Friday, June 24, 2011
Lessons of a literary legend
Children's book author and illustrator Thacher Hurd will speak Saturday at Hollins University about the lessons he learned from his father, Clement Hurd, who collaborated with Hollins graduate Margaret Wise Brown on such classics as "The Runaway Bunny" and "Goodnight Moon."
A new exhibit at The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, "Goodnight, Hush," features some original illustrations that Clement Hurd painted for "The Runaway Bunny," written by Hollins graduate Margaret Wise Brown.
Courtesy of Thacher Hurd
Thacher Hurd's childrens book "Art Dog" (Harper Collins, 1997) depicts the adventures of a canine who can make things come into existence by painting them. He must prove his innocence after being wrongfully accused of stealing the "Mona Woofa."
“Goodnight, Hush: Classic Children’s Book Illustrations”
- On display through Sept. 10
- Where: The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, Hollins University
- What: Featuring Clement Hurd’s original illustrations for Hollins graduate Margaret Wise Brown’s “The Runaway Bunny,” and children’s book illustrations by Thacher Hurd, Ruth Sanderson and Ashley Wolff
- “Story Hour with Thacher Hurd,” 10 a.m. Saturday, Wyndham Robertson Library, Hollins University
- “From ‘Goodnight Moon’ to ‘Art Dog,’ ” lecture by Thacher Hurd, 1 p.m. Saturday, Frances J. Niederer Auditorium, Hollins
- “Children’s Painting Workshop,” workshop by Wolff, 1 p.m. July 9, Wilson Museum
- “From Golden Books to ‘The Golden Wood’: An Illustrator’s Odyssey,” lecture by Sanderson, 6 p.m. July 20, Niederer Auditorium
- Cost: All events are free and open to the public, but reservations may be required. Info: 362-6081; hollins.edu/museum
Also at Hollins University
- Children’s Literature Association Conference
- What: The conference theme will be “Revolt, Rebellion, Protest: Change and Insurrection in Children’s Literature,” reflecting the cultural changes that have swept over the world.
- When: Today, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Cost: Members, $160; nonmembers, $200; students, $75
- Info: 362-6024; hollins.edu/chla2011/
During his lifetime, Clement Hurd illustrated almost 100 children's books, some in collaboration with his wife, Edith.
But none of his books is better known than his two collaborations with Hollins graduate Margaret Wise Brown: "The Runaway Bunny" and "Goodnight Moon."
In fact, few children's books are better known the world over than "Goodnight Moon," which has been translated into at least four languages and sold millions of copies.
Thacher Hurd, Clement Hurd's son and a well-known children's book writer and illustrator in his own right, recalls visits from his father in the 1970s, when he would show him figures from the latest royalty statements in a state of sheer astonishment. His father would say, "Look at this, Thacher. Look how it's selling."
Hurd, 62, said that his father did his best work when he collaborated with Brown. "She was really quite a genius," he said. "She really got my father to think about what he was doing."
Brown, who graduated from Hollins College in 1932 and died suddenly at the age of 42, had a force of personality that affected everyone she collaborated with. "If you look at all the people who illustrated books for her," Hurd said, "they all did their best work for her."
Brown and Clement Hurd are at the center of a new exhibit at The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, "Goodnight, Hush." It features some of the original illustrations that Clement Hurd painted for "The Runaway Bunny." To create the exhibition, the museum worked with Thacher Hurd, who will have illustrations of his own on display.
Hurd, who traveled from California to take part, will read "Goodnight Moon," "The Runaway Bunny" and his own award-winning "Art Dog" during a story hour for children at 10 a.m. Saturday. He'll also give a lecture at 1 p.m. Saturday about his father and Brown and how they influenced his own work.
The exhibition also includes art by acclaimed children's book authors and illustrators Ashley Wolff and Ruth Sanderson.
Celebration into 2012
"Goodnight, Hush" also kicks off a yearlong Margaret Wise Brown Festival, with events scheduled until June 2012, including an October stage musical performance of "Goodnight Moon" and an April 2012 musical performance of "The Runaway Bunny" at the Taubman Museum of Art, with accompaniment by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.
When the second part of "Goodnight, Hush" opens in June 2012, the museum will hold an exhibition of Clement Hurd's original illustrations from "Goodnight Moon," and that show will serve as one of the highlighted events for the statewide art celebration organized by Virginians for the Arts, "2012 Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Children and the Arts."
The "Goodnight, Hush" opening also coincides with the Children's Literature Association Conference, which continues through Saturday at Hollins.
Today at 3:30 p.m., writers-in-residence Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, authors and editors of numerous fantasy novels and anthologies, will give a keynote speech addressing the conference's theme, "Revolt, Rebellion, Protest: Change and Insurrection in Children's Literature."
Rebellion was not one of Brown's overt themes, though at the heart of "The Runaway Bunny" lies a story of a toddler who wants to explore the world while still reassured that his mother will always be there for him.
"It's based on a Medieval French love poem," said Thacher Hurd. Brown took an old rhyme about a man pursuing his love and re-imagined it as a mother bunny pursuing her baby through one imaginative setting after another.
"The Runaway Bunny" has been in print since 1942. Clement Hurd created two different sets of illustrations for it -- he made the second set in the early 1960s after techniques for printing color illustrations improved.
Thacher Hurd said "Goodnight, Hush" includes an example of the old and newer versions side-by-side.
His own style
Though Brown died when Thacher was 3 years old, he said she had a huge influence on his life.
"Goodnight Moon" was not a success when it was first published, but his father lived to see it become one.
Brown once referred to "Goodnight Moon" and "The Runaway Bunny" as her masterpieces. "Bunny" has only sold about half as well as "Moon" -- but as "Goodnight Moon" had sold more than 4 million copies as of 2007, that's still formidable.
Thacher Hurd at first wasn't interested in following in his parents' footsteps, though their reaction to his wishes was amicable. "My parents were very wonderful, very forgiving. It was hard to rebel against them," he said.
And when he began creating his own children's books, his mother, author Edith Thacher Hurd, gave him advice. His own style, he said, owed a lot to watching his father work, and his father's style continued the techniques he'd learned from collaborating with Brown.
"I do pretty different books from my parents'," he said. "They're kind of about mysteries and plots and action and suspense."
"Art Dog" (Harper Collins, 1997) depicts the adventures of a canine who can make things come into existence by painting them, and must prove his innocence after being wrongfully accused of stealing the "Mona Woofa." Other picture books by Hurd include "Zoom City" and "Momma Don't Allow," based on a Doc Watson tune.
His latest, a novel for middle schoolers, is called "Bongo Fishing," a lighthearted sci-fi tale.
Hurd noticed that today's young adult market is extremely competitive, and that the most popular books, such as Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" and its sequels, tell much darker stories than the ones he grew up with.
"Sometimes I feel like I live in a slightly more innocent world," he said, "but you just do what you do."