Mercer Mayer Essay

Mercer Mayer was born in 1943, and has been writing and illustrating children’s books for almost forty years. As a child Mayor moved all the country with his family, because his father was in the Navy. I believe that this was an influential factor in determining his success. His pictures are drawn without signifying any particular region, which helps children to create an emotional attachment to the story. Mayor’s family settled down in Hawaii when he was a thirteen years old.

He had attended the Honolulu Academy of the Arts for a year when he realized that he wanted to illustrate children’s books.

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He tells, “I always liked to draw, and one day I decided I had nothing to lose, so I made a lot of sketches and began to peddle them. ” Mayer did this against the advice of his professors who believed that he didn’t have enough talent to succeed at it. In 1964, he moved to New York in an attempt to find work as an illustrator.

While He received art training from the Arts Students League. After being turned down countless times, he was given advice from a harsh art director, insisting that he throw away his entire portfolio, because it was so terrible.

As difficult as this was for Mayer to hear, he eventually took the man’s advice. With an empty portfolio, Mayer began to draw things that he remembered from his childhood, and shortly after he was chosen to illustrate his first book. Mayer’s first solo book was published, in 1967, and it was well-received by critics. It was a wordless book called A Boy, a Dog, and His Frog, and it was the first in a series of five. Mayer is given credit as being one of the creators of the wordless picture book.

He continued for a while as an illustrator only, and completed the illustrations for almost 80 books. It was later on when he felt comfortable enough to add his own text to the drawings. One aspect of his style of illustrating is that he always includes humorous objects in the background of his pictures. My favorite example of this is Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo. The Little Critter books have many characters that are present in the background of the story but never mentioned in the text (such as the frog, mouse, and the spider).

Frogs actually appear in many of his books, from his wordless series to the Little Critter books. The lines he uses to draw his nature scenes are usually nongeometric curves that convey a harmonious and lifelike feeling. His work has also been recognized for the detailed texture it displays. In Shibumi and the Kitemaker, his use of value to draw extravagant backgrounds and faces that practically glow allows the pictures to seem realistic and three dimensional. In 1973, Mayer and his wife Marianne bought a farm in Connecticut.

On the farm they were surrounded by many animals and nature, which significantly influenced his work. All of Mayer’s books feature some part of the outdoors and nature in them. His illustrations routinely feature large trees that are drawn in great detail. All of the characters in his Little Critter series are animals and the main character lives outside the big city in a wooded area. Mayer began publishing with Golden Press after his first divorce, with Marianne, in 1978. With Golden Press he started the Little Critter and the Little Monster series.

Children are able to create powerful links between themselves and his books because of all of the familiar situations he writes about, like going to bed (Just Go to Bed), overcoming your fears (There are Monsters Everywhere), or dealing with the frustration of constantly being told what to do and what not to do (When I Get Bigger and I Was So Mad). Mayer married his second wife, Jo, in 1979, and they had two children together. Mayer started working from his home in Bridgewater, Connecticut, surrounded by his two young children.

This situation was most likely brought about another major theme in his works, family. Some particular titles in the Little Critter series where he has adventures with only one of his family members are: Just Me and My Dad, Just Grandma and Me, Just Me and My Mom, Just Grandpa and Me, The New Baby, and Just Me and My Cousin. In the other books, Critter usually relies on his family members to help him do things like bake a cake for his teacher (The Best Teacher Ever) or help doing his science fair poster (Just a School Project).

Mercer Mayer’s main characters are usually independent, strong willed, and a bit on the rebellious/wild side. His characters aren’t afraid to take action and overcome obstacles in order to do what they know is the right. In The Queen Who Loved to Dance, after the King made it illegal to sing and dance, the Queen had to stop doing those things she enjoyed the most because even a queen must obey the law. In Shibumi and the kitemaker, Princess Shibumi knew that she must give up the comfortable life she led in the palace in order to help the poor people of her city.

In There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, the main character is a boy who is absolutely terrified of what might be lurking behind the closet door. One night he decides that it is time to face his nemesis. In full armor and weapon in hand, the boy attacks his monster and makes the poor thing cry. Even though the boy is mad, he understands what it is like to be afraid and decides to let the monster sleep in his bed with him. Mayer received the National Book Festival “Artist of the Year” award in 2007. Contrary to what his professors thought, Mayer’s illustrations are very popular with all audiences.

Mayer currently lives in Roxbury, Connecticut with his third wife Gina, with whom he co-writes many of the popular Little Critter books. He continues to draw inspiration from his grandchildren, who as he says, “Always remind me what it was like. ” I am a big fan of Mercer Mayer’s writing and illustrations. However, the display of gender stereotyping is definitely an unfortunate part of the content in many of Mayer’s picture books. In Mayer’s Little Critter series the mom is almost always shown in the kitchen, doing laundry, or cleaning the house, whereas his dad is rarely depicted in the house.

My favorite book of Mayer’s is Just a Mess, because my room is always a disaster. I remember one particular occasion when I was frantically searching for my softball cleats before a Little League game and couldn’t find them anywhere. I have always struggled with what goes along with growing up like being neat and organized, sleeping without the closet light on, going to bed at a decent hour, not juggling eggs, and other un-fun stuff. My favorite quote of Mayer’s is “It’s real fun to be an old kid. ”

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