Anna Grossnickle Hines                                                                                                 Home   Guide   
The Story Behind...

Every now and then, I read or hear a story that makes my heart skip and I think, "Oh, I wish I'd written that one." That's exactly how I felt when I first heard Elizabeth Partridge read an earlier version of Whistling in a writer's workshop in Port Townsend, Washington in 1995. The story is so loving and tender and her use of words exquisite.

Betsy and I went on to become good friends, forming a small writing group consisting of the two of us, my husband Gary, and writer and illustrator Martha Weston. Not yet satisfied with Whistling herself, Betsy set it aside to work on a number of other beautiful books for children.

Then, in 2000, she got the manuscript out again and started tinkering. When I visited her that summer she showed it to me and asked if I thought it was ready for submission. "Yes," I told her, "but...I see it illustrated in fabric." She was more than willing to have me give it a try and thus began our happy collaboration.

Whistling cover
Illustrating Whistling
An Interview for the Greenwillow Catalog

Available on Favorite Out-of-Print DVD

How I Illustrated Whistling: In Full Detail
Lots of pictures help explain how I came to illustrate this book, the development of my ideas, and the techniques used to carry them out.

Simply gorgeous illustrations adorn a poetic boy-and-his-dad story. Jake's Daddy wakes him just before dawn, as he's curled up in his sleeping bag next to the campfire Daddy's tending. Jake is not sure he's ready, but Daddy thinks he is. He tries once (too hard) and once more (too soft) but them Jake is whistling softly as little creatures watch. The birds begin to sing, the last star winks out, and Daddy joins Jake in whistling, as the sun comes up. "We whistled up the sun." This tender story of a family ritual unfolds to the full-page images from Hines, who makes her pictures in quilts. Every single piece of fabric is perfect, from the hand-painted sky fabrics to the rough-textured plaids of Jake and Daddy's shirts. Her shapes, forms and patterns are elegantly chosen and pieced seamlessly to make pictures that richly repay repeated examinations. She supplies a fascinating two pages of detailed description as to how she made the illustrations. Children will be entranced by the unaffected sweetness and gentle rhythms of both story and pictures and their magical sense of family love and devotion to the natural world. Kirkus, March 2003 (starred review)

A subdued palette of forest green and a sky washed with shades of indigo evoke the stillness of the woods just before sunrise. In the clearing, sparks from a fire spiral into the night; Jake and his father are camping out. Cozy as their plaid flannel shirts, this picture book enfolds readers in the warmth and closeness of this father/son relationship. The fabric of the story is as carefully crafted as the quilts that serve as illustrations. As she did in Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts, Hines has masterfully created an evocative backdrop for this touching story. The deep nighttime hues transition to lavenders and corals as the boy and his dad whistle up the dawn and the sun peeks over the horizon. With a deft touch, the artist stitches individual pieces of patterned cloth into place, choosing each for its subtle creation of mood. Similarly, Partridge embroiders the details of the text with a poetic flair that adds texture and engages all the senses. As a result of this lyrical pairing, the book's quiet simplicity is a compelling and seamlessly woven collage of art and text. The final pages detail the quilter's technique so readers can create a story quilt of their own. School Library Journal, April 2003

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a little boy and his father, who are camping out, awaken before dawn. As the sky gradually lightens, the boy wonders if he is ready. Ready for what? He is learning to whistle. After many tries and some encouragement, he finally succeeds, whistling again and again. The birds answer, his father joins in, and the sun comes up: “We whistled up the sun.” The book ends with a photo-illustrated double-page spread explaining the embroidered-and-appliqued fabric technique Hines used for the lovely artwork, which creates a striking illusion of depth through the layering of material in subtle colors and patterns. Words and illustrations together communicate the tranquility of the setting, the anxiety of the child, and his satisfaction when the sun rises. Young children will enjoy the story; adults will find the unusual and distinctive illustrations fascinating. ALA Booklist, August, 2003, Carolyn Phelan

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