Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
My grandfather was born Johannes Ferdinand Schoenherr 108 years ago today in Flensburg, Germany, in a house subsequently destroyed during World War II. The house was a stone's throw from Nordertor, the city's old north gate - and somewhere on the left in the picture, I think.
I've always pronounced my surname "Show-in-hare", but I'm not sure if I should, after all. I know the first part ought to be pronounced as it is in the German phrase "Danke Schoen" - somewhere between "shern" and "shane", depending on the dialect (and, yes, I've left out the umlaut issues, for clarity's sake). And "herr" ought to be pronounced "hare" or "hair", not necessarily "her". Thus, "Shern-hare" or "Shane-hare". Right?
Well, I've been trying to ferret out the source. I haven't had much luck tracing my Schoenherr line back very far, but I recently found that my grandfather's grandfather, Carl Gottlieb Schoenherr, was born in or very near Kleinpelsen, Sachsen (about midway between Leipzig and Dresden), in 1834. For a yet-unknown reason, he left his wife and three sons (including my great-grandfather) in Flensburg and moved to America in 1866. By 1869 he was living in Missouri and finally settled in Carterville, where he worked as a blacksmith and saloon-keeper, and where he died in 1909. Then, in the wake of World War I-era anti-German sentiment, his sons (my half-great-great uncles or great-great half-uncles) legally changed their surnames to Shaner.
So I've been wondering if Carl Gottlieb Schoenherr pronounced his surname "Shay-ner" all along, rather than "Shern-hare" or "Shane-hare" - not to mention "Show-in-hare". And should I do the same?
I need a second opinion...
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Speaking of "Battle Row" - I first came across the term in The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury, but I just found another reference to it in The Thirty-Sixth Annual Report of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor for the Year 1879 (published about the same time my people moved to the block):
On West 39th Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, stand a block of tenements known as "Battle Row," and almost equally well as "Murderer's Row." For years this place has borne an evil reputation, having always been a source of great trouble to the police. Its inmates are the terror of the neighborhood. It is the cradle of some of the worst Tenth Avenue gangs, and the scene of constant broils, both domestic and with whoever the roughs may chance to pick a quarrel. Arrests are of such frequent occurrence as to excite but little remark. The police themselves are frequently attacked, one, nicknamed " The Brute," having been knocked senseless with a brick only three or four weeks ago; another, the officer with whom I conversed, was himself struck with a similar missile....More can be found here. It's no wonder the Grays escaped!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Come early, wander and shop during the town's "Dickens' Days" - and, while you're at it, have some breakfast, brunch, or lunch just around the corner at my sister and brother-in-law's restaurant, The Fine Diner. That's what I plan to do. The trouble is, I go infrequently enough that I wind up ordering the same dish: a crab cake on the house salad with lemon dressing. I can't help it: it's too good. Well, if you see me there, I promise not to talk with food in my mouth.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Recently, I finished my first bit of bookplate art for a friend and fellow bibliophile from Delaware. He had found a copy of On The Frontier by Bret Harte which had once belonged to Howard Pyle. Being a rabid Pyle collector, I had to have it. So we arranged a trade: I would make him a bookplate and he would give me the book. As usual, I made this with ink on scratchboard.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Also, in case you need some more convincing, Cat & Mouse has been chosen as one of the New York Public Library's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing for 2008.
And, speaking of the New York Public Library, here's what Elizabeth Bird (see my previous post) wrote on her blog about Cat & Mouse after she saw the original illustrations (and my reference photos) last fall:
I adore intricacy. I love it when an artist has the ability to use delicate little pen lines to convey a character or scene. In Mr. Schoenherr's case, there were photographs of cats accompanying the art. The cat in the book itself obviously owes its very existence to these very real felines, and I'm looking forward to the publication of the book. It's a picture book that utilizes a variety of different cat and mouse nursery rhymes (like Hickory Dickory Dock) and turns them into a single story. Quite clever, really.
When Ms. Bird finally got to see a copy of the finished book, she wrote :
Ian Schoenherr's Cat and Mouse is an interesting one to keep an eye on too. With the teeniest brushstrokes imaginable, Schoenherr brings to life a cat and a mouse alongside three classic nursery rhymes. What's more, he's somehow able to make a coherent story out of the lot. I'm a cat person myself, so I was particularly partial to the kitty in this book, delicate stripes and all.
For the record, here's a picture of Pistachio - the chief model for the "Cat". He looks somewhat imperious here - or as if I had just wounded his dignity.
Ian Schoenherr's another one of those authors I always mean to review and then never do. Generally he tends to write picture books involving two characters. Pip and Squeak. Cat and Mouse. You get the picture. His newest title Read It, Don't Eat It! walks a delicate line. I sit hunched in perpetual wariness whenever I see a book that looks like it might be pandering to the librarian community. But what sets Schoenherr's latest from the usual gee-aren't-librarians-great stock is that it's actually a book we can use and read aloud to classes with fantastic results! Basically he's written a list of don'ts for books. Don't eat it. Don't chew on it. Don't get it wet. That sort of thing. I may have to rotate my standard readaloud stock for classes once we get this one in. Even young classes would find it easy to follow.
Read It, Don't Eat It! won't appear until next May, so don't hold your breath - yet. And, rest assured, this one is entirely mouse-free, though it does contain a small helping of cats.
Monday, October 6, 2008
A clever rodent gains the upper hand over a feline frenemy in this hilarious tale. Kids will love the oversize, colorful illustrations - and the thrill of watching the little guy win.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Adapting and combining "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo," and "I Love Little Pussy," Schoenherr crafts a wild romp featuring a paper-parasol-equipped mouse leading a cat on a merry chase. On sprawling spreads, the two main characters loom large against a minimalist white background. The insouciant rodent uses its parasol as a tease, a weapon, and a parachute until the cat manages to snag it for its own toy. The mouse then employs a ball of yarn to distract and ultimately lasso the cat's paw to retrieve the prize, and the two friends cavort and nuzzle in the conclusion. The dynamic and realistic ink and acrylic illustrations feature a stop-action energy and changing perspectives that make the characters appear to actually move across the pages. This bright, funny book conveys the joy of play and a welcome friendship between two traditional antagonists. -- Marge Loch-Wouters, Menasha Public Library, WI
Monday, August 25, 2008
Initially, I only wanted to take the rhyme "Hickory, Dickory, Dock" and stretch it out into a 32-page picture book. It was to be set in an antique shop and the illustrations were to be filled with old objects and visual and verbal puns. But after years of tinkering, I just couldn't pull it off. I showed it to my editor and art director at Greenwillow Books and they suggested I extend it with some other rhymes. We also decided that the myriad knick-knacks were too distracting, so I paired down my sketches to their key elements.
Once I shored up the pacing of the book - which had expanded to 40 pages - I made careful pencil drawings to guide me as I prepared the illustrations. This way I could avoid making time consuming corrections or changes later on in the process. And, at last, I made the final art with ink and acrylic paint on Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300lb hot press watercolor paper - a smooth, durable paper that doesn't curl or blister the way Bristol board can when it's saturated with water (I found this out the hard way a few books ago). I also hand-lettered the text with ink and my father's old lithographer's graver on separate sheets of scratchboard.
I'll post more about what went into making Cat & Mouse (among other topics), but for now I hope you'll take a look at the finished product and let me know what you think.