1 | Early influences

[Note: The following posts appeared in Facebook on 8/19 and 8/20]

Would you tell us a little about your childhood? What were your favorite books, and which ones affected you most? Other significant influences?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: My childhood in the South Bronx was filled with creativity. I did arts and crafts at the Y, sang and danced to the jukebox and had birthday parties at my father’s luncheonette. My oldest sister attended Art and Design High School and Fashion Institute in Manhattan; her castoff art supplies were my toys.


Hansel and Gretel, a Golden Book, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

Golden Books were a part of my childhood library. —MHG


I did not own many picture books. I remember Golden Books, Disney cartoon books, comic books, Dr Seuss, Aesop Fables, fairy tales. Mostly I read books from the public library, the Classon Point Branch, or books from school. TV cartoon art also influenced my senses: Betty Boop, Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird.

My most favorite chapter books were Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kastner; the original Parent Trap.  And Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. I love the art, it’s sweet and sophisticated. I sometimes think of Minx mixing her colored powders together as I create new paint colors.


I read this book countless times. It must've gotten to me, now I am a professional Tarot card reader. It was a story of goodness overcoming evil doings. —MHG


Marie Elena Good: I soooo remember this one!

Joy Chu: Ah. Eloise Wilkin (illustrator of Hansel & Gretel, above) .

Chris Demarest: Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I’m catching up on all the reading. It’s fun to relive our childhood reading. I also loved Captain Kangaroo when he read stories. Even in b/w,  it was a story to get into. Loved the Littlest Lighthouse based on the real one beneath the George Washington bridge. Ever visit it?

Joy Chu: Ah, the Classon Point Branch of the Bronx NYPL! It’s where I was first introduced to quality children’s books. I noticed that every picture book published by the Viking Press was exquisite to read, touch and gaze at. I could also tell which publishers were the cheapskates, bookmaking wise. Ha! And I was only 7!!!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Loved this art. Elegant and emotional.

Janis Marziotto: Yes, those beautiful cherubic faces. I wish I still had mine!

Chris Demarest: Very funny. I am amazed when I read about artists in particular who knew they wanted to do books when they grew up. Particularly the images of N.C. Wyeth so blew me away, I went outside to play ball instead. His was a league I never thought to attempt.  On that note, it was interesting to read that when N.C.’s son Andrew garnered fame, he felt that somehow his own work was of less value. I’d take N.C. over his son (or grandson’s) any day.

Joy Chu: Tangent: I met an illustrator who pretended to be a Wyeth. He used that name to get jacket work. . . and did! He was caught, but not before having 3 pieces published.  [Note to my students: Don’t even THINK about doing that!]

Chris Demarest: That’s amazing. Good warning to your students. You lie, you will get caught. Having said that, I once met a very confused kid. In his mind, my name was Chris Van Demarest!  And this just in:  Roger Clemens is being indicted for lying to Congress.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: This character from Mermaids on Parade is Cara Lee Sparry, the owner of Superfine. An award winning restaurant, gallery, and performance art space in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I marched with the Superfine Dinettes in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. They star in my book. Here’s a photo of the Superfine Dinettes to the album. You will see the costume of the #1 character in the lead tile.


The Superfine Dinettes performed as the 'Mer-Mades In The Shade' at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2006.


Chris Demarest: I just checked it out. Very fun.

Janis Marziotto: My first and favorite book was my oldest sister’s Melinda, Belinda,  I don’t recall the author, but I must have read it a billion times. My sister’s name was Linda, so I guess that was why they bought it for her.

Barbara Ehrentreau: Melanie, I always learn something new from you!  Joy, you were definitely a precocious reader! I didn’t even know there were publishers until I had to write it for a footnote. 🙂

Deborah Mori: Great dialog… looking forward to more. I LOVE that you marched in the parade, Melanie! I remember you talking about it in your workshop at the SCBWI conference in LA two summers ago. I learned quite a bit from you in 45 minutes! Thanks!

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Thanks Deborah! I remember you too 🙂

Elie Bernhardt: The old Loony Tunes and Disney cartoons were great to watch and introduced classical music to kids. It’s too bad you can’t find them on TV anymore. Melanie, did you find your drawing style right away or did it evolve?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: I am self taught. It evolved as I practiced.

Ernie Martinez: In regards to what cartoon or show influenced me as a child, there are a handful such as Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer, Tom and Jerry, but among the list you asked, definitely Loony Tunes and Bug Bunny. The one cartoon that sticks out and I get a kick out of watching it from time-to-time is the Looney Tunes version… of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. It’s hip, upbeat, funny, and in my opinion, brilliance… in a cartoon way. Of course who didn’t appreciate Mr. Rogers!

Joy Chu: Hi Ernie! Are you reading picture books to your baby yet? You should check out Melanie’s mermaid book, by the way.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Mermaids on Parade can be gotten at the public library. Or through me as it went out of print.

Judy Salinsky: Melanie, did you have a strong passion to become a children’s author/illustrator from what you read or did you have other interests, and it evolved from ideas you created?

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Hi Judy, How intuitive! Your question will be covered in answer #2. There were stepping stones along the way to getting published.

Maria Elena: Good point, Elie, about the classical music.

Melanie Hope Greenberg: Hey everyone! Thanks so much for bringing your wonderful ideas to this discussion.

Joy Chu: We will resume with question #2 tomorrow morning. Bring freshly brewed coffee or tea!

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