|"I always wanted to be an Artist..."
Noted picture book author and illustrator Trinka Hakes Noble grew up on a small farm in Southern Michigan, one of seven children. She writes, “In a big family of three boys and four girls, we had enough kids to put on shows, form our own clubs and have a band. We could play most games, even baseball. We had creeks to wade in and fields to roam. The woods were filled with wild flowers and mushrooms just waiting to be picked. Summers seemed endless.
“The earliest memory I have of wanting to be an artist is the smell of crayons. Our crayons were kept in an old cigar box along with assorted Tinkertoys, odd checkers, and Monopoly pieces. They were broken, chewed, and well used. You couldn’t even recognize the different colors, so you had to test each color first by drawing on the cigar box lid. That lid was a work of art in itself. But the smell when you opened the lid … ahhh … and a nice sheet of manila construction paper … and life’s requirements were met!
“Then, one day in second grade, something great happened. We were drawing pictures of Santa’s sleigh. I remember working very hard on my drawing (I can still see it: basic brown with detailed red trim on manila paper). To my surprise, my teacher, Mrs. Stanley, put my picture up on the bulletin board, but no one else’s, because mine was so good. I was so thrilled that I decided that very day to grow up to be an artist. And I did! In my book The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash, there is a teacher who takes the kids on a class trip to the farm. I named that teacher Mrs. Stanley to honor my real second grade teacher.
“When I was about twelve, another wonderful thing happened. That Christmas I got the best present I’ve ever received in my life. My dad made me a real, professional drawing board from cherry trees I used to climb when I was little. I was so surprised that I couldn’t say a word. I just sat down at my new drawing board and drew a picture. That picture hung on our living room wall until long after I graduated from college. Although this was the best Christmas I’d ever had, there was one thing wrong with it. There were two little words I never said. I never said 'thank you' to my dad. So, when I grew up and became an author and illustrator, I decided to say thank you in a very special way, by writing and illustrating Apple Tree Christmas just for him. If you read the dedication page, you will understand.
“On the small family farm where I grew up, we had the usual farm animals: cows and calves, sheep and lambs, one pony named Beauty, lots of chickens, turkeys, a few ducks, plus assorted cats and dogs. But we also had some unusual wild animals because my mother was very good at bringing up orphans. We had a little red fox named Rascal who had a broken paw, tiny twin raccoons named Nip and Tuck, a hawk with a broken wing, a baby badger who liked to sleep in a bread loaf pan, and four baby skunks who thought my older brother was their mother!
“Animals were a huge part of my childhood, so writing stories about a kid named Jimmy who loves animals, and had a congenial thirty-foot pet boa constrictor seemed perfectly normal to me. Couple this with my fun-loving, yet mischievous and corny sense of humor, and my belief that kids fair better in chaotic situations than adults, and all sorts of zany things are bound to happen.”
Ms. Noble has this to say about her recent book, Jimmy’s Boa And The Bungee Jump Slam Dunk, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (Dial, September 2003): “I love pairing unusual and unrelated things, then somehow making them work in a story. And what could be more unusual than a very long, very friendly and very flexible boa who acts like one of the kids, can sink a long shot, and invents the amazing bungee jump slam dunk! It’s an exciting challenge, one that makes my studio a very happy place to be! I love Jimmy’s boa so much that I didn’t want him to be just a one book boa, so he grew into three more books, and now The Bungee Jump Slam Dunk makes four!”
Other titles in this popular series are: The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate The Wash, Jimmy’s Boa Bounces Back and Jimmy’s Boa And The Big Splash Birthday Bash, all illustrated by Steven Kellogg. This series has been translated into six different languages.
Another humorous book written by Trinka Hakes Noble is Meanwhile Back At The Ranch, illustrated by Tony Ross. She is also the author and illustrator of The King’s Tea, which was her first book for Dial Books, and Hansy’s Mermaid and Apple Tree Christmas. She is the illustrator of Karin’s Christmas Walk by Susan Pearson.
The Scarlet Stockings Spy (Sleeping Bear Press Fall 2004) was awarded an IRA Teacher’s Choice 2005. This 48-page picture book is set in 1777 during the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Ms. Noble's next picture book, The Last Brother (2006), is set during the Civil War at Gettysburg in 1863. A Pennsylvania counting book entitled One For All (2005), is also with Sleeping Bear Press. Apple Tree Christmas (Sleeping Bear Press 2005), Ms. Noble’s cherished homespun story of a country Christmas in 1881, has been reissued by Sleeping Bear Press in a beautiful Holiday Classic edition.
Ms. Noble graduated from Michigan State University in 1967 with a BA in fine arts, then taught art in Michigan, Virginia and Rhode Island. After moving to New Jersey in 1972, she pursued the study of children’s book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz’s Greenwich Village Workshop, and most recently at New York University. A member of the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature, she was awarded Outstanding Woman 2002 in Arts and Letters in the state of New Jersey for her lifetime work in children's books.
The Nobles live in a circa 1780 house in the historic Jockey Hollow area of Bernardsville, New Jersey. Says Trinka, “I still use the same drawing board my father made for me long ago. I still love to draw and I still love the smell of crayons!”