Author-illustrator Wendell Minor, self-described bird- and cloud-watcher, “takes his young readers very seriously,” wrote Jean Craighead George, Newbery Award-winning writer for children, in a personal reminiscence of Minor before her death in 2012. “Just as he wants them to see the buffalo or crane in its accurate environment, he wants them also to feel that this animal is so loveable that it must be saved.”
This reminiscence appears in Wendell Minor’s America: 25 Years of Children’s Book Art, the catalog that accompanies the art exhibit of the same name, appearing at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts until May 26, 2014.
As Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, the Chief Curator and Director of the museum, notes in the introduction to the catalog, Minor sold his 1955 Chevy in order to pay for his studies at the Ringling College of Art in Florida after first deciding that he wanted to pursue his life-long love of art (by the time he reached fourth grade, he knew he’d be an artist one day) and eventually moved to New York in 1968 “with little more than his portfolio in hand.” Since then, he’s illustrated over 50 children’s books (see here) and was last year awarded, along with his wife Florence, the The New England Independent Booksellers Association’s President’s Award for lifetime achievement in arts and letters.
Minor brings readers what historian Leonard Marcus describes in the catalog as his own unique Americana. This, he writes, is “a Minor passion born of the artist’s rural Illinois upbringing. For him the Midwest is not a blank patchwork of ‘fly-over states’ but rather a fertile proving ground that has inspired generations of human struggle and transcendence.” Illustration for Minor, Marcus adds, is no less than an act of “total immersion,” as he digs deep into his research and fine tunes every possible detail.