Winner! 2007 Children's Science Picture Book
An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston, with illustrations by Sylvia Long. (Chronicle Books, 2006)
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The title of this book is the first sentence of what passes for a story line, which ends with "an egg is noisy!" accompanied by a drawing of hatchlings of the "quiet" egg illustrated on the first page. In between, some characteristics of eggs are noted (e. g., they are colorful and textured), and adaptations, such as being speckled or "pointy," are briefly explained. The hand lettered text is richly garnished by over 100 ink and watercolor illustrations of eggs (and many of the adults that produce them) of a rather eclectic array of species, all identified by common names. As is to be expected, birds make up the majority of the animals pictured, but insects, crustaceans, fish, reptiles, and amphibians are represented as well. No part of the book has gone unillustrated; even the front and rear endpapers are decorated with the shell pattern of one of the eggs. This book is visually pleasing, educational, and utilitarian-destined to be a "keeper" in many homes. A child who might have had it read to him or her as a preschooler could use it several years later to identify an unknown egg found on a field trip.
Dianna Aston spends lots of time in her backyard, inspecting the undersides of leaves, the branches of trees, and the bottom of compost piles, hoping to find new eggs. She often enlists the help of her husband, David; her children, James and Elizabeth; and their assorted pets. She lives in Texas. Her previous books include When You Were Born, Loony Little, and Bless This Mouse. Her latest book is entitled A Seed Is Sleepy.
The publication of her first children's book, Ten Little Rabbits, launched Sylvia Long's children's book career and quickly won her a loyal and enthusiastic following.
"After I finished my first children's book, I realized that's what I should have been doing all along. Books reach so many people and actually influence them. It feels really good."
"I want to make sure my drawings are accurate and that animals are portrayed in the correct setting."
The process Ms. Long goes through before producing a final piece of art is quite extensive. "The first step I take is breaking down the text and dividing it among the many pages. I create small sketches at this stage to determine whether the text breaks work effectively or not. Then I begin my research."
She spends as much--or in some cases more--time researching the material then actually drawing it. After her research has been compiled, Ms. Long begins the actual artwork.
"I start by doing a full-size pencil sketch on heavy tracing paper, then transfer the sketch to the good paper using a light table. Secondly, I do ink drawings on top of the pencil and then erase all the pencil marks. On top of the ink I use watercolors, and when necessary, I use an airbrush on top of the watercolors.
Ms. Long prefers drawing animals to people. Before turning her attention to art she wanted to be a veterinarian--to live and work with animals. Fortunately, however, her life as an artist has allowed her plenty of time to spend outdoors with nature and wildlife.
Ms. Long graduated from Maryland Institute of Art and has exhibited her paintings extensively for the past twenty years. She lives in Arizona with her dog, Amigo, and near her two sons, Matthew and John.
When she was younger, she spent hours creating cards for her parents and doodling in her notebooks. She feels art is an important aspect of education and that children should be encouraged to express themselves visually, without criticism. Too often, she feels, art and music are viewed as "playtime" and children are not encouraged to take it seriously.
"Being an illustrator is a wonderful, fulfilling career, and children should be aware that it is an option in life. I think it's a shame that art is not a bigger part of our culture. We all can learn a lot through art."