Finding Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall, award-winning children’s author and illustrator, was born in 1970 in Australia, where she grew up.  Sophie’s artistry originated with drawing in the sand on Australian beaches.  Her skills and passion grew until she earned a Bachelor of Design with honors in Sydney in 1992.  In the following years, she drew robotic figures for amusement parks, lent her hands to a DIY television show, and produced a household hints column.  She has illustrated over 30 children’s books and created one book for adults.

Sophie Blackall’s whimsical, yet thoughtfully realistic artwork invokes nostalgia at its purest.  She skillfully employs Chinese ink and watercolor to record some of life’s greatest moments, both victorious and sorrowful.

By hosting this unique artwork at the NCCIL starting October 11, we are encouraging our visitors to examine the full range of human emotion.  Pieces from goofy stories like Meet Wild Boars and Spinster Goose remind us that laughter and silliness are vital parts of life.  Other, more sentimental works based on historical events lead us to recognize that reality is incredible!  We have the power to make ordinary days become extraordinary.  One split-second decision to choose kindness over cruelty, strength in suffering, or simply take a wild, impossible chance, could land our humdrum lives in a storybook.  Endearing books like Finding Winnie, A Voyage in the Clouds, and A Fine Dessert, populated with Blackall’s delicate pieces, encourage readers to see the silver linings all around them, the stories in a little brown bear cub or the labor of whipping cream.  Blackall possesses the remarkable ability to adapt to many styles of writing, demonstrated by her successful partnership with over twenty authors as well as the illustration of her own stories.  Sophie expertly employs her medium to visually connect readers to electric, captivating stories.

Finding Winnie, Sophie’s Caldecott Medal winner and recipient of a plethora of other awards, follows the soldier who found Winnipeg the bear.  Winnipeg was the Real Bear who  inspired the stories of her namesake, Winnie the Pooh, in A. A. Milne’s beloved stories.  One reviewer praises the work: “The sum total is as captivating as it is informative, transforming a personal family story into something universally resonant.” – Horn Book, Starred Review.

Sophie Blackall’s work in Big Red Lollipop, Red Butterfly, and Ruby’s Wish poignantly pulls readers into adventures in unique historical situations, from thousands of years ago to the present, while highlighting common themes of love, family, friendship, and gentle bravery.

After only a cursory glance, it becomes clear that Blackall values diversity and advocacy when selecting the stories she will bring to life.  Her books feature characters from many races, nations, and situations.  If a child were to read each title Sophie has illustrated, they would have a foundational knowledge of what it means to be kind to all kinds of people, that sibling rivalry is real and can be overcome, that the love of a family is special and cannot be found just anywhere.  When they see her artwork in the NCCIL gallery, they will understand that courage, cleverness, cooperation, and creativity will get one far in life.  They will see that, no matter a person’s external attributes, we are all here on the same earth, living the same days, feeling and experiencing the same things alongside one another.  Sophie’s pieces communicate these life lessons standing alone, without need for narration.

The NCCIL will utilize this exhibit by expounding on its themes in our school tours, gallery materials, and events to execute our vision of literacy and creativity in the next generation of Abilene and beyond.