Loren ?)- Long (1966()
Illustrator Loren Long was catapulted to worldwide fame when pop star Madonna selected him to illustrate a picture book she had written, but Long had been laying the foundation for that opportunity for many years. After attending art school, Long took a job as an illustrator at a greeting card company, and in the evenings, he worked on freelance illustrating jobs and continued to hone his distinctive style. "I'm drawn to the work of the great WPA [Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era program] muralists and American regionalists because there is a narrative quality to all their paintings. They were story tellers. That's why I like doing children's books," Long told Cincinnati Post interviewer Peggy Kreimer.
Madonna thought that this style was perfect for her tale of small-town life in 1949, and reviewers have generally noted that Long's illustrations are well-suited to the text. In Mr. Peabody's Apples, the eponymous Mr. Peabody is a teacher who also serves as a Little League coach. One of his players, Tommy, notices that every week after the game, Mr. Peabody takes an apple from the local market without paying and, not knowing that Mr. Peabody had been paying for the apples in advance, spreads the rumor that he is a thief. When Mr. Peabody finds out about this, he explains the situation, but then tries to teach Tommy a lesson about the damage that his rumor-mongering has done. He has Tommy bring his pillow to the baseball field and cuts it open. Feathers fly everywhere, and Mr. Peabody tells Tommy to go gather them all up. When Tommy protests that this is impossible, Mr. Peabody replies, "It would be just as impossible to undo the damage that you have done by spreading the rumor that I am a thief." "Readers may be less than charmed by Mr. Peabody's self-righteous streak but Long's art is worth watching," a reviewer wrote in Publishers Weekly. Salon.com contributor Emily Jenkins, who also objected to Mr. Peabody's harshness, nonetheless praised Long's "muscular, rubbery paintings [which] have beautiful plays of light and a still, detailed beauty."
Long has also illustrated several other books, including Frances Ward Weller's The Day the Animals Came: A Story of St. Francis Day and Gary D. Schmidt's The Wonders of Donal O'Donnell: A Folktale of Ireland. Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper praised Long's work in the first book, about the Blessing of the Animals ceremony held annually at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York, saying that "the acrylic paintings soar as Long looks at goings-on from many different perspectives."
Writing about The Wonders of Donal O'Donnell in School Library Journal, Marie Orlando noted that Long's "richly colored acrylic paintings … successfully enhance the mood," which starts out dark, as Donal O'Donnell and his wife Sorcha cut themselves off from the community and mourn the death of their son. But on one particularly brutal winter night, Sorcha cannot bring herself to turn away three men who knock on the door and ask to come in and warm up. The three, Donal O'Sheary, Donal O'Neary, and Donal O'Leary, each tell a story (adapted by Schmidt from traditional Irish folklore) about a boy who goes to Fairy Land but then returns. As the night progresses, the O'Donnells learn to accept that their son is gone, but they begin to tell stories about him so that he can live on in their memories. Long's "somber" illustrations both reflect the mood and "remind the reader of the darkened, candlelit atmosphere of the cottage," a critic commented in Kirkus Reviews.
Although he has provided illustrations for many adult publications, Long says that in the future he plans to focus on picture books. "The process of making a children's book from start to finish is very fulfilling," he told Cincinnati Enquirer's Marilyn Bauer. "It's a way to touch children and to have an impact on American culture in general."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Madonna, Mr. Peabody's Apples, illustrated by Loren Long, Callaway (New York, NY), 2003.
Black Issues Book Review, July-August, 2003, Suzanne Rust, review of I Dream of Trains, p. 65.
Booklist, October 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Day the Animals Came: A Story of Saint Francis Day, p. 335; November 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Mr. Peabody's Apples, p. 601.
Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), November 9, 2003, Marilyn Bauer, interview with Long.
Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH), November 8, 2003, Peggy Kreimer, interview with Long.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of The Wonders of Donal O'Donnell: A Folktale of Ireland, p. 1702; July 1, 2003, review of The Day the Animals Came, p. 916.
Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), February 7, 2004, Mary Meehan, interview with Long.
New York Times Book Review, November 16, 2003, Tony Hiss, review of I Dream of Trains, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, November 4, 2002, review of The Wonders of Donal O'Donnell, p. 84; September 29, 2003, review of The Day the Animals Came, p. 62; November 17, 2003, John F. Baker, "Madonna Artist in Big Kids' Deal," p. 12; December 15, 2003, review of Mr. Peabody's Apples, p. 73.
School Library Journal, January, 2001, Pat Leach, review of My Dog, My Hero, p. 92; December, 2002, Marie Orlando, review of The Wonders of Donal O'Donnell, p. 129.
Loren Long Home Page, http://www.lorenlong.com/ (March 19, 2004).
Brief BiographiesBiographies: C(hristopher) J(ohn) Koch Biography - C.J. Koch comments: to Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard Lovell (1913– ) BiographyLoren ?)- Long (1966() Biography - Career, Illustrator, Sidelights - Personal, Addresses, Honors Awards