Lee Harper always loved to draw. His love for doodling grew into a serious ambition to be an artist and after high school he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He says that “After college I embarked on the most challenging and rewarding adventure of my life… being a husband and father of four wonderful children. My career path took a few detours that led me down many roads which didn’t always involve making art, but somehow life’s path led me back.”
In 2008 he illustrated his first published book, Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski. In addition to illustrating books by authors like Wendi Silvano and Walter Dean Myers, Lee also wrote and illustrated two works of his own: Snow! Snow! Snow! and The Emperor’s Cool Clothes. His fifth book, Turkey Claus, another collaboration with Wendi Silvano, is due out in late 2012.
The Emperor’s Cool Clothes
A classic Hans Christian Andersen tale gets a modern twist. Nerdy little penguin suffered taunts because of his wardrobe, so after he becomes Emperor, he becomes obsessed with looking totally cool. He discovers the store of the Two Rogues, who promise a wardrobe that will only be visible to totally cool people. The Chancellors of Chill Cool report that the invisible clothing is as promised, so Emperor Penguin wears it in the Royal Parade. Only a little girl is honest enough to observe that the Emperor has no clothes on. Lee Harper’s watercolor and pencil illustrations contain many visual puns and humorous details, bringing the minimalist text with its wordplay to life. This is a rollicking story with a strong moral lesson, and youngsters will enjoy reading it again and again, finding new details each time. Highly Recommended. 2011, Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. Reviewer: MaryAnn Karre (Library Media Connection, January/February 2012).
Looking for the Easy Life
Walter Dean Myers
Illustrated by Lee Harper
“Life was pretty good on Monkey Island. Yes, it was.” With a hardworking leader like Uh-Huh Freddie, the monkeys were on their way to creating a real monkey paradise. But when Oswego Pete thinks life would be better if they could find Easy Street, the whole troop takes off in search of better times. Of course, after a running away from monkey-eating sharks and lions, and spending time providing free labor for a hippo rap group, the monkeys decide the easy life is not for them. Myers delivers his message through a narrative that flows with the rhythm of a gifted storyteller. Kids will laugh out loud at the idea of a monkey flicking a booger at a big old shark. Harper’s vibrantly colored illustrations are full of movement and comedic moments that match the tone of the story perfectly. The small skinny monkeys are no match for the large predators they encounter, but manage to come out on top, with the exception of Oswego Pete, whose tail takes a beating. Though a bit long for preschool storytimes, the language and large, bright pictures make this a good selection for primary grade read-alouds. 2011, HarperCollins Children’s Books/HarperCollins, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Heather Christensen (Children’s Literature).
Snow! Snow! Snow!
This book celebrates winter and shows the joy that one can experience sledding in the snow. The wind howls and the snow falls and falls and falls and falls, but the reader is captivated by the winter wonderland through words and illustrations. A night snowstorm creates a perfect sledding day. The snow scene is vividly portrayed while the characters enjoy sledding. We can feel the “SPLOOMPH” as their sled takes them over the crest of a hill and airborne with the birds before landing. We can understand why the characters’ final words are “Again! Again!” as they sprawl, smiling, on the snowy slope. Harper captures the joy of a winter day and the magic of the first snow thanks to his own experiences sledding with his sons. His words and imaginative illustrations bring the familiar winter activity to life. All who read this delightful story will want to head for the slopes! 2009, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $14.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith (Children’s Literature).
Lee loves to visit schools, saying, “school visits are fun, and a great way to get kids excited about reading.”
A full day school visit includes three assemblies for the first through sixth graders, a visit to the kindergarten, lunch with selected students, and as much book signing as there are books to sign. He is available for a full day or for one or two assemblies.
Each assembly consists of Powerpoint visuals accompanied by a discussion of such things as the kind of books he read as a boy, what inspired him to become a picture book author/illustrator, where his ideas come from, and everything that’s involved in writing and illustrating a picture book. He always try to reinforce the idea that a good story goes through many revisions and that there’s a lot of erasing in drawing. Next he draws a few characters from his books. After that comes the part the kids love best…drawing! Each student creates their own version of one of his characters as he lead them step-by-step. At the end of each presentation he answers as many questions as time allows.
Fees: $850 for a full day school visit or $400 per assembly. Plus travel expenses if your school is more than 50 miles away.
To learn more about Lee Harper and his publications please visit www.leeharperart.com.