David McLimans was born and raised in Green Bay, where he was encouraged to pursue art by his high school art teacher. After attending the University of Minnesota and earning his MFA from Boston University, he returned to Wisconsin and has lived in Madison since 1985. McLimans is well known for his political cartoons and editorial illustrations for The Progressive magazine, as well as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Atlantic Monthly. McLimans entered the field of children’s books later in his career, publishing his first picture book, Gone Wild: An Edangered Animal Alphabet (Walker, 2006), to great critical acclaim; it was named as one of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2006 by the New York Times and it received a Caldecott Honor in 2007. He published a second picture book, Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers (Walker), in 2008.
Those who know McLimans’ political art will no doubt recognize his style in the picture books where he uses bold, flat graphics that demand the viewer’s attention. Gone Wild is an ingenious alphabet book that introduces twenty-six endangered animals, each one stylized in black and white in the shape of its initial letter. Each animal is accompanied by an elegant red rectangle that offers additional scientific information, a more realistic rendering of the animal, and the animal’s status as a threatened species. McLimans uses the same inventive approach to ocean life in his second book, Gone Fishing, using the numbers from one to ten as a vehicle. Although McLimans is new to the children’s picture book world, he has already made quite an impression with his progressive vision and unique style.
Gone Wild: An Edangered Animal Alphabet
Endangered animals from A to Z are the framework on which McLimans builds this stunning alphabet. For each letter that begins the general name of the creature, he constructs the upper-case letter using its form, then in a box in the lower corner of the page names a particular member of the species with details of its class, habitat, range, threats, and status. These boxes are outlined and illustrated in brick red while the letters themselves are stark black against the white pages. McLimans uses pencil, pen, brush, and India ink to create the illustrations, then employs a computer to finalize his vision. Although the letter forms are readily recognizable, his imaginative elaborations at times amuse us and at other times confront us with puzzles we can delight in solving. For example, while the white stork is clearly a long-beaked bird form, the black rhinoceros takes a bit of creative looking to bring to life. The introduction offers information on the selection and status of the creatures included, while the book concludes with additional facts on each next to their red depiction on black, and with sources of further information. A bonus is offered on the end-pages with their brick-red, somewhat abstracted images. The book is a 2006 Caldecott Honor Award winner. 2006, Walker & Company, $16.95. Ages 4 to 9. Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers
A whimsical, stylized look at ocean-faring creatures blends its playful approach with a serious theme. McLimans renders various fish, waterfowl, and other sea life in the shape of the numbers 1 through 10. Each subject is either endangered, experiencing population loss, or living in threatened habitats. The graphically striking black-on-blue (counting up from 1 to 10) and blue-on-black (counting down from 10 to 1) images are accompanied by brief facts about the creatures. Additional information about the oceans is provided in “ocean life by the numbers,” “ocean threats by the numbers,” and “our blue planet” pages. This volume will appeal to budding environmentalists as well as lovers of the sea and fans of art and graphic design. CCBC Category: The Natural World. 2008, Walker, 32 pages, $16.99. Ages 5-10. CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices 2009).
David’s presentations are geared towards K-6 students and college students but he varies his talk depending upon age level. His presentation includes visual materials such as projected images, original art, and printed samples. While he can give presentations that are talks only he prefers to give interactive presentations where students, with his help and instruction, create a project of their own. Drawing and inventing animal letters and numbers is a favorite. He has done complete book making projects with students, but this takes more time than the usual 1-2 hour sessions.
He begins his presentation by talking about his childhood experiences. From there, he talks about his formal education and important life experiences such as; living abroad, and living in the woods without modern conveniences. This sets the stage for showing work from his career as an editorial illustrator, and how that pathway led him to becoming a children’s book author. He also talks about his concern for animals and the environment, and how these concerns became the topics for his books. Then, with further visual material, he shows and explains the steps in the process of creating a book, from ideas and sketches, through revisions, proofs, and the final product.
David likes to open his presentation to questions early on. He finds that this is a good way to keep students involves and interested. Everyone, especially librarians, love to hear about the Caldecott Honor.
Fee: $1,200 full day plus expenses.
To learn more about David McLimans and his publications please visit www.davidmclimans.com.