Leo Lionni

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					  Leo Lionni

“A Tried and True Author”
LIS 60629: Summer 2009
       Beth Brendle
          Leo Lionni: Biography
Personal Information

• Born in Amsterdam, Holland, on May 5, 1910
• No formal art education
• Practiced drawing at the Rijksmuseum
• Doctorate in Economics from the Un. of Genoa
• Married Nora Maffi in 1931
• Had two sons: Louis and Paolo
• Emigrated to US in 1939
• Traveled extensively between the US and Europe
• Settled in Italy at age 50
• Wrote Parallel Botany in 1977
• Wrote his autobiography, Between Two Worlds, in 1997
• Died in Tuscany, Italy, on October 11,1999, at age 89

          Writer, Teacher, Sculptor, Artist, Designer
             Graphic Arts Career
”one of the 20th-century's most influential graphic designers”   (Sundell)

Art director for Motta in Italy
Art Director: N. W. Ayer advertising agency
Design Director for the Olivetti Corporation of America
 Art Director: Time/Life
 Art Director: Fortune
 Co-Editor: Print Magazine
 Layout creator for
Sports Illustrated
Designed “Family of Man” exhibit
catalog, Museum of Modern Art

                                         Lionni’s Autobiography
                Children’s Book
               Author & Illustrator
Lionni wrote more than 40 children’s books, all after the age of 50!

FABLES: Many of Lionni’s books are fables, complete with talking
animals, basic plots, and a clear moral.

Some of his books, including The Alphabet Tree, have been
criticized for being too didactic, political, and/or religious and not
geared toward children.

Lionni is known for his vivid textured collages of torn paper.

Praised for simple yet meaningful text wedded to the illustrations,
many of Lionni’s works are true picture books.
        Lionni’s Innovative Style
     “A technique of filling the picture area with large, simple shapes
without overwhelming or cluttering it is a Lionni trademark, as is his use of
   white backgrounds, cropping, and carefully informal arrangement of
                objects within the picture plane.” (Potts)

  “preoccupation with textures and special effects”
   torn paper technique
  “boldness of style”
  “deft and humorous moral messages”
   influenced by Futurism, Surrealism & Expressionism
  desire to achieve coherence between form and content
  “a deep concern for quality” (Potts)

         “I have the feeling that if you are very thorough
                 and put love and care into a thing
                  it will come out well somehow.”
                             Leo Lionni
               Nature’s Influence
                   Lionni was fascinated by nature;
 his books depict natural worlds filled with animal characters, flora and
           fauna, and a variety of rocks, stones, and shells.

Lionni had a terrarium as a child; in it he kept stones, shells, frogs, and
        salamanders. He created a little world for his creatures.

The influence of nature can be seen in his children’s books as well as in
                  his drawings, sculpture, and writings.

   “The relationship between nature and man
      is at the core of his work.” (Sundell)
            Major Awards
                        American Institute of
                           Graphic Arts
                         Gold Medal, 1984

Caldecott Honor Books
 Inch by Inch 1961
 Frederick 1968
 Swimmy 1964
 Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse 1970
              The Christopher Award
                     Children’s Book Category 1970

“First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards were established by
      Christopher founder Father James Keller to salute media that
      ‘affirm the highest values of the human spirit.’ Their goal is to
      encourage men, women and children to pursue excellence in
      creative arenas that have the potential to influence a mass
      audience positively. Award winners encourage audiences to see
      the better side of human nature and motivate artists and the
      general public to use their best instincts on behalf of others. “


Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava – (BIB)
        Golden Apple Award 1967 for Swimmy

             This award is given by the Ministry of
             Culture of the Slovak Republic and
             UNESCO. It recognizes the best
             children’s illustrations worldwide. The
             main winners have their artwork put on
             stamps.              (

    Swimmy was the first picture book by an
        American illustrator to win.
                      Little Blue and Little Yellow

         Leo Lionni’s first children’s book was created in 1959
              in an attempt to entertain his grandchildren
                            during a train ride.

“To entertain them, he tore little bits of colored papers from Life magazine and
    made a magical story. Lionni returned home, he placed what he'd done into a
    book dummy. Fabio Coen, who had just become children's book editor of
    Obolensky Inc., published it as ‘Little Blue and Little Yellow,’ and Lionni became
    a picture book author.” (AIGA)

Style: The simple torn paper collage was innovative in 1959.

Themes: This story teaches children not
to judge by appearance. It also makes kids
think about individuality vs. conformity.

This book is often used by art teachers
to teach color combining.
                  Inch by Inch
                    PLOT: A clever inch worm saves himself by
                      measuring his predators’ necks, tails, and
                      legs. When the nightingale asks him to
                      measure his song, the inch worm keeps
                      measuring until he is out of harm’s way.

                    ART: “Illustrated in richly textured collage
                      and crayon against a white background,
                      Inch by Inch combines lavish surface
                      texture with careful page layout and
                      dramatic design.” (Potts)

THEME: This book teaches children to be clever problem-solvers.
                              PLOT: Frederick’s family prepares for the winter by
                                 collecting food while Frederick collects sun rays,
                                 colors, and words. After all the supplies run out
                                 in the harsh winter, Frederick nourishes his
                                 family with an artist’s gifts: stories, colors, and

                              ART: The collage illustrations are in soft browns and
                                grays. The mice are made of torn-paper and are
                                set “against the clean edges and textures of the
                                background.” (Potts)

                              THEMES: This book teaches children that the artist
Lionni’s first mouse-hero        is an important part of society.

       “Frederick’s story is one of the progression from feelings
             to images and finally to words . . . .” (Potts)
                             PLOT: Like the inch worm, Swimmy must
                               be clever in order to survive. He
                               organizes a school of small fish into a
                               group resembling a large fish so that
                               predators will stay away.

                             ART: “Swimmy’s undersea world is
                               composed of highly textured watercolor
                               washes and prints that create an
                               impressionistic underwater locale.”

THEMES: This book teaches children to be resourceful, to be leaders,
and to never give up. It also teaches that there is safety in numbers.
  Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
                        PLOT: Alexander is a lonely mouse who
                        befriends a mechanical mouse, Willy.
                        Alexander is jealous of Willy because the
                        children love their toy, while Alexander is
                        despised. He wants to be a toy too until he
                        finds a broken and discarded Willy. With the
                        help of a magic lizard, Willy becomes a real

                        ART: “brightly colored, bold designs set against
                        black and white backgrounds. . . spectacular.
                        . . . a flat, posterlike effect” (Potts).

THEMES: The story teaches children not to be envious of others, to
appreciate themselves, and to believe in the power of love and
•   Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse
•   The Alphabet Tree                                         Lionni’s
•   The Biggest House in the World
•   A Busy Year                                              Children’s
•   A Color of His Own
•   Colors to Talk About                                       Books
•   Cornelius: A Fable
•   An Extraordinary Egg
•   Fish is Fish
•   A Flea Story
•   Frederick
•   Geraldine, the Music Mouse
•   The Greentail Mouse
•   I Want to Stay Here! I Want to Go There!: A Flea Story
•   In the Rabbitgarden
•   Inch by Inch
•   It's Mine
•   Let's Make Rabbits: A Fable
•   Let's Play
•   Letters to Talk About
•   Little Blue and Little Yellow
•   Matthew's Dream
•   Mouse Days: A Book of Seasons
    Mr. McMouse
    Nicolas, Where Have You Been?
    Numbers to Talk About"
    On My Beach There are Many Pebbles
•   Pouce Par Pouce
•   Prohibido a Los Gatos!
•   Pulgada a Pulgada
•   Six Crows: A Fable
•   Swimmy
•   Theodore and the Talking Mushroom
•   Tico and the Golden Wings
•   Tillie and the Wall
•   Tili Y El Muro
•   Una Piedra Extraordinaria
•   What?: Pictures to Talk About
•   When?: Pictures to Talk About
•   Where?: Pictures to Talk About
•   Who?: Pictures to Talk About
•   Words to Talk About
                               Leo Lionni Resources

Agree, Rose H. “We Meet Leo Lionni.” Top of the News 19 (Oct 1962): 65-67.
         Bumiller, Elisabeth. “A Mind Full of Frogs, Mice and Snails Grow
         Riper.” New York Times 4 Sept. 1997.

Cahn, Annabelle Simon. “Leo Lionni, Artist and Philosopher.” Children’s
         Literature 2 (1973): 123-129. Project Muse. John Hopkins
         University Press 2009. 12 July 2009. [OhioLink]

Coen, Fabio.   “Leo Lionni.”   Library Journal 89 (15 March 1964): 100.

Cullinan, Bernice E., and Diane Goetz Person, ed. “Lionni, Leo.” The
         Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. Continuum
         International Publishing Group, 2003.   12 July 2009.

Evans, Dily.   “Leo Lionni.”   Book Links (Mar 1995):   4. 4.

McCall, Bruce. “An Old-Fashioned Modernist:   Between Two Worlds: The
         Autobiography of Leo Lionni.” New York Times Book Reviews. 18 May
         1997. 13.

McCann, Donnarae, and Olga Richard. The Child’s First
          Books: A Critical Study of Pictures and Texts.        New York:   Wilson,
         1973. 58 -59.
McQuade, Molly.   “The Year of Leo Lionni.”   Book Links (May 1998):   7. 5.

“Medalists.” AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Artists). 1984
         5 July 2009.

Paley, Vivian Gusin. “The Mouse that Roared.” School Library Journal
         (Jan 2000): 46 – 49. [EBSCO] 2003. 5 July 2009.

Potts, Lesley S. “Leo(nard) Lionni.” American Writers for Children Since
         1960: Poets, Illustrators, and Nonfiction Authors. Ed. Glenn
         E. Estes. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol 61. Detroit:
         Gale Research, 1987. [Columbus Metropolitan Library] 6 July

Simon Cahn, Annabelle. "Leo Lionni, Artist and Philosopher." Children's
         Literature 2.1 (2009), 123-129.

Sundell, Nina Castelli. “Leo Lionni: Drawings.” Exhibit at Lehman
         University 1990. 13 July 2009.
         lionni/lionni sundell essay.html
                             Leo Lionni Articles

Lionni, Leo.   “Before Images.”   Horn Book 60 (Nov/Dec 1984):   727-734.

Lionni, Leo.   “My Books for Children.”   Wilson Library Bulletin 39 (October

         1964):   142-145.

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