Fins and Feathers: Children's Book Illustrations from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


A child’s first encounter with art often occurs on the pages of children’s picture books. Populated by creatures from fantasy or nature, children’s book illustrations entice the eye and provide fertile ground for the imagination. More than a fun pastime, the lush, creative and colorful images that grace the pages present new and familiar situations that stimulate the imagination and teach important life lessons.

Such an impact on a child’s development is demonstrated in the exhibition Fins and Feathers: Children’s Book Illustrations from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (the museum is located in Amherst, Mass.). Featuring 43 original illustrations from the late 19th century through today, the exhibition introduces viewers of all ages to a host of memorable fish, birds and other creatures whose exploits and adventures echo the concerns of children and bring them to life in an enjoyable way.

The illustrations in Little Turtle's Big Adventure by John Par Miller invite children to reflect upon environmental issues by asking them to accompany a turtle in his quest to find a new home when his habitat is destroyed by urban development. Illustrations in Eric Carle’s humorous account of a chameleon that dreams of being like other animals or Leo Lionni’s fish that yearns to explore the land offer lessons on self-acceptance and self-confidence.

Other highlights include a tempera drawing from Ashley Bryan’s award-winning compendium of Nigerian folktales, the adventures of a chicken’s beach towel by contemporary author Petra Mathers, and Arnold Lobel’s reinterpretations of classic stories in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children and The Random House Book of Mother Goose.

Ranging from painted tissue collages and colored pencil drawings to watercolors, Fins and Feathers showcases a variety of techniques to help celebrate the importance of children’s book illustrations as forms of art.

This family-friendly exhibition is the perfect attraction for children and those who are a “kid at heart.”

Read more about the books represented by the illustrations in this exhibition.

Read more about the artists featured in the exhibition.


This exhibition will be on view January 21-April 22, 2012

A portion of the proceeds to benefit the Genesis BirthCenter







images: Leo Lionni, Fish is Fish, 1970, colored pencil, oil stick, and graphite on illustration board, owner credit: Leo Lionni, collection, gift of the Lionni Family, © 1970 by Leo Lionni, renewed 1998 by Leo Lionni.

Ashley Bryan, Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum, 1987, tempera on paper, gift of Ashley Bryan, © 1980, 1987 by Ashley Bryan.