Patrick O’Brien has been a professional artist/illustrator since leaving art school in 1986. However, before attending art school, his interest in history and science led him to the University of Virginia where he earned a degree in biology. Perhaps this is why the children’s books he writes and illustrates are generally non-fiction, and usually about historic or prehistoric subjects, from giant dinosaurs and ancient sharks to knights in armor and pirates on the high seas.
As a freelance illustrator, Patrick has created artwork for clients such as National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, The Smithsonian, and The American Museum of Natural History. His artwork has appeared in magazines and newspapers, on posters and greeting cards, and even on billboards. In 2008, a production team for The History Channel filmed him working in his studio for a show about recreating dinosaurs. Patrick lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife and son.
Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates
After space pirates attack and steal the Jewels of Jurassica, Captain Raptor and his talented crew board the starship Megatooth to chase them. Blasted by the pirate ship, the Megatooth crash lands on a strange, uncharted moon. There, they encounter Scalawag, who claims he was left there by pirates, but offers to repair the ship. On his advice, they start back to Jurassica. On the way, they are attacked by a ferocious Robokron and saved by bold Captain Raptor. Back near Jurassica, as they battle the pirates, Scalawag shuttles back to the pirate ship and threatens to blast them. But clever Captain Raptor has booby-trapped Scalawag’s shuttle. It blows up, the treasure is recovered, Scalawag is imprisoned, and the indomitable Captain is off on another adventure in the series. O’Brien exploits the popularity of dinosaurs to create dozens of anthropomorphic characters, good and evil, who are put in landscapes and star-studded outer space to do battle with jazzy space ships. Rectangles of varying sizes show brief text against white backgrounds and pace the action of this graphic narrative, increasing the suspense until the double-page action scene involving the snake-like Robokron. The artist uses lots of dark watercolors and gouache to generate the melodramatic, other-world atmosphere. Action galore. 2007, Walker & Company, $16.95. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
The Mutiny on the Bounty
William Bligh was the captain of the Bounty, a ship in the British navy in 1787. His first officer was Fletcher Christian. On one of their voyages to Tahiti, Christian thought Bligh was becoming overbearing toward his crew. On the voyage from Tahiti, Christian became more convinced that Bligh was unfair to the crew and to him, so he assembled a group of crewmembers willing to commit mutiny against the captain. They put most of the captain’s crew on a boat, and they took the ship for themselves. Mutiny was considered high treason, and anyone caught would hang. Christian sailed back to Tahiti where some of the mutineers stayed and were later captured. To hide from the British navy, Christian sailed to a remote location, Pitcairn Island, where he stayed until he was killed by a native. Bligh and some of the crew on the boat survived and made it back to England. Three of the mutineers caught were put on trial and found guilty of treason. O’Brien’s vibrant watercolor and gouache illustrations are the highlight of this fascinating story from British history. O’Brien succeeds in making this complex story enjoyable and heartwarming as a children’s book despite the subject matter. Details of the history of Pitcairn Island and the brutal journey Bligh and his men made on the boat back to England reveal the careful research O’Brien made to bring this story to life. It is highly recommended for all libraries. Nonfiction, Highly Recommended. Grades K-4. 2007, Walker, Unpaged., $17.95. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: Melissa Johnson (The Lorgnette – Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 20, No. 4)).
You Are the First Kid on Mars
There is plenty of talk about going to Mars in certain scientific circles; and just what would that experience be like? O’Brien describes the experience and imparts of bit of factual information. Our young astronaut rides a space elevator that is connected to a space station where scientists and others then take a rocket to Mars. It is a long trip–about four months–but you have a sleeping cabin, exercise room, library, bathroom, kitchen and gravity so it is more like home but much smaller. Once near Mars you board a Lander and when you arrive on the planet you must wear a spacesuit. The atmosphere of Mars is thin and people would not be able to breathe without protective suits; plus the temperatures are very cold and very hot. Scientists are hard at work studying the planet, growing food, examining rocks, searching for signs of life and much more. Robots do the dangerous work, especially things that require them to be outside on the planet’s surface. On one of your excursions you find Sojourner, the first Mars rover. The pictures O’Brien has created look like photographs–you see the landscape, the tallest mountains on any planet and a huge canyon that extends for hundreds of miles. After six months it is time to return home. What a trip and what a painless way to impart lots of factual information about the very first planet mankind might visit. 2009, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).
Patrick has been visiting schools for over ten years. In each presentation, he first talks to the kids about the giant prehistoric creatures in many of his books. It’s always a hit when he brings out the giant ancient shark tooth and the sabertooth-cat fang. Then he goes into detail about how he creates his books, from the research to the writing and the illustration. He brings rough sketches, rough drafts, color proofs, and even some original paintings. Rather than use a projector, Patrick prefers to show the kids the actual objects, sketches, artwork, etc. involved in the creation of his books.
Fees: $1,000 in the Baltimore/Washington area, $1,300 plus travel expenses for visits involving an overnight stay.
To learn more about Patrick O’Brien and his publications please visit www.patrickobrienstudio.com.