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Brian Selznick, Children's Illustrator
By Pam Munoz Ryan
Notes on the pictures by Brian Selznick

Ages: 4-8

When Tracy Mack first approached me to illustrate "Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride," I had no idea the wild ride that I would be in for myself. The story takes place in Washington D.C. and I coincidentally found myself moving there soon after I began to work on the book. I was thrilled to be living in the city where Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt went on their journey. Research was so easy. I only had to take a subway to The National Air and Space Museum to see one of the planes Amelia actually owned, or to talk to researchers there who helped me find pictures of other planes she flew. I was able to walk to the White House and go on a tour, where I got to stand in the actual room Amelia and Eleanor ate dinner (the red room!). In order to draw a picture of the two of them driving swiftly down the street, all I had to do was walk out my door and draw the street. It was wonderful.

I encountered many helpful people and coincidences while researching the book. A few days after I moved to D.C., I was walking through a nearby flea market, when I spotted a yard-long antique postcard of the city from the air, a vantage point I would need to draw in my book. The librarians at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library's Washingtoniana Room were immensely helpful in showing me their vast collection of photos from the now defunct Evening Star, a newspaper that appears in one of my drawings.

I eventually found pictures of Amelia and Eleanor from April 23, 1933, the night the book takes place, as they headed out to the airport and aboard the plane. I was happily surprised to discover that contrary to expectations, Eleanor was wearing a gorgeous satin and velvet Art Deco coat with a high fur color. It was the height of elegance and just a little whimsical. I even spoke with the curator of the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park NY (Eleanor is the only first lady who has an entire wing of a presidential library devoted to her) who sent me many photos of the White House in 1933 when Eleanor and Franklin had just moved in.

Pam Ryan made Eleanor and Amelia's words and thoughts so clear in the text and I tried to match that with the pictures. I wanted to show the excitement of two friends running off on a secret adventure that only the two of them shared. I had long been fascinated by Amelia Earhart (I even designed the set for a show about her at a children's theater in New Hampshire) and I was eager to learn as much as I could about Eleanor Roosevelt.

Tracy had told me that when she first imagined this book, it was like a big movie musical from the thirties. I loved that idea and immediately watched "Flying Down to Rio" with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The opening sequence of the book is inspired by the opening of the movie, and I tried to keep the excitement of the musical numbers in the pacing of the pictures. Of course, I wanted to do black and white pictures for this book, and I added purple after looking at old Hollywood glamour portraits from the thirties and forties. I thought the richness of the tones had a slightly purple look and I loved what it added to my drawings. I knew when I saw Eleanor's exciting Art Deco coat that the idea of the movie musical was just perfect for this story. I then surrounded myself with historical pictures of the two women and tried to imagine them together.

When you draw someone's face, you feel like you understand them a little better than before. That's how I feel about Amelia and Eleanor, and I hope I have captured in my drawings some of their intelligence, excitement, and most importantly, their friendship.

Brian Selznick, originally from New Jersey, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration. He then worked for three years selling books and painting windows at Eeyore's Books for Children on Manhatten's Upper West Side.

Brian is the author and/or illustrator of many books for children, including THE HOUDINI BOX and THE ROBOT KING; DOLL FACE HAS A PARTY and OUR HOUSE: THE STORIES OF LEVITTOWN (Both by Pam Conrad), FRINDLE (by Andrew Clements), and RIDING FREEDOM (by Pam Munoz Ryan).

His newest book is AMELIA AND ELEANOR GO FOR A RIDE, written by Pam Munoz Ryan, which is the true story of a night in 1933 when Amelia Earhart took her friend Eleanor Roosevelt on a night flight over Washington D.C. The book has already received many favorable reviews, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Brian is currently writing and illustrating THE BOY OF A THOUSAND FACES, a story about a kid who is obsessed with old black-and-white monster movies, due out in fall of 2000. Other current Projects include BARNYARD PRAYERS by Laura Godwin (spring 2000) and THE DOLL PEOPLE by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin (Fall 2001)

He is the winner of the Texas Bluebonnet Award (1993) and the Rhode Island Children's Book Award (1993) for THE HOUDINI BOX, and the Christopher Award (1996) for FRINDLE. FRINDLE and RIDING FREEDOM have both been nominated for the 2000 California Young Readers Medal and RIDING FREEDOM was named one of 1998's best books by Parenting Magazine.

Brian has traveled all over the United States and as far away as Germany to speak to kids and grown-ups about writing and illustrating.