Emberley family gather on Dublin stage

From left to right, in the National Libray, Dublin – moderator Steve Simpson, Ed, Michael, Rebecca Emberley, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

This years annual Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) book conference, “Weaving A Shared Story”, brought the entire highly creative Emberley family of Boston, Massachusetts together for an event at the National Library in Dublin. And by all accounts it was a resounding success. The audience was treated to a rare appearance of the complete American book family on stage for a lively discussion led by noted Dublin illustrator Steve Simpson. For this family of artists and writers to share the limelight and not all talk at once was a testament to Mr. Simpson’s skills, and an entertaining and informative talk was the result.

The extended Emberley family is rich with notable children’s book authors and illustrators, including Ed, Barbara, Rebecca, Michael, and newest member, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, the award winning Irish children’s book author/illustrator who currently lives in County Wicklow, Ireland with husband Michael Emberley.

Ed Emberley, the head of the dynasty, is a well known figure in the American children’s book field, and creator of over 100 books during the past 50 years or so. His first picture book was published in 1964, and has won, amongst other accolades, the highest honor for children’s illustrated literature in the US, the Caldecott Award, in 1969. Ed has worked in every art technique imaginable from traditional woodcut prints to crow-quill pen, and pencil drawing, watercolors, color inks and guache, pre-seperated color printing, and finally computer generated digital illustration. Ed is possibly best known for his innovative and empowering series of drawing books, first appearing in 1969, using his original method of teaching using simple shapes as the foundation of a world of drawing for children, and adult as well. Multiple generations of artists have paid tribute to Ed’s books, citing them as the perfect inspiration and encouragement they needed when they first began to draw.

Ed’s wife Barbara Emberley(who prefers to stay out of the spotlight) has been involved for nearly 50 years with Ed as writer, adapter, and mechanical artist. (As well as accountant, tax advisor, wife, mother, etc. , and a craftsperson in her own right with particular skills in fashion design and sewing.)

Ed and Barbara’s daughter Rebecca Emberley has been publishing on and off since 1980, even establishing her own publishing company at one point, becoming known for a successful series of boldly designed bilingual books for young children using paper collage technique. Recently Rebecca has been involved in a series of collaborative projects with Ed, designing wildly imaginative picture books with a bright, colorful hybrid technique best described as “computer collage”.

Michael Emberley began publishing books in 1979. After experimenting with the emerging computer graphic field early on, Michael returned to writing and illustrating picture books in 1990 using mainly “old school” lead pencils, watercolor and pastel. Michael has been involved with creating both fiction and non fiction books, having written and illustrated several original and award winning picture books, as well as designing and illustrating a now classic series of titles exploring the facts of life with renowned child development expert and author Robie Harris. The books, including the initial title, “It’s Perfectly Normal”, have sold over 2 million copies world wide, and been translated into over 30 languages. Michael has also collaborated with well known American authors such as Sally Lloyd Jones, writing guru Barbara Bottner, and recent US children’s poet laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman.

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick has been three times awarded the highest award in Ireland for children’s books, the CBI (formally “Bisto”) award for best children’s book. She has also recently been writing for grade school ages, as well as YA novels.

The creative Emberley clan also includes Rebecca’s daughter Adrian Emberley, and husband Peter Black, who are both professional singer/songwriters, as well as uncles and cousins working as professional photographers and video producers.

The Emberley’s extended their visit with a bit of touring in the west of the country, as well as providing an extended interview for an upcoming issue of CBI’s own innovative and boldly designed publication dedicated to children’s literature, “Inis”.