is cared for by her older brother, Catfish Cafe owner Orlando. With the help of Max, her black cat, Minnie sets about solving mysteries. Kidnap at the Catfish Cafe takes Minnie through several sleuthing assignments, while Mary Moon Is Missing focuses on the hunt for a prize pigeon who has been stolen just before a big race. Cravath illustrates both books with pen-and-ink drawings. In School Library Journal, Janie Schomberg called Mary Moon Is Missing "lively," observing that Cravath's illustrations "add to the enjoyment."

Adventures of the imagination make up the story of He Saves the Day by Marsha Hayles. A little boy imagines himself performing all sorts of heroic deeds as he plays with various toys—an airplane, a car, and many others. Eventually, though, he needs his mother to save him. "The exuberant art creates both the reality (a summer backyard scene) and the flights of fancy," commented Martha Topol in School Library Journal. Cravath "does a good job" of showing how toys "can launch greater imaginative leaps," added a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

Another action-filled story is The Princesses Have a Ball by Teresa Bateman. This new take on the story of the twelve dancing princesses reveals that the princesses have worn out their shoes so incredibly quickly not by dancing but by playing basketball, an activity they fear their father, the king, would not condone. But a cobbler makes them appropriate athletic shoes, and the king enjoys the girls' games so much he agrees to be their referee. Cravath's illustrations have "amusing anachronistic features" and "just the right look," remarked Bina Williams in School Library Journal. What's more, the "animated illustrations . . . tell the story visually for prereaders," noted Lauren Peterson in Booklist. And a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Cravath for her "shots from odd angles and cute visuals for the grown-ups."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 15, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of The Penny Pot, p. 753; September 1, 1999, Lauren Peterson, review of One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims, p. 148; October 15, 1999, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Tiny and Bigman, p. 452; December 1, 1999, Ellen Mandel, review of Spunky Monkeys on Parade, p. 708; February 1, 2001, Catherine Andronik, review of Shark Swimathon, p. 1058; November 1, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of The Princesses Have a Ball, p. 504.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of He Saves the Day, p. 258.

Publishers Weekly, October 11, 1999, review of Tiny and Bigman, p. 75; July 15, 2002, review of The Princesses Have a Ball, p. 74.

School Library Journal, December, 1998, Marty Abbott Goodman, review of The Penny Pot, pp. 111-112; January, 1999, Janie Schomberg, review of Mary Moon Is Missing, p. 88; September, 1999, Adele Greenlee, review of One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims, p. 183; December, 1999, Anne Knickerbocker, review of Spunky Monkeys on Parade, p. 108; March, 2001, Melinda Piehler, review of Shark Swimathon, p. 239; April, 2002, Martha Topol, review of He Saves the Day, p. 110; December, 2002, Bina Williams, review of The Princesses Have a Ball, p. 84.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Ciara Biography - Wrote Out Goals to Elizabeth David (1913–1992) BiographyLynne W(oodcock) Cravath (1951-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights