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The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books:

True Blue
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist, sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.

S. D. Schindler

This focus piece is slightly reparational in nature, in that I actually met S. D. Schindler at a book signing over a decade ago. It was an accidental meeting and I had no idea what to say to him at the time. The intervening ten years, however, have provided me with plenty to say--unfortunately I don't think I can get away with pretending that I said it all at the time.

Schindler is one of those illustrators who makes his presence felt not through splashy color or flashy effect but through cumulative craft. Some of his most notable early contributions are his highly successful artwork for Ursula LeGuin's Catwings books, which demonstrated a rare ability to provide noteworthy but not overpowering art for novels, not just picturebooks; his precise linework and carefully hatched textures had the flavor of engraving, but his illustrations also had a documentary flavor that lent solidity to the fancy of winged cats. Yet he's also comfortable with the easygoing, exaggerated watercolor figures in William Hooks' The Three Little Pigs and the Fox, the mixed-media fantasy of Carolyn White's Whuppity Stoorie, or the slapstick colored-pencil of Crescent Dragonwagon's Bat in the Dining Room.

In fact, versatility is one of Schindler's hallmarks, and that versatility applies to subject matter as much or more than to his style. One of those undersung talents, the journeyman illustrator, he's provided illustrations that have enhanced humor and folklore, nonfiction and fiction. His contributions to Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg's Creepy Riddles are nothing short of inspired-the riddles almost become captions to the gleefully ghoulish scenes of creative creepy detail. Yet his earthtoned art for Arthur Dorros' A Tree Is Growing manages to be literal and interesting at the same time, depicting the delicate tracery of leaves and the intricate textures of feathers in a rich, earth-toned xamination of the outdoors. Or there's one of my personal favorites, Tony Johnston's The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe, where the engraving-reminscent technique returns in what could be Currier and Ives with an unearthly twist, with muted wintry shades capturing the chilly New England winter and the fine-tuned linework adding a grave hilarity to Nicholas' cavorting shade.

His current offering is the delightful and seasonally appropriate How Santa Got His Job, by Stephen Krensky. While the text explains Santa's expanding curriculum vita (cleaning chimneys, delivering packages for the post office, assisting at the zoo, and other positions that contribute talents to his final professional coup), Schindler's illustrations offer plausible and humorous pre-Santa images of Santa as he acquires both the skill and characteristics that have made him what he is today. Even Santa as icon gets a creative boost: cheerful gangly reindeer accompany him with glee, elves assist with the sleigh's takeoff in best ballooning fashion, and an idyllic final scene shows an insurance agent's nightmare as Santa wraps his transport around a horn of the crescent moon. There's something about Schindler's technical groundedness that mkes it all seem as if it is all real, at least somewhere-even if somewhere is only the book in our hands.

--Deborah Stevenson, Associate Editor

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This page was last updated on December 1, 1998.