Christopher Wormell (1955-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1955, in Gainsborough, England; Education: Attended state school; studied painting and linoleum cutting with father, John Wormell.
Agent—The Artworks, 70 Rosaline Rd., London SW6 7QT, England.
Freelance illustrator in advertising, design, editorial, and children's books, London, England, 1984—. Exhibitions: Solo exhibitions include Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, 1988; Fouts and Fowler Gallery, London, 1990; Artworks Gallery, London, 1994; Richmond Literary Festival, 1996; and Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1996.
Society of Illustrators (Great Britain).
Graphics Prize, Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1990, for An Alphabet of Animals.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED; FOR CHILDREN
An Alphabet of Animals, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.
What I Eat, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.
Where I Live, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.
Blue Rabbit and Friends, J. Cape (London, England), 1999, Phyllis Fogelman (New York, NY), 2000.
Blue Rabbit and the Runaway Wheel, J. Cape (London, England), 1999, Phyllis Fogelman (New York, NY), 2001.
The Animal Train, J. Cape (London, England), 2000.
Puff-puff, Chugga-chugga, McElderry (New York, NY), 2001.
Off to the Fair, J. Cape (London, England), 2001.
The New Alphabet of Animals, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
George and the Dragon, J. Cape (London, England), 2002.
In the Woods, J. Cape (London, England), 2003.
Two Frogs, J. Cape (London, England), 2003.
The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
Teeth, Tails, and Tentacles: An Animal Counting Book, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.
ILLUSTRATOR; FOR CHILDREN
Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli's Brothers, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 1992.
Kate Green, A Number of Animals, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 1993.
Roald Dahl, Roald Dahl Treasury, J. Cape (London, England), 1997.
J. Patrick Lewis, Swan Songs, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 2003.
Robert Penn Warren, New and Selected Poems, 1923-1985, Franklin Library, 1985.
Robert M. Parker, Jr., Bordeaux: A Definitive Guide to the Wines Bordeaux since 1961, Dorling Kindersley (London, England), 1986, revised as Bordeaux: A Comprehensive Guide to the Wines Produced from 1961-1997, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Ian Niall, English Country Traditions, Victoria and Albert Museum (London, England), 1988.
Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wines of the Rhône Valley and Provence, 1988, revised and published as Wines of the Rhône Valley, Dorling Kindersley (London, England), 1997.
Ian Niall, Trout from the Hills: The Confessions of an Addicted Fly-Fisherman, Witherby (London, England), 1991.
The One That Got Away, Merlin Unwin Editions, 1992.
Gilbert White, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, Folio Society, 1994.
So to the Land: An Anthology of Countryside Poetry, edited by Diana Rigg, Headline (London, England), 1994.
The Cook's Journal: With Quotations, Illustrations, and Space for Recipes and Reflections, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1994.
Maria José Sevilla, Mediterranean Flavours: Savoring the Sun, Pavilion (London, England), 1995.
Kitchen Wisdom—A Collection of Savory Quotations, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1995.
The Gardener's Journal, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1997.
David Burnett, Chesil Beach, Old School Press (Bath, England), 1997.
Victor Osborne, Digger's Diary: Tales from the Allotment, Aurum (London, England), 2000.
Christopher Wormell is a British artist who has used his expertise in linoleum block print to create animal illustrations for several concept books geared for young children. Interestingly, Wormell had no formal training as an artist, and before his first book was published, his work experience included jobs as a road-sweeper, garbage man, postman, and a factory worker. He began pursuing art by painting landscapes between jobs, and in 1982, he picked up wood engraving by buying a set of tools and teaching himself. Eventually creating a portfolio of works that captured the interest of publishers, Wormell was hired to create wood engravings for books of poetry and guides to wine. More recently, he also began creating artwork for children; according to a writer for the Art Works Web site, "it was in reading to his own children that Wormell became acutely aware of the needs of a good story book—illustrations every three or four pages, well integrated with the plot."
Wormell had long been captivated by Victorian illustrators of children's books, and in 1990 he released the first of his own illustrated children's titles. In An Alphabet of Animals, he creates linoleum-block prints that feature an animal for every letter of the alphabet. The left-hand page displays the letter itself and the name of the animal, while the opposite page depicts the animal, generally using earth tones framed by a thick black line. The book also includes an unusual table of contents and index, with smaller prints of the animals linked to the corresponding letter. Writing in School Library Journal, Mary Lou Budd found the illustrations "dramatic" and called An Alphabet of Animals "a handsome, highly useful choice." While a contributor to Publishers Weekly referred to the prints as "masterfully executed," the reviewer found the animals "staid and somber," and felt the illustrations would be more appealing to an adult art enthusiast than a young child.
An Alphabet of Animals won Wormell the Bologna Graphics Prize, a huge honor for his first children's book. In 2002 Wormell expanded on his award-winning animal alphabet with twenty-four new prints in The New Alphabet of Animals. As part of this expanded animal repertoire, Wormell features creatures ranging from armadillos to zorillas, the last a creature that is related to the skunk. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that the "arrestingly beautiful wood engravings lift the book to a lofty level."
In 1993 Wormell illustrated Kate Green's A Number of Animals. In this counting book a chick goes through the barnyard in search of his mother. Along the way he enlists the help of two horses, three cows, four turkeys, and many other animals. The page layout is similar to An Alphabet of Animals, with the number and the animal's name on the left, and a full-color, full-page linoleum block print of the animal in its habitat on the right. Janice Del Negro wrote in Booklist that "Wormell's color engravings are what make the title such a standout … giving each picture a distinctive, arresting appearance." Ann A. Flowers called the book "a sure winner" in a Horn Book review.
Wormell's companion volumes Where I Live and What I Eat were published in 1996. As in the illustrator's earlier books, Where I Live presents an animal on the left side of each spread, and the animal's habitat on the right, while What I Eat similarly links each animal with its favorite food. In a Horn Book review, Mary M. Burns praised Where I Live for exhibiting a "stylish appeal rarely found in books for the very young." School Library Journal writer Kathy Piehl called Wormell "a master of the linoleum block print," and a Publishers Weekly contributor referred to What I Eat as "austerely magnificent."
The illustrator has paired two other stories, this time focusing on Blue Rabbit. In the first, Blue Rabbit and Friends, Blue Rabbit is tired of living in a cave, which is too drafty and dark. In setting out to find a new home, he discovers a teddy bear who has been living in a dish of water, a goose called Rover who has been living in a dog house, and a dog unhappy with his burrow in a hill. Blue Rabbit gives them the idea of switching, and soon all the animals are in their proper homes—except Blue Rabbit, who decides he will bicycle around the countryside instead. "The open ending makes a refreshing alternative" to more traditional stories, noted John Peters in a review for Booklist. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the tale "perfectly suited to preschoolers." Blue Rabbit's adventures continue in Blue Rabbit and the Runaway Wheel, in which one of Blue Rabbit's bicycle tires is lost. The wheel causes trouble for local animals, and only after the wheel is found can Blue Rabbit rescue himself from their anger at his tire. Sue Sherif, writing in School Library Journal, noted that the "timeless, boldly outlined illustrations" are sure to please readers.
Puff-puff Chugga-chugga features a different set of animals: Mrs. Walrus, Mr. Bear, and Mrs. Elephant, who all intend to go shopping in town. This would not be a problem, except that the three gigantic animals must all ride the same train, and the conductor is more than a little nervous about the prospect. As each animal returns with their shopping, they balance precariously until Mrs. Elephant sneezes, forcing the train off the tracks. Thanks to the quick thinking of Mrs. Elephant, the train is soon righted and all arrive home safetly. According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Wormell's storyline reflects "a distinctly British brand of ingenuity and unflappability in the face of calamity" as Mrs. Elephant solves the problem. Kelly Milner Halls wrote in Booklist that the tale's "charming blend of worry and wonder" makes it "a good choice for bedtime sharing." Patti Gonzales praised the book in School Library Journal, writing that "Wormell's characters are delightfully illustrated in clear, bright oil-pastel crayons."
Wormell continues to write his own children's books while also producing illustrations for the works of other writers. While his art is also featured in packaging, advertising, and corporate posters, as an Art Works Web site contributor maintained, "It is evident that books are the primary focus for [Wormell's] ideas and enthusiasm."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 15, 1994, Janice Del Negro, review of A Number of Animals, p. 934; January 1, 2000, John Peters, review of Blue Rabbit and Friends, p. 938; February 15, 2001, Kelly Milner Halls, review of Puff-puff, Chugga-chugga, p. 1142.
Horn Book, May-June, 1991, p. 328; March-April, 1994, Ann A. Flowers, review of A Number of Animals, pp. 193-194; November-December, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of Where I Live, pp. 730-731.
Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1990, review of An Alphabet of Animals, p. 56; October 14, 1996, review of What I Eat, p. 82; January 7, 2000, review of Blue Rabbit and Friends, p. 55; January 8, 2001, review of Puff-puff, Chugga-chugga, p. 65; August 12, 2002, review of The New Alphabet of Animals, p. 298.
School Library Journal, February, 1991, Mary Lou Budd, review of An Alphabet of Animals, p. 76; February, 1994, p. 102; April, 1994, p. 106; November, 1996, Kathy Piehl, review of What I Eat and Where I Live, p. 102; February, 2000, Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan, review of Blue Rabbit and Friends, p. 106; December, 2000, review of Blue Rabbit and Friends, p. 56; February, 2001, Sue Sherif, review of Blue Rabbit and the Runaway Wheel, p. 108; April, 2001, Patti Gonzales, review of Puff-puff, Chugga-chugga, p. 128.
Art Works Web site, http://www.theartworksinc.com/ (September 7, 2004).*
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