With heavy hearts, we regretfully share the news that our wonderful illustrator, Rachel Berman, passed away in her home in Victoria, BC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.
Rachel Berman was a self-educated painter who lived and worked in Canada, the United States, and Ireland. Born in New Orleans, Rachel worked as a professional artist for over thirty years. Her paintings have been likened to the poems of Leonard Cohen. The mysterious figures and hidden stories glimpsed in her paintings are a reflection of the mysteries Berman unraveled in her own life. Once known as Susan King, she discovered her original birth name, birth date, and the names of her biological parents only ten years ago. This experience led her to reclaim her long-lost name.
Alison Morgan, Publisher of Tundra Books, said, “Rachel was a free spirit, and a wonderful, warm person. She didn’t believe in technology, never had e-mail, and sometimes no phone. She lived an incredible life, which was reflected in her art—her light side came out in the illustrations she created for her books with Tim Beiser. Hats off to the memory of an intrepid individual who cared deeply about humanity in all its huge variety.”
Rachel created the beautiful artwork for Bradley McGogg, The Very Fine Frog (a frog, whose appearance, she said, was based on her own) and Miss Mousie’s Blind Date. Both books were finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Awards in Children’s Literature for Illustration.
Tim Beiser, author of Bradley McGogg and Miss Mousie’s Blind Date, remarked, “I honestly believe that Rachel was one of the world’s few true geniuses, and was so proud when she was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for the two books we did together…. My silly storybook characters that she brought to life and her monumental paintings will last forever, as will my fond memories of her. God bless you, Rachel. My life is better for having known you.”
We are so thankful that Rachel touched all our lives in the ways that she did—she will be in our thoughts and hearts always.
Praise for Bradley McGogg, The Very Fine Frog:
“Even more original are the illustrations. Rachel Berman locates this moveable feast in a gentle setting, rural and mildly Edwardian…. Our hero Bradley, dressed in striped overalls, Birkenstock sandals and bow tie…. In her portrayal of facial expression and gesture Berman creates a frog who is different, courteous, tactful, and charming—everyone’s first choice as the eligible bachelor houseguest.” – Feature Review, Quill & Quire
“A very fine frog indeed…. This delightful excursion is made even more so because Rachel Berman’s illustrations, interpretations of the miniature worlds of mouse nests and bear and hare picnics, are nothing short of entrancing.” – The Globe and Mail
“Rachel Berman’s illustrations in beautifully detailed watercolor capture frog’s personality and bring the anthropomorphic animals to vivid life.” – National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature
“Rachel Berman … uses magical images to illuminate the text and to engage readers in the story in wonderful ways!” – Highly Recommended, CM Magazine
“Tim Beiser’s text is lyrical and lively and Rachel Berman’s illustrations are full of character and personality…. Berman’s animal faces and gestures convey an array of human emotions and Beiser’s text contains enough gross-out references (a feast of insects!) and humour to delight children and adults of every age…. Bradley is one of the most endearing characters to come along in a long time!” – Canadianbookseller
“The watercolor illustrations are beautifully done in colorful detail by Rachel Berman, adding to the charm and humor of the story.” – Michigan Reading Journal
Praise for Miss Mousie’s Blind Date:
“Berman’s formally attired creatures, their delicate hands and oversized heads rendered in muted tones, show Beatrix Potter’s influence in the best possible way. This is an utterly charming book and a gentle introduction to the lifelong perils of spring fever.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire
“The watercolor and gouache illustrations, with animals dressed in sumptuous clothing, are whimsical and reminiscent of the work of John Goodall….” – School Library Journal
“The text surrounds delicate watercolor and gouache paintings reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, which add plenty of charm to this winsome rhyming tale…. [A] lesson in true love from wise animals.” – Booklist
“Berman’s illustrations are adorable, in a classic muted colour scheme style reminiscent of Frog and Toad. There is a lot to look at in each image, and the illustrations help add visual support to the story being told. There are some longer blocks of text, and the illustrations help give focus to these pages….” – Recommended, CM Magazine
As per Rachel’s wish, there will be no visitation or funeral service. However, friends are invited to visit Ingram Gallery to share their memories. If desired, in memoriam donations may be made to your favourite art institution and/or local animal shelter.