It is with great pleasure that the Newburyport Literary Festival recognizes David McPhail’s contribution to children’s literature by naming him its 2009 Honoree. He is a native son and past resident of Newburyport.
McPhail is the award-winning author and illustrator of nearly 200 books beloved by children, parents and librarians across the United States. He is recognized as one of the most prolific and influential children’s authors in the country. His whimsical stories and lively watercolors engross his readers in the lives of his characters, inspiring them to broaden their reading interests and build their literacy skills.
McPhail’s young readers quickly identify with the characters in his tender-hearted stories. His boys and girls become their role models and heroes, and his lovable animals – pigs, bears, ponies, moles – embody virtues they admire. McPhail feels that an animal can do things that might be too scary for a young child to do. From his first book, The Bear’s Toothache, published in 1972, many memorable animal stories have followed, including Mole Music, Henry Bear’s Park, and the popular Pig Pig stories. In 1993, McPhail introduced us to his series of Edward books, whose charming main character combines his love of reading with his imaginative quest for adventure.
McPhail has garnered many prestigious awards, including a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year for Mole Music in 2001. McPhail’s other books include First Flight, which the New York Times praised as “hilarious and helpful”; and Lost!, which was chosen as an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. In a starred review of Mole Music, Publishers Weekly said, “McPhail’s delicate watercolor-and-ink paintings work seamlessly in tandem with the words to deliver a truly resonant message: that music can change the world.”
David McPhail’s drawing career began at age two, with a black crayon on paper bags provided by his grandmother, in an effort to save the walls of her home! After graduating high school in 1963, McPhail enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. While there, he rediscovered children’s books, particulary the illustrations of Maurice Sendak. Sendak’s influence can be seen in the cross-hatching McPhail used to illustrate his early books, which has evolved to his preference for the use of pen and ink with watercolor.
McPhail grew up on Lime Street in Newburyport where he returned to raise his young children. Many of his sketches today grace the walls of the Newburyport Public Library and the Cashman School in Amesbury, in addition to other local institutions. McPhail has four children, three stepchildren, and is a proud grandfather. He is married to Jan Waldron, with whom he has written and illustrated several books. He lives in Rye, New Hampshire, but visits friends and family in Newburyport often.