Original illustrations of popular children’s books come to the Muskegon Museum of Art

A new exhibit at the Muskegon Museum of Art explores the art of acclaimed children’s author Oliver Jeffers.

The exhibit, “Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books,” features 80 original artworks from Jeffers’ best-known books such as “The Day the Crayons Quit,” “How to Catch a Star,” “The Incredible Book Eating Boy,” and many more. 

The exhibit runs through May 26.

“Oliver Jeffers is a household name in children's books and has won numerous prestigious awards for his work as an illustrator and children's book author,” says Heather Placko, the museum’s curator of education. “His whimsical illustrations and thoughtful dialogue are wonderfully engaging for all ages to get something out of, plus he is an accomplished artist and worth celebrating.”

Curiosity and humor are underlying themes throughout Oliver's work as an artist and storyteller. His critically acclaimed picture books have sold 14 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over 50 languages.

Librarians join for story times

From the first sketches of “How to Catch a Star” to the alternate covers of “Here We Are,” the exhibition brings together never-before-seen original artworks alongside the familiar faces of Jeffers’ worlds. 

The exhibition features line drawings, sketches, and finished illustrations for 16 children’s picture books, including the popular “The Day the Crayons Quit” and its sequel, “The Day the Crayons Came Home,” “Here We Are,” “The Incredible Book Eating Boy,” “This Moose Belongs to Me,” and “Once Upon an Alphabet.”

A new exhibit at the Muskegon Museum of Art explores the art of acclaimed children’s author Oliver Jeffers.

The museum is also partnering with Hackley Public Library for Storytime in the Gallery, an event for children ages 5 and younger to listen to stories, sing songs, and explore the illustrations. Storytime in the Gallery will be held at 4 p.m. on April 11 and May 16. The librarians also will do a special story time at the museum's free Spring Break Family Night PJ Party on April 4. 

“It's a very interactive experience for all,” Placko says. “The Muskegon Museum of Art and the Hackley Public Library love to work together when we're able to. Being right next door to one another is an easy partnership, and they always make it a joy.” 

Showing the process

Jeffers was born in Australia, grew up and lived in Northern Ireland most of his life, and moved to Brooklyn, where he lives now with his family. In his own words, "Oliver Jeffers makes art and tells stories – fine art (mostly) for adults, and picture books for (mostly) children."

Visitors will get to see the process of illustrating a book, not just one complete finished product.

The exhibit features 80 original artworks from Oliver Jeffers’ best-known books.

“One of my favorite parts of the exhibition is that not every piece is a finished work,” says Placko. “Some are preparatory sketches and exploratory drawings finding the characters he wants to create. 

“My other favorite part of this exhibition is that it's not just pictures on a wall. We have a museum-wide scavenger hunt with the exhibition, we have copies of all the books on the wall to flip through and spend time reading, and coloring pages and activity sheets that are specially created by Oliver Jeffers' team to go along with his work.”

Every year the Muskegon Museum of Art showcases a book illustrator for a spring exhibition. 

“We like to go through children's book authors typically because it appeals to a wide range of audiences,” Placko says. 

The exhibition was put together by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. 

Photos courtesy of the Muskegon Museum of Art.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.