Anita Jeram (1965-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1965, in Portsmouth, England; Education: Attended Portsmouth College of Art, 1983; Manchester Polytechnic, B.A. (with honors), 1990. Hobbies and other interests: Pet-keeping, all art and craft work, natural history.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Walker Books Ltd., 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ, England.
Factory worker, Portsmouth, England, 1983-85; kennel assistant, Hampshire, England, 1985-86; shop assistant, Portsmouth, England, 1986; freelance author and illustrator, 1990—. Member, Ulster Wildlife Trust, and St. Tiggywinkles Hospital for Sick and Injured Wildlife; founding member of Reptile and Amphibian Society of Northern Ireland.
Highly commendable designation, Benson & Hedges Illustration Awards, 1989; shortlisted for Kurt Maschler Award, British Book Trust, 1994; shortlisted for Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year, Publishing News British Book Awards, 1994; Book of the Year designation, American Booksellers Association, 1996, for Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.
Bill's Belly Button, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.
It Was Jake!, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.
The Most Obedient Dog in the World, Walker (London, England), 1993, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Contrary Mary, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.
Daisy Dare, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.
Birthday Happy, Contrary Mary, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.
Bunny, My Honey, Walker (London, England), 1998, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
All Together Now, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
I Love My Little Storybook, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Bunny Love, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Dick King-Smith, All Pigs Are Beautiful, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.
Karen Wallace, My Hen Is Dancing, Walker (London, England), 1993, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Dick King-Smith, I Love Guinea Pigs, Walker (London, England), 1994, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.
Sam McBratney, Guess How Much I Love You, Walker (London, England), 1994, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.
Dick King-Smith, Animal Friends: Thirty-one True-Life Stories, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
Dick King-Smith, Puppy Love, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.
Amy Hest, Kiss Good Night, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Amy Hest, Don't You Feel Well, Sam?, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Amy Hest, You Can Do It, Sam, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Sam McBratney, You're All My Favorites, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Contributor of illustrations to books, including Stories for Me! A Read-aloud Treasury for Young Children, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998; and Reeve Lindbergh, editor, In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child's Book of Prayers and Praise, Candlewick Press. Guess How Much I Love You has been translated into several languages, including Welsh, Urdu, Vietnamese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Punjabi, and Bengali.
Work in Progress
Experimenting with new techniques for a forthcoming project.
To say that children's picture book author Anita Jeram is fond of animals is certainly an understatement. In addition to her active involvement in wildlife rescue and preservation efforts in and around her home in Northern Ireland, Jeram has written and illustrated such highly lauded books as Bill's Belly Button, Contrary Mary, and The Most Obedient Dog in the World, all of which feature animal characters. While considering herself "far more illustrator than I will ever be author," Jeram enjoys thinking up ideas for children's books. "My children, my animals, and my own recollections of childhood are my greatest influences," she once told Something about the Author (SATA). "Animals are my greatest inspiration," Jeram added. "Even if a story is about a human situation, I try to use an animal to tell it."
Born in 1965, Jeram was raised near the sea coast, in Portsmouth, England. Because as a youngster she loved animals, she decided early on that she wanted to be either ther a veterinarian or a zookeeper when she grew up, but her school years somewhat altered that intended course. While Jeram did not excel at the science and math required to enter veterinary school, her teachers quickly found that she had an excellent aptitude for both art and English. Their encouragement made Jeram focus on writing and drawing, in which she found she could excel.
After graduating from secondary school, Jeram enrolled at Portsmouth College of Art, but after a year she dropped out, not having mastered the qualifications needed to pursue an art degree. Instead, she got a job working at a potato chip factory, where her days were spent picking defective chips out of the batches of potato slices rushing by on a conveyor belt. Not surprisingly, that job did not hold her interest for long; from there she moved to other factory jobs, even spending a year working at a quarantine kennel and cattery, which "really did cure me from wanting to work in a zoo," she once recalled to SATA.
In 1986 Jeram married paleontologist Andrew Jeram, who was doing research on fossilized scorpions at Manchester University. Now living in an academic community, she began to reconsider her future and decided to return to art school. "This time around I made the most of the opportunity and did a degree course in illustration, which allowed me to indulge in my favorite pastime—drawing animals," she recalled of her decision to enroll at Manchester Polytechnic. "My course tutor, an established illustrator, showed some of my work to his publisher in London, and from there my first book, Bill's Belly Button, came about."
Bill's Belly Button was finished during Jeram's second year at art college, in 1989, and published two years later. "The idea for this story came from when I was very young—at the unanswerable-question-asking age," she once explained. "I recall asking if elephants had belly buttons. As a surprise my older sister wrote to a local zoo to find out the answer for me. The zoo replied that elephants did have belly buttons. I wasn't entirely convinced at the time, and years later I wrote to as many zoos as I could, asking the same question. All the replies were different and amusing, and an idea for a book grew out of those replies." In her picture-book version of events, Jeram introduces readers to wrinkly but lovable Bill the elephant, who becomes distressed that he may not have a belly button like other mammals. Reviewing the book for Booklist, Ilene Cooper praised Jeram's "soft watercolors, full of fun, [that] wind around the amusing text."
With her first book accepted for publication, Jeram quickly started work on a follow-up. While busy with her new project, It Was Jake!, she completed her art degree, moved with her husband to Northern Ireland, and gave birth to her first child. Amazingly, It Was Jake! made it to bookstore shelves in 1991. The story finds young Danny using his loyal dog Jake as the fall guy for his own mischief. The "It wasn't me" ploy works until Danny goes too far, and his clever mother realizes that a dog can't use scissors or reach the sink faucet to splash water all over the bathroom. Declaring that young readers will love the humorous story, Booklist critic Hazel Rochman noted that "Jeram shows that the boy and dog are true companions."
Dogs also figure in Jeram's The Most Obedient Dog in the World, which features another loyal pooch. This obedient dog ignores the urging of animal friends to go in out of the rain or chase the neighbor's cat because he takes his young master's order to "sit and stay" seriously. Illustrated in pen and ink and watercolor in a style some critics have compared to that of James Stevenson, the words and pictures "work together brilliantly" to make The Most Obedient Dog in the World "a really special picture book," in the opinion of School Librarian contributor Linda Saunders. Jeram's "free-wheeling" illustrations, done on cream paper, add "humor and bounce" to the simple story, according to Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin.
Inspired by her then-four-year-old son, Jeram's Contrary Mary, Daisy Dare, and Birthday Happy, Contrary Mary comprise a trio of tales that feature a pair of rambunctious young mice who do not listen to the advice of others. In Contrary Mary a field mouse gets up on the wrong side of the nest, and nothing seems to make her satisfied. Mary's contrariness tests the limits of her mother's patience until Mother Mouse decides to look at the humorous side and acts just as contrary as her daughter. School Library Journal contributor Ann Cook called Contrary Mary "a delightful choice for lap reading or story time," while Horn Book's Margaret A. Bush hailed Mary's ultimate breakdown into laugher at her childishly contrary mother "the perfect satisfying close to this fine view of a quintessential manifestation of early childhood." Daisy Dare finds another young mouse willing to take on the challenge of her whiskered friends and take the bell off the local cat in a tale that "dramatizes the mischief, the shared scary adventure, that brings friends close," according to Hazel Rochman in Booklist. Contrary Mary returns, still more contrary, in Birthday Happy, Contrary Mary, as four-year-old Mary decides to do everything backward on her birthday—including frosting her cake upside down! "Youthful fans of the 'opposite day' concept will appreciate Contrary Mary's approach," according to Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer Deborah Stevenson.
In another self-illustrated title, I Love My Little Story-book, a tiny brown-and-white bunny explains all of the reasons why he loves his book. He loves the fact that he can use it for shade from the sun and the breeze its pages make when turned, but most of all he loves the way opening the book can transport him to magical realms, complete with unicorns, a giant, a princess, and winged bunny-fairies. Part-way through I Love My Little Storybook, the bunny steps into the tale; Jeram's illustrations, which switch from vignettes to full-bleed spreads, echo the transition. The enchanted forest inside of the storybook "really does have a magical look in Jeram's … pale, idyllic watercolors," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. While the book has only a slight plot, and its "conclusion may not be dramatic," in the opinion of a Publishers Weekly critic, "it offers plenty of appeal to the preschool set."
In addition to illustrating her own stories, Jeram has contributed pictures to the works of several other children's writers, including Dick King-Smith. Her humorous pen-and-ink illustrations for King-Smith's All Pigs Are Beautiful prompted Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan to call the book "as beguiling an introduction to pigs as any child could hope to see." And in her work for King-Smith's I Love Guinea Pigs, as reviewer Jody McCoy noted in School Library Journal, Jeram's ink renderings "transform fuzzy lumps into curious, cuddly, thoroughly engaging creatures."
Jeram has also illustrated the story Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney. A bedtime story, Guess How Much I Love You finds a young brown rabbit and his father comparing how much they love each other. Through her warm-toned watercolor washes over ink, Jeram succeeds in capturing "the gentle competition that ensues as parent and child each avow affection in ever more expansive terms," according to Booklist's Zvirin. "The book has been the most amazing success, surprising us all," Jeram later told SATA. Translated into several languages, Guess How Much I Love You was also nominated for two book awards and became a top-selling selling children's picture book in both North America and Great Britain.
Jeram has also illustrated a trio of picture books by author Amy Hest—Kiss Good Night, Don't You Feel Well, Sam?, and You Can Do It, Sam—about the relationship between Sam, a bear cub, and his mother, Mrs. Bear. In the first title, Sam does not want to fall asleep on a dark and stormy night. While there are many books about bedtime routines, "there's room for this title, which captures universal experience with humor, warmth, and authenticity," Gillian Engberg wrote in Booklist. Jeram's acrylic paintings were specifically praised by a Publishers Weekly contributor, who commented that "her radiantly rendered ochre and rust shades translate easily from the autumn storm outside to the sturdy furniture and heavy wool blankets inside."
Sam again has trouble falling asleep in Don't You Feel Well, Sam? He has a cough that will not let him rest, but he refuses to take any cough syrup; it tastes bad, and he thinks his mother is using a spoon that is too big and too full. She finally convinces Sam to take the syrup by promising that if he does, he can stay up with her to watch the first snowflakes fall. In Jeram's rendition, the Bear family's house "has lots of warm, subtle touches and curving lines that give the book a comfortable look," Kathleen Simonetta commented in School Library Journal. Mrs. Bear, who is much larger than Sam, is also a reassuring presence in Jeram's paintings. Jeram "nestles tiny Sam into Mrs. Bear's voluminous girth," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "while the thickly textured ocher walls of their snug home" protect them from the weather outside. With "serene images" such as these, wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, Jeram "convey[s] the deep affection between parent and child while expressing the consummate feeling of security exuded by a well-cherished tot."
Jeram shares her home with her husband, a daughter, two sons, and assorted other creatures, including cats, dogs, rabbits, toads, tortoises, and a few reptiles. In addition to continuing her career as a children's author and illustrator, her hope is to one day set up a wildlife sanctuary. "I didn't deliberately set out to write and illustrate children's books," she once admitted to SATA, "but by my second year in college it became clear that this was something I really enjoyed doing. It's much more fun than working in a potato chip factory. I hope children get as much enjoyment out of my books as I do in making them."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 1, 1991, Hazel Rochman, review of It Was Jake!, p. 1722; September 15, 1991, Ilene Cooper, review of Bill's Belly Button, p. 162; May 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, review of All Pigs Are Beautiful, p. 1599; January 15, 1994, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Most Obedient Dog in the World, p. 936; March 15, 1995, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Guess How Much I Love You, p. 1328; November 15, 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of Contrary Mary, p. 564; December 1, 1996, Ellen Mandel, review of Animal Friends: Thirty-one True-Life Stories, p. 650; December 15, 1997, Ellen Mandel, review of Puppy Love, p. 698; October 1, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Kiss Good Night, p. 325; June 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of I Love My Little Storybook, p. 1738.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1998, Deborah Stevenson, review of Birthday Happy, Contrary Mary, p. 325.
Horn Book, July-August, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of All Pigs Are Beautiful, pp. 478-479; July-August, 1995, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of Guess How Much I Love You, p. 452, and Margaret A. Bush, review of I Love Guinea Pigs, p. 478; January-February, 1996, Margaret A. Bush, review of Contrary Mary, p. 64; March-April, 1997, Mary M. Burns, review of Animal Friends, p. 211.
Junior Bookshelf, June, 1991, p. 94.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1991, p. 613; August 15, 1995, p. 1189; August 15, 2001, review of Kiss Good Night, p. 1213; January 1, 2002, review of I Love My Little Storybook, p. 47; July 15, 2002, review of Don't You Feel Well, Sam?, p. 1032; October 1, 2003, review of You Can Do It, Sam, p. 1224.
Magpies, March, 1996.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1993, review of The Most Obedient Dog in the World, p. 64; September 18, 1995, review of Daisy Dare, p. 131; December 14, 1998, review of Bunny, My Honey, p. 74; December 6, 1999, review of All Together Now, p. 76; July 24, 2000, review of In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child's Book of Prayers and Praise, p. 92; July 16, 2001, p. 145; August 6, 2001, review of Kiss Good Night, p. 88; December 24, 2001, review of I Love My Little Storybook, p. 62; July 22, 2002, review of Don't You Feel Well, Sam? p. 176; February 9, 2004, review of Guess How Much I Love You, p. 83.
School Librarian, November, 1993, Linda Saunders, review of The Most Obedient Dog in the World, p. 149; February, 1996, p. 15.
School Library Journal, July, 1994, Eldon Younce, review of My Hen Is Dancing, p. 98; May, 1995, Jody Mc-Coy, review of I Love Guinea Pigs, p. 100; January, 1996, Ann Cook, review of Contrary Mary, p. 85; November, 1997, Lisa S. Murphy, review of Puppy Love, p. 109; May, 1998, Maryann H. Owen, review of Birthday Happy, Contrary Mary, p. 118; August, 1998, Dawn Amsberry, review of Stories for Me! A Read-Aloud Treasury for Young Children, p. 146; February, 1999, Heidi Piehler, review of Bunny, My Honey, pp. 84-85; February, 2000, Susan Hepler, review of All Together Now, p. 94; August, 2002, Marian Drabkin, review of I Love My Little Storybook, p. 158; September, 2002, Kathleen Simonetta, review of Don't You Feel Well, Sam?, p. 193; June, 2003, Anat Shenker, review of Don't You Feel Well, Sam?, p. 62.
Candlewick Press Web site, http://www.candlewick.com/ (June 1, 2004), "Anita Jeram."*
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