In October 2012 WoodstockArts is publishing Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham, by Lawrence Webster. A husband-wife team, the Petershams
were among a handful of people who set the direction for illustrated children's books as we know them today in America. They worked closely with such legendary editors as Louise Seaman and May Massee, and such inventive printers as Charles Stringer and William Glaser, greatly advancing the art of the illustrated children's book.
Maud and Miska Petersham lived and worked in Woodstock, New York from the 1920s through the 1960s. Under their studio’s north light they wrote and illustrated more
than 100 titles—with left-handed Maud on one side of the desk, and right-handed
Miska on the other. Not only does their work tell a story of innovation, talent, creativity, and hard work; the story of their lives is inspirational to everyone interested in the integration of life and work, values and livelihood.
From the start the Petershams’
contributions were recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
Four of Maud and Miska's books, Nursery Friends from
France, Children of the Mountain
Eagle, Tales Told in Holland, and
Get-A-Way and Háry János, were
selected to be shown at the highly competitive AIGA exhibitions in the late
1920s and early 1930s. During the 1940s the Petershams won a Caldecott
Honor (in 1942 for An American ABC) and a Caldecott Prize (in 1946 for The
Author Lawrence Webster knew the Petershams while she was
growing up in Woodstock during the 1950s and 1960s. She and her family briefly lived in the Petershams’
storybook house while the latter were traveling, and Lawrence was a childhood playmate of Mary Petersham, Maud and Miska's granddaughter. Lawrence has enjoyed a rich and varied career as a librarian and nonprofit consultant. Her recent and current clients include the American Library Association, the Florida Library Association, the Vermont Department of Libraries, Vermont Public Radio, and the Woodstock (NY) Guild of Craftsmen. Under the North Light is her first foray into writing for love of the subject instead of to meet a required deadline.
Lawrence is passionate about the Petershams:
"Pioneers in a golden age of children's book publishing in America, their career spanned five decades, from 1917 to 1962. Theirs was a deep collaboration of complementary backgrounds and temperaments, and a marriage that created a warm and welcoming household. Maud, a 1912 Vassar graduate, had deep Yankee roots; Miska immigrated from Hungary in 1912 after rigorous study at the Royal National School for Applied Arts in Budapest. They met while working at an advertising agency in New York, and married in 1917. They built their quirky stone house on Glasco Turnpike [in Woodstock] in 1923 at the southern edge of the famed Byrdcliffe Colony. This lively couple are remembered not only for their beautiful artwork, but for their cheerful engagement with the town of Woodstock and the world of children's literature. Their books were immensely popular with children, but also admired by national critics and tastemakers."
Ms. Webster's manuscript reflects a love of her subject. While her scholarship is obvious (months spent meticulously combing through documentary sources, and interviews conducted with Petersham family and friends), her tone is light and often whimsical as she leads the reader through the magical world of Maud and Miska Petersham.
Initial stats for the book include the following:
- Page Count: 192
- Images: 198
- Trim Size: 8 by 10 inches
- Front Matter: Table of contents, foreword by Philip C. and Erin E. Stead (winners of the 2011 Caldecott Medal) and prologue
- Back Matter: Epilogue, notes, list of illustrations and index
- Jacket Blurbs: Grace Worcester Greene (Youth Services Consultant, Vermont Department of Libraries) and Dr. Samantha K. Hastings (Director, School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina)
In addition to the book, plans are underway for a related symposium and a traveling exhibit.
For further details about this project please contact Julia Blelock, firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation, click on the orange button above. You can make payment by credit card, check or wire transfer. If you're writing a check, please make it out to "Artspire, a Project of NYFA." Include Under the North Light in the memo line. Mail your check to Artspire, Attn: Finance, 20 Jay Street, Suite 740, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Your contributions will help with image acquisition, book design and color printing. Please help us shine a bright light on the life and seminal work of an extraordinary pair of American children's book authors and illustrators!
We thank you for your donations. Sponsors and donors will be recognized in the book and in promotional materials about the project.
Please visit our "gallery" (click on the green button in the navigation bar above) to see a sampling of the Petershams' work and photos of the couple themselves. Bookmark this page and check back frequently to follow the North Light project as it evolves.
Disciplines: Arts & Education, Nonfiction, Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts