McCully’s simple, warm and sweet stories and characters are the essence of what writing and illustrating for children is about. Her career is also one to look at when you think about how long it may take as a writer/ illustrator to get your worked published. Even a successful illustrator, like McCully had to wait twenty years to get her own words and pictures published. The long wait was worth it.
Caldecott medalist Emily Arnold McCully has been in the children’s book field for nearly thirty years. She was born in Galesburg, Illinois and raised on Long Island, by her father, Wade, a writer of network radio shows and her mother, Kathryn, a teacher. She credits her mother as her early inspiration, and teacher of discipline and perseverance in her early artistic efforts. Her mother, encouraging her independence saw her artistic talent as a skill that may support her someday. As a child she was very innovative. She wrote and illustrated her own stories, bound them and gave them a copyright date. McCully was not only a child artist and writer but an entrepreneur. She illustrated postcards, greeting cards, scenery, portraits and copies of the old masters and then set up a stand to sell her work at the end of her driveway. McCully attended Pembroke University (now Brown University) with the intention of becoming an artist but instead opted to concentrate on theater and art history which became her major in undergraduate and graduate school. After graduation she held odd jobs in the art field, as a commercial artist, a designer of paperback covers and illustrating advertisements. She came to children’s illustration in a “roundabout way”. In 1966 a children’s book editor saw some of her artwork on an advertisement in the subway and suggested she consider illustrating Greg Panetta’s Sea Beach Express. She accepted and has gone on to illustrate over 100 children’s books. In 1969 she illustrated Meindert de Jong’s Journey from the Peppermint Express which was the first children’s book to receive the National Book Award. After almost twenty years of contributing art to books by other authors she made her solo publishing venture with Picnic, the wordless picture book about a family of mice. Picnic won the Christopher Award in 1985. McCully has continued to contribute entertaining, memorable characters to children’s literature: Zaza, Blanche, Grania, Felix and Little Kit. In 1993 she won the Caldecott Medal for Mirette on the High Wire, which introduced the independent, dare devil tight-rope walker, Mirette. The sequel to Mirette on the High Wire will be published in 1997. Ms. McCully divides her time between New York and her country home. She is an organic gardener, avid reader, cook, tennis player and participant in theater productions. She has also written adult short stories and novels. Ms. McCully is the mother of two grown sons, Nathaniel and Ted. Emily Arnold McCully offers words of advice to aspiring artists and writers. “Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Don’t try to emulate. Work from what is inside you, crying out—-however softly, however timidly—-for expression.”
Source: Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews