Art — Making Book With Children

Making Book With Children


By Michelle Saturley


Dion could be next big thing in tyke tales


Move over, Tomie de Paola. Manchester’s own Christine Dion is poised as the next big thing to hit children’s literature.

Dion started drawing as a kid. Her first memory of creating something that would be considered “good” was at age 11. She sketched a portrait of a dog and showed it to her mother.

“I still remember the look of shock and surprise on her face when she saw it,” Dion said.

Shortly after, Dion began her art instruction in earnest at the Currier Art Center. Although she was exposed to all the media and techniques of a fine artist, her true love was illustration — particularly the work of Norman Rockwell.

“His drawings had so much life in them, so much detail,” she said. “I knew they weren’t considered fine art, but they had that same foundation as fine art.”

Long after childhood, the artist continued to be drawn to children’s picture books. Her love for them inspired her to change her major at Notre Dame College from graphic design to art education. She went on to pursue her master’s degree in early childhood education. Armed with these two degrees, Dion set out to make her mark in the children’s book market — gradually.

“My kids were still little, so there was only so much time I could allow for art at that time,” she said. “I made a plan for myself, that once my youngest was in school full-time, I would devote more time to my work.”

Her first order of business was to study every children’s book she could get her hands on. Her studio, a converted dining room in her Manchester home, is filled with them. Whatever she can’t fit in the studio goes on one of the bookshelves in her kids’ rooms.

“I admire the work of Jan Brett and Chris Van Allsburg,” Dion said. “It’s the details and use of color that grab my attention and inspire me.”

Dion also gets inspiration from her everyday environment. She’s in development on a series of stories about the adventures of a Pomeranian pup who wants to be an artist. The character is based on the family dog, Princess. She also uses her two children and her husband as models for various projects.

“I go to conferences in New York and Los Angeles for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,” she said. “And while I like to visit those places, I could never live there. I need trees and fresh air. It’s the New Hampshire landscape that keeps me creative.”

Dion doesn’t believe her location is a disadvantage.

“With the Internet and e-mail, a writer doesn’t have to live in a major city anymore,” she said. “Tomie de Paola lives in Londonderry.”

When Dion isn’t taking care of her kids or drawing, she teaches a children’s literature class as part of the Early Childhood Education curriculum at New Hampshire Technical College. Though she has been published as an illustrator — most recently for a series of educational picture books used in schools — Dion is still shopping her self-written books around.

“Publishers like it when you can write and illustrate,” she said. “It’s that whole ‘total package’ thing.”

Her goal for 2005 is to stay busy — so busy that she has to turn work away.

“I have a friend who recently made it big with illustrating, and he’s able to support his family full-time now,” she said. “I’m at the stage now, with my children being older, that I’m ready to make that happen for me.”

—Michelle Saturley

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH