Reviews are coming in!

Two months until IN MARY’S GARDEN hits the shelves! We would like to share some of our reviews:

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2—Children are introduced to a lesser-known contemporary Midwestern American artist in this picture-book biography of Mary Nohl (1914–2001). A spare narrative allows the pictures to describe how, from childhood, Nohl’s imagination soared as she explored the many interests that led her to combine found objects with cement to create fantastical creatures, eventually installed in the garden surrounding the Lake Michigan home she built with her father. World travels provided further inspiration for her non-traditional, sometimes primitive, art, ably represented here mostly in spreads that convey the scope and variety of Nohl’s work. The illustrations combine watercolor with digital painting, collage, and vintage papers, resulting in a soft palette and an uncomplicated, accessible drawing style. Children will delight in the whimsy of the art pieces and their placement in the garden as well as the participation of Mary’s dogs, Sassafras and Basil, in the discovery process. An author’s note, accompanied by two photographs, gives more detail about Nohl’s life and the challenge of preserving her home and garden for public enjoyment.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY


Publisher’s Weekly

In a quiet homage, the Küglers introduce artist Mary Nohl, who transformed her lakeside home into a bestiary of sculptures created from concrete and found objects: “Mary was happiest when her hands were busy making, building, creating things.” Chalky mixed-media collages are punctuated by items of significance—a blue feather, a red wheelbarrow, and a piece of driftwood that Nohl sees as a “marvelous creature.” With Nohl’s triangular nose, crooked mouth, and beady eyes, she almost resembles one of her creations. An ornamental gate encloses her garden, as if to emphasize Nohl’s total immersion within a private, fantastical world. Additional biographical information elaborates on the artist’s life and work. Ages 6–9. (Mar.)


Booklist

Mary Nohl, “a little girl with big ideas,” lives in Wisconsin, where she helps her father mix cement and build a cottage on Lake Michigan. In school, she takes shop class instead of cooking. She studies art in college and then travels the world, constantly drawing in her sketchbooks. As an adult living in the childhood house that she helped to build, Mary and her two dogs gather driftwood, stones, and scraps on the beach. She uses these oddments imaginatively, making large concrete creatures in her garden. Through simple words and satisfying illustrations, the husband-and-wife team expresses Mary’s creativity, determination, and practicality. The pictures, created with watercolor, collage, vintage papers, and digital elements, capture ideas as varied as the feel of a long, cold Wisconsin winter; Mary’s active engagement in making sculpture; and her dogs’ satisfaction in helping her. An appended biographical note offers details about Nohl, who died in 2001, and her locally controversial artwork, but the picture book itself is simple, immediate, and well attuned to children. This quiet, engaging offering celebrates the artist’s vision and her idiosyncratic work. – Carolyn Phelan


Kirkus Reviews

A portrait of Wisconsin folk artist Mary Nohl (1914-2001) and her sculptures. As a child, “[w]hile the other girls [take] cooking classes,” Mary learns woodworking and makes an airplane. She helps her father build a house on Lake Michigan’s shore and realizes that she loves to create things with her hands. Collecting driftwood, feathers and rocks, Mary employs her building skills—mixing cement with beach sand, as her father showed her, and spreading it over a support of wood, wire and piping—to create a massive, playful-looking creature. The Küglers use watercolor, digital painting, collage and vintage papers to portray Mary’s world and sculptures. Some of the illustration has a stylized folk-art feel, blocky and angular in mild colors, while Mary’s dogs have rounder lines. Mary’s sculptures vary in scale, so the illustrations play with scale too. In one example, Mary and her dogs discover “a marvelous creature washed up on the sand.” The purple, wavy-limbed object looks enormous—until the following spread reveals it to be a small, beige piece of driftwood. That driftwood becomes an antler on Mary’s huge, sculpted creature. An author’s note explains Mary’s eccentricities—melting silverware, painting on indoor carpeting—and the controversy of her neighborhood’s refusal to allow public visitors into her garden of odd, fantastical creatures. A friendly chronicle of an offbeat artist. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

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