Jeanette Winter (1939-) - Sidelights
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Carlos Watson Biography - Was a Student Journalist to Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) BiographyJeanette Winter (1939-) Biography - Awards, Honors, Sidelights - Personal, Career, Writings
Author and illustrator Jeanette Winter has written many self-illustrated titles that have been praised for their text, but the most notable aspect of her work, many critics say, is her distinctive painting style. She generally paints simple, uncluttered pictures that have little shading or depth of field, which makes them appear flat rather than realistic. This approach has led many to term her style "folk art," but it is more complex than that, claim some reviewers. In a profile of Winter for Riverbank Review, Susan Marie Swanson elaborated upon Winter's style: "Winter achieves perspective by overlapping shapes and by composing her pictures in such a way that the view looks from one layer through to the next—looking through doorways and windows, for example, past desert to mountains, through scaffolding to mural." Winter also tends to makes use of unique, brilliant color schemes that are more vivid than life—rich aqua grass or skies that range from pink to green.
Horn Book reviewer Nancy Vasilakis thought this "stylized folk quality" was an excellent complement to Mary Lyn Ray's text in Shaker Boy. The book narrates the life of Caleb, a boy who is raised in a Shaker community after his father is killed in the Civil War and his mother must earn a living in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts. At first, Caleb has trouble adjusting to the many rules, but he eventually adapts to this new way of life. As an adult, Caleb becomes the deacon of the apple orchard, where he oversees the work of growing and picking the fruit. The Shakers are famous for their close-knit, collaborative way of life, and, Vasilakis continued, "Winter's full-color paintings reflect that sense of order and community." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also praised the book, calling it "a work of craftsmanship on all levels: exceptionally well written, elegantly designed, and lovingly illustrated."
Day of the Dead, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Winter, and Winter's own Niño's Mask, take various Mexican holidays as their subjects. The first book is about Día de los Muertos, a day for honoring dead ancestors. In both books, Winter uses her signature bright colors. Her paintings for Day of the Dead are "gem-like," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The illustrations are accented by their thick black borders, studded with colorful motifs such as the red chili peppers used to make food for the holiday picnic and the yellow-orange marigold petals scattered on the road so the spirits can find their way. To Booklist's Hazel Rochman, Winter's distinctive style did a good job of conveying "the magic realism that is part of the ceremony under the stars."
In Niño's Mask, a little boy longs to play a part in his town's celebration of the Tigre. Older boys get to wear masks and pretend to be a conejo (rabbit) or ciervo (deer), but Niño's father says that he is not yet old enough to join in. Undiscouraged, Niño decides to carve his own mask. He makes his mask a perro (dog), the character which will catch the tigre (jaguar) and save the day. The story is told entirely through dialogue, and "Winter neatly slots her crisp prose into speech bubbles, lending the outing an inviting look and a rapid pace," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Besides being an engaging story, the book also teaches young readers many Spanish words, noted critics, whose meanings can easily be discerned by looking at the illustrations. According to Horn Book's Joanna Rudge Long, Niño's Mask "is an affectionate portrayal of a Mexican tradition."
In the self-illustrated My Baby, Winter introduces readers to the Malian art form bogolan, in which mud is used to paint designs on fabric. The story follows one bogolan artist, a girl named Nakunte Diarra, as she grows to become the premiere bogolan maker of her village. Then Nakunte marries, and as she waits for her first child to be born, she sets out to make the best bogolan ever for the baby. As she paints, she talks to her unborn child about the things that inspired her designs, including drums, leopards, crocodiles, and cala-bash flowers. "The designs … appear in charming frames surrounding each wonder as [Nakunte] details its uniqueness," Rosalyn Pierini explained in School Library Journal. "Older children, who can better appreciate both the techniques and emotions, are probably the book's best audience," commented Booklist's Ilene Cooper, "but many readers—from little ones to adults—will be enthralled by the illustrations."
Winter has written and illustrated several child-friendly biographies of artists and authors, including people such as Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who perhaps would not normally be known to young children. These books are notable, as Horn Book critic Lolly Robinson wrote in a review of Beatrix: Various Episodes from the Life of Beatrix Potter, because "Winter's goal … seems to be to capture the spirit of her subject rather than provide every salient fact for report writing." The biographies are written in short, simple sentences, with a minimal amount of text on each page. In many of these biographies, including Beatrix and My Name Is Georgia, a biography of painter Georgia O'Keeffe, Winter weaves quotations from the subject's own writings into her first-person narrative.
Several critics noted that Winter's design for Beatrix echoed the small, square format of Beatrix Potter's own books for children. The focus of the text is Potter's childhood, when she sketched, talked to animals, and studied art and science to assuage her loneliness. Although Beatrix, perhaps uniquely among Winter's biographies, focuses on a figure whose work is likely to be familiar to children, New York Times reviewer DeRaismes Combes wondered if the book's "serious subject matter of growing up feeling unloved and unhappy … is appropriate for very young readers." However, a Publishers Weekly reviewer thought that the story of Potter's lonely childhood is "likely to be of interest to a young audience."
In My Name Is Georgia, Winters "portrays Georgia O'Keeffe through words as clear, spare, and rhythmic as the painter's compositions," thought Booklist's Carolyn Phelan. As with Beatrix, reviewers noted that My Name Is Georgia is "a biography only in the broadest, sparest sense," as Roger Sutton wrote in Horn Book. Although focusing more on O'Keeffe's creative vision than on her biographical details, Winter does cover the span of O'Keeffe's life, from art lessons during her childhood in Wisconsin, through her years of studying art in Chicago and New York, to the decades she spent living in New Mexico in the shadow of Pedernal Mountain, a frequent subject of her paintings. Commenting upon "Winter's poetic text," a Publishers Weekly reviewer declared this to be an "outstanding biography.… A superb and inspiring introduction for children to an exceptional American artist."
Cowboy Charlie: The Story of Charles M. Russell is a picture book biography in which "Winter invitingly describes Russell's journey … in a concise text," Ellen Mandel noted in Booklist. Winter explains how, as a boy in St. Louis, Russell dreamed about the West. His parents finally allowed him to spend a month working in Montana when he was fifteen, and he never looked back. For decades, Russell worked on the open range, until crowding on the frontier and the introduction of the barbed-wire fence put an end to the cowboy way of life. At that point, Russell sat down to document the disappearing old West in paintings and sculpture.
Winter's illustrations for Cowboy Charlie were much commented on by critics. As with much of her work, Winter's paintings for Cowboy Charlie are "reminiscent of folk art, though far more sophisticated in picture design," noted Horn Book contributor Margaret A. Bush. Winter also updated her folk-art designs with rich, unusual colors, using shades of mauve, purple, blue, and green not typically associated with grasslands. The effects of this combination are "both timeless and cutting edge," thought a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Biographical and Critical Sources
American Visions, December, 1991, Walter Dean Myers, review of Follow the Drinking Gourd, pp. 31-32.
Booklist, January 1, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of The Changeling, p. 826; July, 1992, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Klara's New World, p. 1940; February 1, 1993, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Cotton Mill Town, p. 989; September 1, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of A Fruit and Vegetable Man, p. 71; October 15, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Sleepy River, pp. 448-449; August, 1994, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Christmas Tree Ship, p. 2053; November 15, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of Shaker Boy, p. 613; November 1, 1995, Ellen Mandel, review of Cowboy Charlie: The Story of Charles M. Russell, p. 475; October 15, 1996, Annie Ayres, review of Josefina, p. 423; September 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Day of the Dead, p. 242; March 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of The Tortilla Cat, p. 1136; October 15, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of My Name Is Georgia, p. 418; April 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Sebastian: A Book about Bach, p. 1409; February 15, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of My Baby, p. 1158; March 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of My Name Is Georgia, p. 1280; March 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World, p. 1148; February 1, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Niño's Mask, p. 1002; March 1, 2003, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Beatrix: Various Episodes from the Life of Beatrix Potter, p. 1208; March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Elsina's Clouds, p. 1199.
Horn Book, June, 1981, Virginia Haviland, review of Witch, Goblin, and Ghost in the Haunted Woods, p. 295; March-April, 1988, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of The Magic Ring, p. 220; May-June, 1992, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of The Changeling, pp. 337-338; January-February, 1994, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of A Fruit and Vegetable Man, p. 66; January-February, 1995, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Shaker Boy, pp. 52-53; January-February, 1996, Margaret A. Bush, review of Cowboy Charlie, pp. 95-96; September-October, 1998, Roger Sutton, review of My Name Is Georgia, p. 627; July, 1999, review of Sebastian, p. 487; March-April, 2003, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Niño's Mask, p. 208; May-June, 2003, Lolly Robinson, review of Beatrix, pp. 371-372; March-April, 2004, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Elsina's Clouds, p. 177.
Instructor, May, 1989, Lynn Minderman, review of Follow the Drinking Gourd, p. 49.
Instructor and Teacher, May, 1981, Allan Yeager, review of Witch, Goblin, and Ghost in the Haunted Woods, p. 59; October, 1982, Allan Yeager, review of Witch, Goblin, and Ghost's Book of Things to Do, p. 24.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, reviews of Niño's Mask and Beatrix, pp. 1859-1860.
New York Times, July 13, 2003, DeRaismes Combes, review of Beatrix, p. 20.
New York Times Book Review, August 26, 1984, review of Hush Little Baby, p. 23; May 19, 1991, Patricia T. O'Conner, review of Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet, p. 29; January 12, 1992, Grace Glueck, review of Diego, p. 20; November 8, 1992, Ruth J. Abram, review of Klara's New World, p. 58; December 4, 1992, review of The Christmas Tree Ship, p. 76; May 19, 2002, Martha Davis Beck, "They're Somebody! Who Are You?: Jeanette Winter Acquaints Young Readers with Emily Dickinson," p. 33; December 8, 2002, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, March 21, 1980, review of Harry (The Monster), p. 69; August 20, 1982, review of Witch, Goblin, and Ghost's Book of Things to Do, p. 72; March 30, 1984, review of Hush Little Baby, pp. 56-57; September 7, 1984, review of The Girl and the Moon Man: A Siberian Tale, p. 79; June 27, 1986, review of Come Out to Play, p. 84; October 14, 1988, review of Follow the Drinking Gourd, p. 73; August 31, 1990, review of The World's Birthday: A Rosh Hashanah Story, pp. 64-65; August 9, 1991, review of Diego, pp. 57-58; December 6, 1991, review of The Changeling, p. 73; August 10, 1992, review of Klara's New World, pp. 70-71; January 18, 1993, review of Cotton Mill Town, p. 468; September 6, 1993, review of Sleepy River, pp. 96-97; September 20, 1993, review of A Fruit and Vegetable Man, p. 71; September 19, 1994, review of The Christmas Tree Ship, p. 30; October 17, 1994, review of Shaker Boy, p. 80; August 14, 1995, review of Cowboy Charlie, p. 84; October 28, 1996, review of Josefina, p. 81; September 1, 1997, review of Day of the Dead, p. 103; March 2, 1998, review of The Tortilla Cat, pp. 68-69; September 14, 1998, review of My Name Is Georgia, p. 69; October 19, 1998, "In the Studio with Jeanette Winter"; April 5, 1999, review of Sebastian, p. 241; May 22, 2000, review of The House that Jack Built, p. 91; September 11, 2000, review of Day of the Dead, p. 93; January 1, 2001, review of My Baby, p. 91; January 7, 2002, review of Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World, p. 65; January 20, 2003, reviews of Niño's Mask and Beatrix, p. 81; April 19, 2004, review of Elsina's Clouds, p. 60.
Reading Teacher, March, 1998, review of Josefina, pp. 504-512.
Riverbank Review, winter, 2002-2003, Susan Marie Swanson, "Jeanette Winter," pp. 11-14.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 1997, Susan Faust, "One Village's Day to Remember," review of Day of the Dead, p. 10.
School Library Journal, May, 1980, Joan McGrath, review of Harry (The Monster), pp. 51-52; March, 1985, Carol Kolb Phillips, review of The Girl and the Moon Man, p. 160; December, 1985, review of Witch, Goblin, and Ghost Are Back, p. 108; September, 1986, Mary Lou Budd, review of Come Out to Play, p. 118; September, 1987, Mary B. Nickerson, review of Hush Little Baby, p. 104; March, 1988, Helen Gregory, review of The Magic Ring, p. 186; May, 1989, Kathleen T. Horning, review of Follow the Drinking Gourd, p. 95; February, 1991, Micki S. Nevett, review of The World's Birthday, p. 69, and Elise Wendel, review of Follow the Drinking Gourd, pp. 53-54; July, 1991, Kathy Piehl, review of Eight Hands Round, p. 70; January, 1992, Ruth Semrau, review of Diego, p. 107; April, 1992, Susan Scheps, review of The Changeling, p. 118; September, 1992, Denise Anton Wright, review of Klara's New World, p. 214; November, 1992, Kevin Wayne Booe, review of Diego, p. 51; March, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of Cotton Mill Town, p. 129; May, 1993, Fritz Mitnick, review of Follow the Drinking Gourd, p. 62; October, 1993, Cynthia K. Richey, review of A Fruit and Vegetable Man, p. 112; November, 1993, Marianne Saccardi, review of Snow, p. 81; October, 1994, Jane Marino, review of The Christmas Tree Ship, p. 45; November, 1994, Marie Clancy, review of Shaker Boy, pp. 89-90; December, 1995, Claudia Cooper, review of Cowboy Charlie, p. 101; October, 1996, Pam Gosner, review of Josefina, p. 109; September, 1997, Ann Welton, review of Day of the Dead, p. 184; March, 1998, Ann Welton, review of The Tortilla Cat, p. 190; April, 1999, Jane Marino, review of Sebastian, p. 128; May, 2000, Christine Lindsey, review of The House that Jack Built, p. 158; April, 2001, Rosalyn Pierini, review of My Baby, p. 126; March, 2002, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, review of Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World, p. 224; March, 2003, Kathy Piehl, review of Beatrix, p. 225; December, 2003, Daryl Grabarek, review of Niño's Mask, p. 131; April, 2004, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Elsina's Clouds, p. 127.