Jim McMullan (1934-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Full name, James Burroughs McMullan; born 1934; children: Leigh Fenwick.
Agent—Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties, 155 East 38th St., Suite 2H, New York, NY 10016.
Artist, illustrator and writer. Designer and illustrator of posters for Lincoln Center Theater productions. Teacher of life drawing courses at School of Visual Arts, New York, NY.
Best Illustrated Book, New York Times, 1965, for Kangaroo & Kangaroo; Pick of the List, American Bookseller, and one of the Ten Best Picture Books of 1993, New York Times, both for Nutcracker Noel; Ten Best Picture Books of 1995 selection, New York Times, 1995 Picture Book Award, Parents' Choice, Reading Magic Award, Parenting, 1995, all for Hey, Pipsqueak!; No-table Children's Book citation, New York Times, and Horn Book Honor Book citation, both 2002, both for I Stink!
SELF-ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOKS
(With wife, Kate McMullan) The Noisy Giants' Tea Party, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.
(With wife, Kate McMullan) No No, Jo, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
(With wife, Kate McMullan) I Stink!, Joanna Cotler Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(With wife, Kate McMullan) I'm Mighty!, Joanna Cotler Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Kathy Braun, Kangaroo & Kangaroo, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1965.
Kate McMullan, Nutcracker Noel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Kate McMullan, Hey, Pipsqueak!, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Kate McMullan, Noel the First, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Michael DeMunn, The Earth Is Good: A Chant in Praise of Nature, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Kate McMullan, Papa's Song, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.
Revealing Illustrations, Watson Guptil, 1980.
High Focus Drawing, Overlook, 1995.
The Theater Posters of James McMullan, Penguin Studio (New York, NY), 1998.
Work in Progress
A picture book about a tractor.
Jim McMullan was best known for his poster art prior to 1992, but since then he has formed a successful partnership with his wife, Kate, to produce picture books that offer a humorous take on urban life. The McMullans have been inspired sometimes by the adventures of their own daughter and other times by the daily routines in Manhattan, and their relationship allows them to work closely together on story elements, plot, characterization, and the final illustration process. In an interview with Sally Lodge of Publishers Weekly, Kate McMullan said: "It is wonderful to have Jim's sketches early on so that I can think visually. But the text needs to be pretty solid before he does the final art."
The first title the McMullans published was The Noisy Giants' Tea Party. The story grew out of their daughter's anxiety over the noisy garbage trucks that passed their apartment building—the McMullans transformed this disruptive noise into a jolly party for a group of friendly giants. The collaborators' daughter also inspired their two ballet titles, Nutcracker Noel and Noel the First. Noel loves ballet, but like any child she wants to be the best and win the biggest roles. In Nutcracker Noel she is disappointed to discover that she has been cast as a tree, while a rival girl gets to be a gingerbread cookie. At performance time, however, Noel is pleased to find that her costume is a glittering white gown, while the other girl must dance in a baggy suit that covers her face. Booklist correspondent Ilene Cooper called Jim McMullan's illustrations "delightfully distinctive, lively, and full of wit."
In Noel the First, Noel is promoted to the head of her ballet class—but not for long. First Anne Marie arrives and jumps ahead of Noel, and then Regina Louisa Belinda usurps the top spot from Anne Marie. Noel learns a valuable lesson as she watches the two other girls turn the competition into something ugly—paving the way for Noel, who dances from the heart, to regain her post. A Publishers Weekly reviewer liked the way Jim McMullan's illustrations revealed the nastiness between Noel's two rivals. The reviewer concluded: "There is plenty of truth to this tale—not just for prima ballerinas, but for anyone striving for a personal best."
Papa's Song is a bedtime tale in which a family of bears strive to get Baby Bear to sleep. Each member of the family takes a turn at soothing Baby, who just simply isn't tired. Finally Papa puts Baby in a boat and takes him for a float on the river. The sounds of water, frogs, and frolicking otter pups soothes Baby into slumber. Maryann H. Owen concluded in School Library Journal that the book is "guaranteed to provide sweet dreams." In Booklist, Ellen Mandel praised Jim McMullan's "rich watercolors" and called Papa's Song "inviting bedtime fare."
A pesky nocturnal garbage truck comes to life in I Stink!, one of the McMullans' most successful titles. As illustrated by Jim McMullan, the garbage truck assumes some human features and a distinctly prickly attitude as it describes the joy it takes in collecting and consuming dirty baby diapers, puppy poo, and the other unwanted messes of a bustling metropolis. In the end the truck disgorges its load onto a barge and goes home to a garage to rest, looking forward to the next round of collection. In his starred review for School Library Journal, Steven Engelfried observed that the illustrations "visually capture the rewards of garbage collecting in an appealingly gross package." A Publishers Weekly critic, also in a starred review, called I Stink! "thoroughly engaging," adding: "Jim McMullan's whimsically exaggerated art humorously reflects the personality of this hero."
I'm Mighty! is a related title in which a feisty tugboat demonstrates his prowess at guiding big ships through the harbor. The McMullans were attracted to tugboats because of their size relative to the jobs they do—and, like garbage trucks, they are noisy and often taken for granted. Jim McMullan told Lodge: "I grew up in various seaports, including Shanghai and Vancouver, and I have always loved tugboats. To me they represent all that is glamorous about harbors." The husband and wife team plan further projects in this vein, including a picture book about a farm tractor.
McMullan commented to Lodge that he turned to picture book illustration because it offered "an opportunity to do something close to my real life." Since then he has come to enjoy the linear quality of children's stories and the chance to explore characters in greater depth through twists in a plot. "You can do things in the serial form that you just can't do in a single picture," he said.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 15, 1992, p. 738; October 15, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of Nutcracker Noel, p. 454; January 1, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Noel the First, p. 870; February 15, 2000, Ellen Mandel, review of Papa's Song, p. 1118.
Horn Book, March, 2000, review of Papa's Song, p. 189; May-June, 2002, Christine M. Heppermann, review of I Stink!, p. 319.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1992, p. 1381; December 15, 1993, p. 1594.
New York Times, December 2, 1993, p. C18.
New York Times Book Review, November 28, 1993, Delia Peters, review of Nutcracker Noel, p. 22; August 13, 2000, Lawrence Downes, "The Wisest Bear," p. 17; October 20, 2002, Bruno Navasky, "Smelly Is Good for Us," p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1992; September 20, 1993, review of Nutcracker Noel, p. 37; August 7, 1995, review of Hey, Pipsqueak!, p. 459; July 22, 1996, "About Our Cover Artist," p. 151; October 7, 1996, review of Noel the First, p. 73; March 8, 1999, review of The Earth Is Good: A Chant in Praise of Nature, p. 66; February 18, 2002, review of I Stink!, p. 95; October 20, 2003, Sally Lodge, "Urban Personalities," p. 54.
School Library Journal, February, 1993, p. 76; March, 1994, p. 204; May, 2000, Maryann H. Owen, review of Papa's Song, p. 149; May, 2002, Steven Engelfried, review of I Stink!, p. 122.
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