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Charles Santore is the latest in a line of distinguished illustrators who have created the poster art for the National Book Festival. In addition to the 2009 poster, Santore has also illustrated such classics as "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (2000) and "Aesop's Fables" (1997)."" Santore also writes and illustrates his own books. His latest works are "The Little Mermaid: From the Story by Hans Christian Andersen "(2009) and "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" (2009), an illustration of an L. Frank Baum tale. Santore lives in Pennsylvania.

2009 National Book Festival poster by Charles Santore

Download poster (PDF, 635Kb)

Previous National Book Festival Appearances

The Scoop

From the 2009 National Book Festival

Your wonderful artwork can be seen on the 2009 National Book Festival poster. How did you decide what to draw?

What I tried to do is take what I knew about the event – it was about books and it was a festival. I thought about it being big and encompassing with many things going on simultaneously. I knew it was going to take place on the National Mall and that the Capitol played a big part and really locates it. Then I thought about how books could fit into this picture. If I got up above this scene and looked down, I could make a series of building blocks converging on the Capitol. Once I had an image of books opening, I thought it wouldn’t be interesting without content. So I thought of content beginning to emerge from the books – with the National Book Festival making it possible. I wanted to have different characters emerging from different places in the books as the stories unfold. I hope young readers will look at a book from beginning to end and as something that will have information throughout.

What sparked your imagination for your newest book – The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus?

When I work on a classic, I like the challenge of creating a revision that might eventually become the definitive version. In the case of Frank Baum’s 1902 story about Santa Claus – it was a secular story – conceived by Baum as taking place in a magical wood. As the story progresses, the hero begins to carve little animals and gives them out to children. I liked the idea of reimagining this fairy tale with my own illustrations.

What artists have inspired you? Are you often inspired by your everyday surroundings or dreams?

I’ve been inspired by artists that worked from the very early Renaissance till modern day. Several favorites include British illustrator, John Waterhouse and from America, Edwin Austin Abbey, Howard Pyle and N.C.Wyeth.

Yes, I’m inspired by my surroundings. Every day you can walk down the street and every day becomes a wonderful experience if you pay attention to the details and the small architectural differences around you.

Can you suggest a fun writing or drawing topic to get students started?

If you enjoy drawing and painting, begin by drawing the things around you – your pet cat, dog, things that are around you in the house. When you draw familiar things, you are beginning to build a vocabulary of visual images you can draw on later.

How do you decide on themes for your books?

New themes must intrigue me. For example, for the book - A Stowaway on Noah’s Ark - I wanted to come up with a new and different twist to the traditional version of the story. So I added a little mouse that sneaks aboard on the tail of an ostrich. As the “odd man out” he spends the voyage finding hiding places among the animals. I also need some kind of motivation to grab me. In my book Three Hungry Pigs and the Wolf Who Came to Dinner my twist was all about truffles. With The Little Mermaid, I kept thinking it was a great feminist story.

How important is research in the development of your books? Can you explain the process as well?

Very important! My reason – having been an illustrator for 45 years, the worst thing that can happen is that you keep repeating your ideas. With research, when you go into a new project, you need to do research on the subject. Once you start, you see a variety of new forms and textures and your artistic vocabulary increases. For it to come out of you, it has to be in you. Research is what puts it in you.

What is your list of favorite children or teen books?

Books by illustrated by my favorite artists - English illustrator, Arthur Rackham and the French illustrator, Edmund Dulac. I also enjoy any of the Caldecott books and great classics.

If you were not writing and drawing, what do you think you would be doing?

I can’t imagine. When I was about 4 years old one of my aunts bought me a paint set. I loved the attention I got – and I just kept doing it.

What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?

That’s very simple – just read to them!

Can you tell us about any new books that you will be working on during the coming year?

Right now I’m working on a version of Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. But I want to put my own twist on it. I love learning about and collecting colonial furniture and antiques. So I am setting the story in New York City and I’m going to incorporate all my knowledge about period furniture and architecture into my illustrations.

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

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The Little Mermaid

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The Wizard of Oz

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