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the story behind the book

A quarter century of children’s books

An illustration from “Little Pig Joins the Band.”

David Hyde Costello

An illustration from “Little Pig Joins the Band.”

Ever since she was a young girl, Rebecca Richards says, she loved looking at the pictures in books, a passion that continued when she read to her own children.

“I’ve always looked at that art as fine art,” Richards said. Now, as curator at the Belmont Gallery of Art, she has the opportunity to treat it that way. Partnering with Watertown-based Charlesbridge Publishing, the gallery this spring presents a new exhibit titled “Books on the Charles: 25 Years of Charlesbridge Picture Book Artists.”

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Fifteen New England illustrators have pieces in the show, which comprises 100 works in total and runs through May 17. Richards says it’s an eclectic array — both in style and mood. “Some of it is lighthearted; some of it is more serious,” she says, adding, “I like them all.”

Among the artists are David McPhail (“When my children were toddlers, some of the first books I bought for them were by David McPhail,” Richards says) and Leslie Evans, a printmaker whom Richards credits with helping her develop the idea for the exhibit.

“If you love books, you love picture books; you love art — there’s something for everybody in the show,” Richards said. “It just makes you feel good.”

Donna Spurlock, director of marketing at Charlesbridge, agrees. “It has been our privilege and pleasure to work with talented artists for 25 years,” she says. “A picture book must engage a young reader and often pre-readers; it must tell them a story, educate and inform, entertain and inspire. The illustrations have to tell the story. It’s a unique skill to be able to illustrate a picture book and Charlesbridge has been lucky to work with some of the best.”

Sunday from 2-5 p.m. the gallery will host an opening reception, with many of the artists and several editors from Charlesbridge in attendance. The Belmont Gallery of Art is located at 19 Moore St. in Belmont.

“We’re hoping that both children and adults will come to the reception,” Richards says, adding that many of the illustrators will be on hand to sign books and meet their readers.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.
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