Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bill Peet

As an animation fan, a Disney fan, and a huge children's book fan, Bill Peet has got to be my hero. Not only did Bill work for Disney helping to create some of the most memorable animated films of all time, but he has created some of the most inspiring and emotive children's books out there. If you couldn't tell, I adore his work. I review one of his books here and here. So when I was in the bookstore just recently and noticed a copy of Bill Peet: An Autobiography on the shelf, I knew I had to own it.

Bill Peet tells his autobiography through words and images. Each page of this wonderful book is filled with a full color image that relates to a part of his story. Peet starts from his early childhood and tells his story through the publication of Chester the Worldly Pig. He tells stories of his early childhood drawing in his grandmother's attic. He describes his years in art school when he met his wife and his early start to his career. Not surprisingly, he spends a good part of the book on his years working for Disney doing storyboards. And then finishes with his stepping out on his own to focus on children's book writing.

Peet tells his story lightly, focusing on the positives of his life and career although he does mention the negatives. The book, which was designed for children, offers a wonderful overall picture of the artists life and influences. Peet describes his clashes with Disney in a sympathetic way, making the reader care about both characters. He discusses his dead-beat father in ways that make him seem more absentee than really an issue. And he discusses his excitement and frustrations of working to create the books and films that he made. Readers will be stunned at the number of both children's books that Peet has written and the number of Disney movies he has influenced. I wasn't aware of how involved he was in the creation of 101 Dalmatians (he wrote the screenplay and a did a good amount of storyboarding). Nor was I aware of his brief involvement in Snow White. This is a man who had a hand in some of my favorite Disney films, and then went on to create some of my favorite children's books.

Peet illustrates his book with images of animals (his favorite thing to draw) and scenes from his life. Some of his illustration cover his memories from childhood, some represent scenes from his books or movies, and some show scenes from inside Disney Studios. All are done in his distinctive colored pencil style. The illustrations take up a good portion of each page, making this book a light and easy read. I was fascinated and read through the book in two hours. His images are unique and emotive. His writing style is straightforward and interesting. This is a unique history of an interesting man. A wonderful new collection to my library.