Mercer Mayer is highly accomplished author and illustrator of children’s books, whose work I have enjoyed immensely for many years.
I first discovered his work in the early 80s in a bookstore in Pennsylvania. His illustrations for Beauty and the Beast were tender, poetic and quite magical. I bought the book and devoured it on the train ride home. I was fixated on the picture of the dying beast surrounded by roses. It was both tragic and beautiful (see inset).
I returned to the bookstore the following day and found East of the Sun, West of the Moon. The illustrations for East of the Sun, West of the Moon were almost pitch perfect. I didn’t find a single image unappealing or uninspired. His pen work was lovely, textured when needed; his colour selection ideal for each scene. I also bought a book Mayer illustrated titled Favorite Tales From Grimm. The cover (see inset) featuring Snow White, Rose Red and a giant brown bear enchanted me. The illustrations were no less exciting than those from Beauty and the Beast or East of the Sun, West of the Moon.
I spent countless months studying his work and the way he paints. I never lost interest in his work. Something nagged at me. There was something in his art, in his composition, that was familiar. It wouldn’t be until I moved back to Canada a couple of years later and bought two of his other works, The Wizard Comes to Town and Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like that it hit me. Mercer Mayer was very inspired by another one of my heroes, Maurice Sendak. The shapes, facial expressions, and ink line in Mayer’s earlier work is most definitely from the Sendak school of expression.
Some of Mayer’s other work, like Little Critter, doesn’t work for me, but it’s not supposed to – it’s for a younger audience and, judging by its huge success, Mayer speaks as compellingly to the young as he did and still does to me.
If you aren’t yet acquainted with this wonderful author and illustrator, I would urge you to seek out his work. His website, which is in need of being brought into the 21st century, is here: https://www.mercermayer.com/
His Instagram page is here: https://www.instagram.com/mercer_mayer
Kaja Blackley is the author of Maggie MacCormack and the Witches’ Wheel now on sale: maggiemaccormack.com
The images I have used in this blog are used for editorial purposes only, and are copyright their respective copyright holders.