Tag Archives: david small illustrator

david small’s picture book life

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David Small. There are six pages of his books in my library’s online catalog and that doesn’t include all of them. He’s an illustrator and an author and he’s been working in the field of children’s books for over 30 years.



He’s from Michigan. He has an MFA from Yale’s Graduate School of Art. His work has appeared in places like The New Yorker and the NY Times. He’s won two Caldecott honors and a Medal (The Gardener and One Cool Friend; So You Want to Be President, respectively).

His graphic memoir, Stitches, was a finalist for the National Book Award. It’s hauntingly good and true and sad and hopeful. I loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough.

His first picture book was Eulalie and the Hopping Head.

Small and his wife, writer Sarah Stewart, have partnered on a number of picture books. This is a great article about that development and their mutual esteem.

He’s also collaborated with kidlit greats like Jane Yolen.


ice_skatingFrom One Cool Friend.


There’s a loose and carefree quality in Small’s work, which is done in watercolor, pen, ink, and pastel. His lines are prominent and masterful.

TheGardener.1From The Gardener.


Even in the saddest illustrations, there’s often a hint of joy or, always, humanity. That’s the word that most comes to mind for me when I consider Small’s illustrations. Humanity.



From Imogene’s Antlers.


He does humor or poignancy well and his illustrations have a classic, timeless quality; they can look old or new.



From Elsie’s Bird.



From The Quiet Place.


From Glamourpuss.



I posted about it here. I love how personal the story was for Small and how it portrays a girl whose family doesn’t “get” her strange affliction, but she’s okay with it. (Brings to mind the very recent, Hug Me, in that way.)



One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, pictures by David Small. These characters are two of my favorite picture book pairs.



The Library by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small. Ahhh. This is a book for book lovers. A classic.



The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small, a great example of one of Stewart’s epistolary stories.



The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart, pictures by David Small. Another beautiful story told through letters.



Glamourpuss by Sarah Weeks, pictures by David Small just came out and is hilarious! My favorite spread is the second one, in which Small has included a couple of black and white photographs that fit the outrageous mood of Glamourpuss’s owners, Mr. and Mrs. Highhorsen, perfectly!



Check out my last Their Picture Book Life feature on Sophie Blackall too! (I go girl, boy, girl, boy in case you were wondering.)


imogene’s antlers + antler accessories

9780517562420Imogene’s Antlers  by David Small (first published in 1985).


Famous Imogene who wakes up with antlers on her head one morning!


Interestingly, Imogene’s name might remind a reader of imagination. But I like to think this story is true (fiction-true anyway).






Imogene doesn’t seem disturbed to have a strange new attribute. It’s her fussy family who objects. Who wants to fix her transformation. Who wants cover it up. (Who faints a few times.)








When I asked David Small via email how he got the idea for the book, he said:


“Imogene, C’est Moi …  

a strange kid born into a family

who wanted no truck with his strangeness.”

—David Small


Isn’t he the best? I for one relate to that. Lots of kids, surely they do. All kinds of kids.





And you know who in Imogene’s world isn’t flabbergasted by Imogene’s antlers? Mrs. Perkins and Lucy. They go with the flow and find a few good uses for those new accessories.







I love this spread, with the candles on Imogene’s antlers. Her brother, too, seems to be pretty cool about the whole antlers thing. NBD, he might say today.



And that perfect reveal at the end of the book. Imogene wakes up the next day without antlers, but, um, feathers on her rump! The preceding page gives a subtle, clever hint.

(And have I mentioned how hilarious this book is? Or the animal references throughout? Just on the spread above there’s a koala, bunny, frog, giraffe. Not to mention the tabby cat and happy hound who grace so many pages.)

The reader knows Imogene’s family’s not going to welcome a peacock-girl into the family. But resilient, different, charming Imogene—she’ll be just fine.

For two picture books that follow in Imogene’s footsteps, check out A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon and For Just One Day by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant.




Alright. Antlers—let’s do this! Or how to be a deer for a day and wear your difference right there on your head.

This video!!

Imogene’s Antlers from The Barkers on Vimeo.



This amazing photo project, “The Peculiar Case of Avery’s Antlers” by Lauren Athalia.



Deer Girl Doll by Gideon and Brisby.


4 DIY Reindeer Antler Horns Headband Christmas craft



DIY Antler Headband from Pink Stripey Socks



Knit deer antler cap from Tiny Owl Knits Patterns.



This antlered pair.


To antlers, to difference, to Imogene!