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  • Jean Cook

Communication Arts Book Review

240 pages, hardcover, $35 Published by Chronicle Chroma

This first monograph of prolific illustrator couple Alice and Martin Provensen is a visual walk down memory lane. So many of their whimsical paintings are familiar to multiple generations, as they created more than 40 children’s books over a span of several decades. The Provensens’ use of a sophisticated palette, fluid line drawings and painterly style distinguished their work. They were inspired by their many travels and recorded their impressions of their trips abroad, filling sketchbooks full of dynamic pen-and-ink and watercolor paintings they used as research. They also drew inspiration and subject matter from their home, Maple Hill Farm near Staatsburg, New York.

From drawing the original Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal to illustrating dozens of books, these Caldecott Medal winners lived and breathed their work. Children’s books were a natural for their interests and skills, Martin coming from the story department at Walt Disney’s and Alice having worked in the animation department at Walter Lantz. Their relationship held a key to their success. “There is a great sense of support in having someone beside you whose skill and judgment you trust,” said Alice Provensen. “We thought of ourselves as one artist illustrating.” This inspiring and informative text comes from various speeches and recordings provided by their daughter, whose interview fleshes out her parents’ fascinating lives.

Whether one is a fan of the Provensens’ art or interested in illustrating children’s books, this book will inspire and delight. —Anne Telford

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