Book Recommendation – Pictured Worlds: Masterpieces of Children’s Book Art by 101 Essential Illustrators from Around the World by Leonard Marcus

Title: Pictured Worlds: Masterpieces of Children’s Book Art by 101 Essential Illustrators from Around the World                                                                  
Author: Leonard S. Marcus
Publisher: Abrams, New York
Date: March 2023
Pages: 440
Genre: Nonfiction
Themes: illustrators, children’s book illustrations, history of children’s book illustrations

I honestly can’t think of a children’s author and/or illustrator, or children’s librarian or teacher who would not want to have this book on their shelves. I have had the distinct privilege of not only meeting Leonard Marcus several times in social settings, but also, I have accompanied one of his animated and informative literary walking tours of Manhattan. And lucky me, during my first year living in New York City, I visited the New York Public Library exhibition – The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter curated by Leonard. He is the foremost authority on children’s book history, having published about 30 books around the subject, and his passion for this subject is palpable both in conversation and on the written page.

This compendium is not meant to be comprehensive (how could it be?) but it does cover artists from 25 nations spanning 250 years of illustrated children’s books. It is large format and of course lavishly illustrated  (Over 400 illustrations showcase landmark books from Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Argentina, Cameroon etc.) highlighting the work of 101 top children’s illustrators. 

In Pictured Worlds, renowned historian Leonard S. Marcus shares his incomparable knowledge of the global phenomena of illustrated books aimed at children, which came to the fore in the UK in the 18th century. London publisher John Newbery established the first commercial market for illustrated “juveniles” in the West, and this not only became a global model but, as I learned in this book, it truly impacted kids’ lives and their literacy rates. 

This tome is sweeping, illuminating, fascinating and vibrant. It starts off with the well-known Robert McCuskey’s (Boston) ducklings, but doesn’t stay with the famous. I am sure even for amateur historians and kid lit passionados, you will discover unknown artists among your favorites on these pages. There are modern favorites like Mo Willems and Yuyi Morales, 20thcentury household names like Sendak or Helen Oxenbury’s (and her famous bear hunt). Iconic Winnie the Pooh and Alice, of course feature too, as well as some of my personal childhood favorite’s like the German Emil and the Detectives (1929) illustrated by Trier who had entered into a collaboration with German journalist, poet, and songwriter Erich Kästner, or Quentin Blakes illustrious career. There were many extraordinary artists I did not know like Leonard Weisgard, born 1916, New Haven, Connecticut, US; died 2000, Glumsø, Denmark, who went on to mentor Maurice Sendak. Or, Zhang Leping, born 1910, Jiaxing, Zhejiang, China; died 1992, Shanghai, China, whose trickster child hero in the 1940’s, child hero “became a beloved avatar of Chinese resilience in the face of relentless suffering, and for many adult fans a clarion call for a meaningful government response to the plight of Shanghai’s homeless children.”

Each illustrator is introduced with a short biography, information about the book(s) and the publication history, all with copious images.

Caption: From Ett hem by Carl Larsson.
Credit: Courtesy of Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. 
Caption: From The Diverting History of John Gilpin, illustrated by Randolph. 
Credit: Courtesy of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, the New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Caption: From Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Walter Crane. 
Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library/Internet Book Archive.

In the introduction Leonard Marcus notes that the picture book appeared for the first time in more or less the form we know it concurrently in the Edo-period in Japan and in mid-18th century England. And he points out that though on different continents there was a thriving commercial middle class excited for its children’s future and made a priority of childhood literacy. He has traced the development and spread of key genres and artistic traditions – first pop-ups,  first books for toddlers and preschoolers,  first truly irreverent books for the young, first books that show the influence of modern psychology, first reviews, book fairs,  literary journals etc.

As a librarian, my mind dances at the research process this book must have entailed. I imagine this book was years in the making. Leonard doesn’t just share the artwork that made it into these beloved books, but shares rarely seen images from artist’s estates as well as pictures preserved in archives and museums. Among other sources, his research took him to the major university archives like the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota and the deGrummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi, the British Library, the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers, Robert McCloskey’s sketchbooks at the Boston Public Library etc. 

I learned not only about how the system of libraries, awards and review journals in the US children’s book world have had a major impact internationally over the last century, but of course, many American illustrators were immigrants who brought with them aspects of their own own cultures, thereby redefining the “American” picture book again and again. Here on Miss Marple’s Musings, I have made a point of interviewing diverse illustrators over the years both from in and outside the US. As my own children’s book writing has taken place over the last decade in the USA, it was good to be reminded of the worldwide love of this artform, and how from its beginnings, illustrators from all continents have been entertaining, educating and inspiring young (and old) minds.

This is a masterpiece that I unequivocally recommend. In fact, I suggest you buy a copy to keep on your coffee table, as it will be of interest to anyone who picks it up. 

Leonard S. Marcus
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Teddy, Let’s Go! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Teddy, Let’s Go!

Author: Michelle Nott

 Illustrator: Nahid Kazemi

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, Dec. 6th 2022

Ages: 3-6

Format/Genre: fiction

Themes: grandmas, teddies, childhood companions, siblings, growing up, connection,


The wavy-haired woman with love in her eyes pulled me close and whispered in my ear.


Teddy and My are made for each other—literally in the case of Teddy, a teddy bear lovingly stitched and stuffed by Grandma for the newborn baby. From eating mushy vegetables to playing with blocks, Teddy is there every step of the way as My grows older. Even as the little girl goes to school and makes new friends, she can always count on Teddy for playtime, comfort, and friendship. 

As she leaves early childhood behind, My comes to rely on Teddy less and less. But Teddy still has an important role to play in My’s life. In an act of welcome and tremendous love, My decides to give Teddy to her newborn baby brother, who needs Teddy just as much now as she once did. (publisher)

Why I like this Book:

Our early stuffies are so super important to us. Any caregiver or child will tell you this if ever they get mislaid! This is a beautifully illustrated picture book about growing up and a child’s relationship with both their beloved teddy bear, AND they new baby sibling.

The author’s choice to create the Teddy as the narrator of the story is tasteful, and adds such tenderness to the story arc as Teddy emanates empathy towards their person throughout the inevitable change of the relationship as little My grows and evolves. I think children will adore the arc of the child’s evolution with a best stuffy, through all the firsts of trying new foods, school etc, to the arrival of a baby brother.

I hadn’t read anything about this book before I first read it, and I thought I knew exactly where this story was going, well Michelle Nott’s craft is so good that the ending truly surprised me, even though the themes are as old as we are for children’s books.

It is a precious, enduring story and the dreamy, soft illustrations in pastels capture the heart of the text beautifully. I highly recommend this picture book.


 I know very few young children that don’t like talking to me about their stuffed animals.

If you missed it, please enjoy the interview I did with the author this week.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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Author Interview with Michelle Nott

I have known Michelle for a good decade, having bonded through our European/Francophone connection (Michelle  is originally from the US, but has lived and studied in France and lived in Belgium over a decade-with dual French and American citizenship, where she raised her children.). And it is of course always a delight to see the publication of one’s friends’ stories. Teddy, Let’s Go! is out this fall, and I shall be reviewing this week on Perfect Picture Book Friday. Meanwhile, I invite you to sit back with a coffee or glass of wine and enjoy my chat with Michelle.

[JM] How does your international background influence your writing? (I personally love how different European picture books often are to American ones.)

[MN] I have always appreciated the “softer” and “quieter” style in many European stories for children. Considering my background in poetry (my first published works), I think this makes sense. 

When my children were young, I read countless picture books in French and J’aime Lire magazines. It was also at this time that I started to seriously consider trying to publish picture books. I must have absorbed a bit of that style of writing because, for years, I was told by agents and editors in the U.S. that my manuscripts were “too quiet.”

Luckily, I found an agent who loves quiet, literary books… and this encourages me trust my heart and style. 

[JM] I a
m so happy you connected with an editor who “got” this story. As a librarian, I know there are children who need the quieter stories. Who was your “Teddy” growing up? And did the inspiration for this story come from some real life experiences?

[MN] My Teddy growing up was the one my grandmother handmade me. I was born in December, and he was my first Christmas present. He has traveled all over the world with me, accompanied my own daughters during their young years. And now, he sits on a shelf in my office. 

Although the story is not autobiographical, certain scenes from the book were influenced by mine or my daughters’ experiences. For example, the page where My and Teddy are eating mushy vegetables and need a bath refers to the day my youngest earned the nickname, “Miss Spinach.” Also, I was the one who packed Teddy in my bag for camp. That was a scary, to go away for the first time. In the end, I really enjoyed that week at camp, but having my trusted Teddy with me helped a lot. 

[JM] How many revisions did Teddy, Let’s GO! need?

[MN] Going back into my files, I see at least a dozen versions and four different titles before it caught the attention of my agent, Essie White at Storm Literary Agency. Since Claudia Zoe Bedrick at Enchanted Lion acquired it, we’ve had a few more rounds of edits. First, it was just tweaking a few words or lines. But once Nahid Kazemi started on the illustrations, we had some more edits. This is understandable because we could start seeing what the illustrations could convey, and so some of the words were no longer necessary. 

[JM] What advice would you give someone starting out as a children’s writer?

[MN] Read recent children’s books, to yourself and to children. What makes you stop and say, “Wow!”? What makes a child stop and say, “Wow!”? And what doesn’t?

Find a critique group where you can receive kind, constructive criticism. This business is hard and often discouraging. Having a critique group to help you grow as a writer in a supportive environment is essential.

Join SCBWI and Children’s Book Insider. They have been the most valuable resources for me. But also, I’ve attended incredible webinars and classes with 12×12, Highlights, The Writing Barn, Storyteller Academy, and The Children’s Book Academy.

[JM] Do you have a fun school visit anecdote for us?

[MN] One of my favorite school visit memories was in a first-grade class near Galveston, Texas the year my first book, an early reader called Freddy, Hoppie and the Eyeglasses, had published. Briefly, it’s about a boy having trouble at school, with his work and classmates. And in the end, through his imaginary frog, Hoppie, he finds a way to express his troubles. In the end, the reader learns that his reading difficulties were caused by an eyesight issue, not a learning challenge. 

Well, the students were very cheerful and attentive the whole presentation and with the interactive game we played. Everything had gone perfectly. As I was packing up my materials and the children were lining up for lunch, I felt a tight squeeze around my legs … coming from a little girl in glasses. She looked up and said, “Thank you so much for writing that book.”

It was hard to walk out without crying. 

Once Teddy Let’s Go! releases this fall, I look forward to getting back into classrooms for more fun and endearing moments like this one. 

[JM] Do you have a writing routine?

[MN] Except if other obligations or events are planned, I first do a writing sprint of just a few minutes (sometimes longer) from a prompt I give myself. This could be an image, a word, a sound, anything that leads me to get some words on the page. This exercise may not grow into anything more, but it gets my brain going. 

I’m a freelance editor as well and so, I like to work on client edits in the mornings. Likewise, I’ll write my picture book reviews for my blog in the mornings. 

Then, I’m free in the afternoons (if not sooner) to work on my own projects. 

I don’t feel as productive in the evenings, so I use that time to read mentor texts, poetry, or catch up on all the Publishers Weekly magazines that pile up more quickly than I can get to them. 

view from my writing desk at our house in Belgium, where Teddy, Let’s Go! took its final shape.

[JM] Can you tell us briefly how you got together with your agent?

[MN] I came across Essie White’s name in a blog interview. I thought she sounded like someone who might like my writing and with whom I would like to work. So, I sent her one of two middle grade manuscripts I had finished. She replied asking if I also wrote picture books. 

So, I re-opened the document Teddy, Let’s Go!, that had been closed for a while for being “too quiet,” read through it again and attached it to my reply.  She really liked it, as we see, and found a great publishing home for it. 

[JM] Can you give us any hints about your present project?

[MN] I have a few picture book biographies, written about artists and activists, written in verse and prose, that are on submission. I’m also revising a middle grade novel in verse. I will also be giving a webinar with SCBWI Benelux this fall. So, I’m preparing that as well. You can read more about that here:

Five Fun Ones to Finish
[JM] What’s your favorite national or local park (anywhere in the world?)

[MN] Le Domaine Solvay in La Hulpe, Belgium.

Le Château de la Hulpe

[JM] Now I am Nice-based, I need to do some more exploring in Belgium. What was your first paying job after high school? 

[MN] Tennis coach.

 [JM Please recommend a local café/restaurant for when I visit you.

[MN] Brakeman’s Coffee in downtown Matthews. 

[JM] Thank you! Night owl or early bird?

[MN] Neither, to be honest. But I am much more productive in the mornings. 

[JM] What’s your favorite European author or illustrator?

[MN] Of all time, I would say Astrid Lindgren. But for a recent author, this is a hard question to answer. Since returning to the U.S. in 2015, I haven’t read nearly as many French picture books. But I do listen to a wonderful podcast in French called L’âme à Lire that offers fabulous children’s book recommendations.

I can’t say I have a favorite illustrator. I appreciate so many artists and for so many reasons and at different times. I will say I’ve recently discovered the art of Helena Perez Garcia from Spain. I love how she illustrated Breaking Through the Clouds by Sandra Nickel.

[JM] Thank you for the podcast recommendation and sharing with us today. Bonne chance for all your new writing projects and I am sure Teddy is going to delight many children over the coming months .

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