August 12, 2013

Illustrator Spotlight: Poly Bernatene

I hope everyone had a good two weeks! I'm proud to say that after moving all of my possessions, two cats, one dog, and hundreds of picturebooks I'm finally settled (well, as settled as someone like me can be) in my new place. It was grueling, but one awesome part was that in moving all of those crates full of books I naturally came across a few that I totally forgot I had. Which brings me to how I rediscovered and re-fell-in-love-with Poly Bernatene. His versatility is quite impressive: he has illustrated a handful of picturebooks with a wide range of artistic style, from lighter illustrations with almost cartoonish characters, to darker ones with eerier, sketchier characteristics. Again, quite an impressive range.

The first book of his that I ever bought was The Princess and the Pig. The book tells the story of Priscilla and Pigmella, a princess and pig, respectively, who are accidentally switched at birth. It's a great fairy tale picturebook with a comical edge to both the text and the illustrations.






Notice all of the bright colors, sunlit scenes, and cartoonish characters. All of these give the book a lighter feel.

On the polar opposite end is Las Brujas Paca y Poca y Su Gato Espantoso (The English version is called Which Witch's Wand Works). The book is about two witches, Paca and Poca (or Ricket and Rattle depending on the version you're reading), who are extremely competitive. But when one of their spell contests goes completely awry and ends up putting their beloved cat in big trouble, they will have to work together to save their furry friend.



This book has a pretty eerie feeling to it just based on the illustrations alone. Sure the women and Espantoso are slightly cartoony, but Bernatene uses the cartoonishness to exaggerate their worst and scariest features, like their eerily-tiny feet and pointed noses. Not to mention that their teeth stick out, they have warts all over the place, and they are constantly shadowed or creating shadows. 

A good medium is The Santa Trap, the story of a wealthy, but greedy, boy named Bradley Bartleby who gets angry when Santa refuses to give him anything but socks for Christmas. So Bradley decides he's going to have to steal his presents from Santa, spending an entire year turning ever corner of his house into one giant trap. But can he outsmart Santa? The book definitely has a darker feel about it than, say The Princess and Pigmella or Ribbit! (another great book you should check out), but it doesn't have the same sense of darkness and eeriness as Las Brujas. Here are some interiors:


With dark shadows, weapons, and looks of fear on everyone's face at some point or another, the illustrations definitely evoke some dark thoughts and feelings, but both the theme and text of the book help to even it out, as do the cartoonish characters.

Definitely check him out!

Bernateningly yours,
Mel