One of the finest graphic artists in contemporary children's literature, Barbara McClintock casts an eye firmly back towards the past, paying homage to the illustrators and storytellers of centuries past. She has adapted numerous fairy tales and children's stories and added several wonderful, magical originals to the canon as well. Here's a quick look at her work, including several of our family's favorite new books.




Barbara McClintock Bibliography
Books By Author | Books By Title | Main Index



"Heartaches Of A French Cat"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(David R. Godine, 1989)

(-)


"The White Cat"
Written by Eric Metaxas
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Rabbit Ears, 1991)

A book-and-audio combo, with actress Emma Thompson reading the text, accompanied by music by popster Joe Jackson. (-)


"A Tale Of Two Bad Mice"
Written by Beatrix Potter
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Rabbit Ears, 1991)

(-)


"Animal Fables From Aesop"
Written by Aesop
Adapted and Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(David R. Godine, 1991)

A delightful (though slim) set of adaptations from Aesop's moral-laden fables. Stories include "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse," "The Fox and the Crane" (in which one of the Fox's pranks backfires on him), and "The Crow and the Peacocks'' (on the pitfalls of vanity) and "The Fox and The Crow" (vanity again!) McClintock ingeniously frames the stories as the work of a traveling theater company, introducing all the characters at the beginning... and then unmasking them at the end, showing human actors beneath the gorgeously detailed costumes. The illustrations have all the hallmarks of her style: beautifully detailed animals, clad in extravagant antique clothing -- hoop skirts, waistcoats, giant, puffy gowns -- as well as an underlying whiff of playfulness and pranksterism. We read book this during an exploration of Aesop's work, and it emerged as a favorite -- both the text and the illustrations are marvelous!
(A)


"The Battle Of Luke And Longnose"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Houghton Mifflin, 1994)

After falling asleep playing with his toy soldiers, a boy named Luke has a fantastic, Peter Pan-ish dream about a swashbuckling swordfight with the wicked pirate Longnose. The villain and boy chase each other through fantastic, old-fashioned theatre sets, populated with shocked bystanders dressed in grand, fabulous period costumery. As always, McClintock's finely-detailed artwork is a marvel, although the playful violence in the story may be a turnoff for some parents.
(B-)


"The Fantastic Drawings Of Danielle"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Houghton Mifflin, 1996)

A lovely tale, apparently somewhat autobiographical, about a young girl who loves to draw fantastical pictures of clothes-wearing animals, flowers with faces and giant floating fish that go strolling down the avenues on leashes. The girl's father is a professional photographer and a realist, and he scolds her for her dreaminess, but no matter how hard she tries, Danielle cannot shed the fantasy elements in her artwork. Finally, she meets a painter, an adult woman, whose work is much like her own, and the happy ending promises that Danielle will blossom under the painter's mentorship. Set in 19th Century Paris (a favorite McClintock locale), this features wonderfully detailed, elegant cityscapes and period costumes. There is also a theme of poverty -- the father has hit hard times when the story begins -- that may make this more appropriate for older readers, but like all of McClintock's work, it's a delight.
(A-)


"When Mindy Saved Hanukkah"
Written by Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 1998)

A rather stiffly-written, dramatically rigid Jewish culture book... Kimmel was fortunate to get McClintock on board as the artist, as her illustrations move the story along quite nicely. The trouble is the text itself, a roughly concocted plot about a family of Borrower-like kleinele mini-Jews who live in the walls of a large synagogue. The Kleins are about to celebrate Hanukkah when tragedy falls: the synagogue has just brought in a cat to take care of a mouse problem, and since the Kleins are mouse-sized, they are fair game as well. The family's older daughter Mindy volunteers to sneak past the cat to get a candle for the menorah, and she and her grandfather have an unsuspenseful romp, straight out of Disney's Cinderella, in which the cat is distracted and they roll the candle back into their little hidey-hole. Along they way Mindy sees or climbs up on many Hanukkah-related religious items, each dutifully catalogued in a manner maximally guaranteed to slow the story down. (Each item is also described in a glossary in the back of the book...) In short, this is a dramatic failure: it has a powerful whiff of cant about it, and all the characters and plot devices, such as they are, are just pegs to hang the religious content on. The sole purpose of this book is to familiarize small children with the paraphernalia of the Hanukkah celebration, which is all very well and fine, but not that great as a story. wonderful artwork, though. (C-)


"The Gingerbread Man"
Written by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 1998)

A wonderful adaptation of the old folk tale of the mischievous and fleet-footed Gingerbread Man... This is the first and best of McClintock's collaborations with fabulist Jim Aylesworth, and one of the best versions of this story you'll ever find. A large part of the charm is the artwork, which is strongly reminiscent of old, Edwardian-era children's books. Some of the animals (the sow, in particular) are a bit grotesque, but not so much so that it detracts from the story. The Gingerbread Man himself is so delightfully drawn -- all smiles, shiny button eyes and happy, reckless glee -- that it's hard not to root for the little fella, even if he is asking for trouble. This version bursts with energy and life; too bad the sweet, spicy speedster has to get eaten in the end! (A+)


"Aunt Pitty Patty's Piggy"
Written by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 1999)

A silly sort of a tale tall about a little girl named Nelly who tries to persuade an obstinate pig to walk through a gate, and the great lengths she goes to to try and get the porker to move. The girl walks down the road asking help from one thing after another -- a dog, a stick, a cow, a cat, a mouse -- and finally gets them all to act in a Rube Goldberg-ish way to prod the pig inside the fence. There's a lot of implied violence in the text (Nelly asks the dog to bite the pig, and the stick to whack the dog when he won't help... and on and on...) but the piling on of one thing after another places this story firmly in the realm of absurdity, so how seriously can you take it? Still, I read it and kept it away from my kid -- it's clever, but kind of violent, so I decided we could skip it. Nice artwork, as usual, from Ms. McClintock. (C+)


"The Prog Frince"
Written by C. Drew Lamm
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Orchard Books, 1999)

A somewhat convoluted riff on some old fairytale themes... Jane, a straightlaced, serious young girl, wakes up one morning with an odd craving for muffins. On the way to the baker's shop, however, her money changes into a mischievous talking frog, and after a bit of quarreling and verbal jousting, he tells her a modified version of the old Frog Prince legend. In this version, a lively stablehand named Jaylee falls in love with the prince, but the prince's father intervenes and doses the girl with an anti-love potion, which works by causing Jaylee to lose her imagination and thus her ability to love... And meanwhile, the prince has turned into a frog. See where we're headed here? Yup! Uptight, overly literal Jane finds herself actually having fun after listening to the frog's story, and lo, and behold, she is transformed into the vivacious, laughing Jaylee. Then she and the re-transmogrified prince reunite and live happily ever after. It's a clever refashioning of old themes, although it will probably work best for older children who have already had a chance to be fully steeped in the original fairytale ouvre. As always, plenty of nice, typically ornate artwork from McClintock. One downside: the frog's repeated characterization of Jane's spending time in school as "unfortunate" may disappoint a parent or two among us. I didn't appreciate it, even though I see what Lamm is trying to say. (B-)


"Fables D' Esope"
Written by Aesop
Adapted and Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Circonflexe, 1999)

A translated edition of McClintock's 1991 retelling of several classic Aesop fables... In French, no less! Ooh, la-la! I look forward to tracking this one down some day.
(-)


"A Little Princess"
Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Harper Collins, 2000)

(-)


"The Tale Of Tricky Fox"
Written by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 2001)

An Aesop-ish story, apparently from New England, about a wily fox who comes up with a complicated scheme for stealing a pig from a farmer. There are some mildly disturbing elements -- the foxes wanting to eat other animals, and the big bulldog that viciously bites the foxes at the end -- that may make this unsuitable for littler readers. And, again, Aylesworth puts on some folksy rhetorical airs that can distract from the story. Overall, though, this book flows well, and thoughtful adults can read around the violent stuff. Although McClintock's artwork is not the most magical she's ever done, it's still quite nice, and serves the story well. (B-)


"Molly And The Magic Wishbone"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2001)

An original fairytale, cloaked in Dickensian urban hustle and bustle and filled with colorful, deliciously complex artwork. Molly, a kitten, is the eldest of several children, and when their mother falls ill, she is put in charge of all the little ones. On her way to pick up food for dinner, she goes to the fish market and is given a magic wishbone by a mysterious old crone (read: fairy godmother)... Back home, her siblings are full of frivolous suggestions for how to use the wish, but Molly holds off until she knows exactly what she wants. Just as she's about to make her wish, Molly discovers that her smallest sister is missing -- she went out to the market alone to try and find a wishbone of her own -- and Molly rushes out in the cold and dark to rescue the toddler. When all else fails, Molly decides to use her magic wish selflessly -- to find her missing sister. A thoroughly charming story, with gorgeous artwork that helps soften a slightly scary story. Recommended!
(B+)


"Dahlia"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2002)

I lo-o-o-ove Barbara McClintock's artwork, her beautifully-rendered, cheerfully subversive reappropriation of old-fashioned, Edwardian draftsmanship, and how she uses it to tell a slightly more chaotic, more true-to-life kid's world view. Better still to have her write the stories, too, as seen here in this excellent tomboy tale. Meet Charlotte, a ponytailed brunette who lets her wheatstraw tresses go wild as she climbs trees, gathers pinecones and beetles and whips up some mighty mud pies. When her Aunt Edme gives Charlotte a delicate, pinafored porcelain doll, you think, uh-oh.... trouble ahead! But it turns out Aunt Edme is cool, too, and everyone's happy to see the new doll, Dahlia, go out and get a little fresh air. A fun, witty story, told with subtlety and economy, and lovely, lavish artwork. Recommended!
(A)


"Goldilocks And The Three Bears"
Adapted by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 2003)

Although this is a good version of this time-worn tale, it was a bit disappointing, considering the calibre of some of the other Aylesworth/McClintock collaborations. The biggest problem is with some annoying verbal affectations ("oh my, yes," etc.) that crop up repetitively. I think they are meant to give the book a grandmotherly, schoolmarmish tone, but in fact just make it hard to read. Likewise, McClintock models her work after 19th Century illustrators such as Randolph Caldecott and A. B. Frost, including some of the broadsheet grotesquery and exaggerated expressions popular at the time. It is (purposefully, I think...) not as pretty or as detailed as some of her other works... Still, this is striking, durable version of the Goldilocks saga, and the text shades in the little girl's background a bit (her mother warning her not to misbehave, and Goldilocks just forgetting mom's good advice... Makes her seem a little less capricious and amoral.) Anyway, this is definitely worth checking out, although it ain't no Gingerbread man.
(C+)


"Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm"
Written by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

(-)


"Cinderella"
Written by Charles Perrault
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Scholastic Books, 2005)

A magnificent adaptation of this classic rags-to-riches fairy tale... McClintock gives the story a slightly softer edge -- Cinderella's dad doesn't die at the start, and she winds up forgiving her wicked stepsisters (and hooking them up with royal hubbies of their own...) The text flows well, though the art's what's most magical here... McClintock returns the story to its Parisian roots, modeling the palace after Versailles and the fashion from that of the 17th Century courtiers. She takes many of her stylistic cues from the Roccoco movement (even citing 18th Century master painters Jean-Honore Fragonard and Antoine Watteau as inspirations on the dust jacket...) The result is delicious, with rich detail and innovative design -- on several pages the action flows from left to right via staircase, and the compact text is handsomely framed by ample negative space. Once again, the craftsmanship of McClintock's work is far and away above that of your average picturebook, giving this volume a classic, timeless feel -- it should be around for quite some time! Highly recommended.
(A)


"Adele & Simon"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2006)

An unqualified masterpiece: Ms. McClintock has outdone herself on this one... Young Simon is a French schoolboy -- dreamy and absentminded, he loses his possessions, one by one, on the way home, as his older sister Adele looks on in exasperation. They visit various Parisian landmarks -- The Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, Maison Cador, the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle -- all beautifully rendered in McClintock's fine-lined, fantastical style. The pictures are packed with delightful details, including bustling mobs of Parisians in period costume (and one page in which Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline and her schoolmates appear, in a walk in the Jardin de Plantes) and there is a puckish, playful verve throughout. We see the hustle and bustle of a bygone era, at the dawn of the 20th Century. There's a "where's Waldo" element to the story, where the items Simon loses are hidden inside the large, complex two-page panels: the four crayons strewn abound the Louvre are particularly hard to find. All in all, this is a very classy book -- beautiful to look at, wonderfully fun to read. (A+)


"A Child's Garden Of Verses"
Written by Robert Lewis Stevenson
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Harper Collins, 2007)

(-)


"Mary And The Mouse, The Mouse And Mary"
Written by Beverly Donofrio
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2007)

A stunner...! The story, about an adorable little girl who forms a lifelong relationship with an equally adorable mouse that lives in the walls of her house, is cute, but what will really knock your socks off are Barbara McClintock's detailed, delightful illustrations. This is perhaps her most precise, most formidable artwork to date, building on her love of architecture and the beauty of detail in the physical world. The dualistic structure of the story, contrasting the mouse's world to the girl's, lends itself to formality, but McClintock really outdoes herself on this one, mixing joyfulness with a level of draftsmanship that is almost unheard of in modern children's books. Panels such as the two-page spread contrasting the girl and mouse's college dorm rooms, or the sequence showing Mary's daughter "accidentally on purpose" dropping books on the floor so that she can see her mouse friend are absolutely magical. The text has its problems -- mostly its just a teeny, tiny bit overwritten (Donofrio is entering the picturebook field after the success of her autobiographical memoir) but the overall feel of the book sweeps all of it aside. This is a wonderful book, and fully deserves to become a classic. Maybe you'll dig it, too. (A)




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