The Ed Emberley Exhibition



For the first time in its 120 year history the Worcester Art Museum just outside Boston is hosting an exhibition of a children’s book illustrator, and that illustrator is Michael’s dad, Ed Emberley. We went to see it in January with Ed and Barbara and some good friends.


Ed has written and/or illustrated more than a hundred books over his long career, working in various mediums and many styles, always experimenting and exploring. The exhibition in Worcester displays a wide variety of his art, rough sketches and finished pieces for some of his most iconic books, including Drummer Hoff (Caldecott Medal 1968), the best-selling and innovative Drawing Book series and many more.

The art for One Wide River to Cross (Caldecott Honor 1967) was created using woodcuts, some of which you can see pictured below:

dscf0378Woodcuts are always carved in reverse so you can see the animals are marching in the opposite direction on the prints (below). This is final art marked up with instructions for the print run. dscf0377

In the printed book there are colourful backgrounds, like so:

The art for The Story of Paul Bunyan (1963) was also created using woodcuts. Below is a print pulled from the ginormous woodblock Ed made as a promotion for the book – that’s the woodblock you can see to the left of the image. We all laughed when Rick stood in front of it, having unintentionally dressed the part!


Part of the joy of walking around the exhibition with Ed was being able to ask questions about the techniques he used. Here is a small selection of pieces from the exhibition – click on an image if you’d like to read how it was made. (You will need to roll down a bit below the image for the info, if you’re using a phone.)

We also heard some family memories. Barbara, Rebecca and Michael were often drafted in to help finish art and Barbara and Michael tried to recall who did what on which book. Most of Ed’s pre-computer book illustrations were created using the “pre-separation” process – a technique which involved using Ed’s original black line art combined with three additional paper overlays indicating colour placement. Michael explained that for a book like the ABC, he might have created the overlays on say, an alligator, Rebecca a bear, Barbara a cat.  Meaning, with a felt-tip pen, Michael would have marked the areas which Ed intended for the alligator as yellow, red and blue, literally ‘colouring them in’ (on overlays) like a highly detailed coloring book. Yes, it’s confusing if you’ve never seen it done! Ed’s studio is in the family home, Barbara worked on many of the books and in more recent years Rebecca and Ed have created books together, so all the books are deeply woven into everyone’s memories.

It was really interesting to see Ed’s work explored in this way. He has created so many great books that it can be overwhelming, but the exhibition doesn’t try to show it all. Curator Caleb Neelon and Worcester Museum director Adam Rozen chose some favourites from across Ed’s work and the result is terrific.

And it was great fun going to see it with friends – Tom and Rick, Anne, Sika and Susannah. We made a party of it! The show runs at Worcester Art Museum (MA) till April 9th.

Sketches with Wolves!

When we were in Ipswich MA with Barbara and Ed we went to see the wolves in nearby Wolf Hollow. Wolf Hollow is a centre dedicated to educating people about all things wolf and it was fab to see these beautiful animals up close.

I bought some wolf cards to send home. Ed, Michael and myself had some fun doodling on them.


Everyone got an Ed wolf, a Michael wolf and a Mel wolf…

…and for once the cards got home before we did.


Click here for info on WOLF HOLLOW

In Ed Emberley’s Studio

DSCF0891 DSCF0967We’re in the US for a fairly long visit. Both of us need to get some work done while we’re here and Ed has kindly lent us his studio spaces. Top photo is Michael at work in Ed’s computer room, bottom photo is me sketching in Ed’s studio, snow on the ground outside. Both rooms were Michael’s bedroom at some point in his childhood!

Ed has worked in this house for over fifty years creating some of his most famous books and like all visual artists he has surrounded himself with stuff – images, books,  items which interest him, tools of the trade. The photos below will give you a taste of the space – watch out for a couple of family photos lurking in the background, Ed Emberley originals, and a sketch from another famous illustrator.

Fab new book out on Ed Emberley’s art -link here:

@ the Emberleys’ this Christmas


Trimming the tree at Ed and Barbara’s. Many of the ornaments were hand-carved by Ed over the years. Some ornaments commemorate something significant from the year that was, others depict family interests – skiing, cycling, sailing. Aren’t they great?

The selection below include a Pegasus which Michael carved when he was in school.

Season’s greetings to everyone and a peaceful new year.


Teeny Tiny Ting



I spotted this tiny handmade book necklace online; I thought it would be nice to wear to book events. When it arrived and I held it in my hand, it occurred to me I could actually draw tiny pictures in it…I drew one and got Michael to draw a couple. When the Emberleys were visiting I asked Ed and Rebecca to add something. Since then I’ve asked several  illustrator friends to draw in it, so now its pages are almost filled with teeny illustrations.

Everyone I ask has the same reaction. They stop – blink – think! It takes a bit of refocusing and mental rescaling to draw something on this tiny canvas.

I was cheeky enough to ask Jim Kay and Mo Willems to draw in it when I attended talks they gave and have every intention of being cheeky a few more times until every page is illustrated – there are a few Irish illustrators I’ve yet to nab. My little necklace has become a favourite treasure – here are some of the images. Look how HUGE my fingers are; these are TINY images!

You can click on any illustration for a larger image, then scroll/click on side to look at the next one, and illustrator’s name should appear too.

All these little illustrations are reproduced with permission and are © of named illustrator.