American illustrator, anthologist, and author, B. 1940. Lively pen lines and a strong sense of humor characterize Wallace Tripp’s illustrations. He has more than 40 books to his credit, and although he has written three picture books, he primarily illustrates the works of others. He is best known for his collections of nonsense verse. Drawing from Mother Goose, folk rhymes, and well-known poets such as Alexander Pope and Emily Dickinson, these books include humorous poetry and visual jokes.
Tripp grew up in rural New Hampshire and New York. After receiving a degree in graphic arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, he returned to New Hampshire to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from Keene State College. He then taught English for three years. In addition to illustrating books, Tripp ran a publishing house , Sparhawk Books, during the 1980’s, and he designed greeting cards for Pawprints, his successful, family-owned card company.
Tripp uses a fine black pen for his illustrations, often with only two additional colors. In Catofy the Clever (1972), a Russian folktale adapted by Cynthia Jameson, Tripp’s illustrations add to the humor of the story about a cat who outwits the other forest animals. His energetic lines dance across the page, providing texture and interest, and compensate for the limited palette. But Tripp’s greatest strength lies in his ability to provide his animals with personality and in conveying a wide range of feelings. As Casey steps up to the plate in Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888 (1978), Tripp draws him as a large smug bear, overly confident of his ability to hit the needed home run. The variety of emotions—-from hope to despair—in this classic poem are portrayed delightfully by the body language and expressions of the ballplayers and fans.
After Tripp and his family spent a year in England, he wrote Sir Toby Jingle’s Beastly Journal (1976). Sir Toby, who has fought many a fearsome beast, takes one final journey to rid the forrest of its evil creatures. This time, however, the aging knight uses his wits rather than his strength to trick the animals into submission. In addition to the text, Tripp uses dialogue balloons in his pen-and-ink illustrations to create humor and add another dimension to the story.
Tripp’s anthologies of humorous verse have received a number of awards. A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me: A Book of Nonsense Verse (1973) was named an American Library Association Notable Book, and Granfa’ Grig Had a Pig and Other Rhymes without Reason from Mother Goose (1976) won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for illustration. In these titles, as well as in his most recent one, Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet! (1985), Tripp’s illustrations are filled with jokes and references to the larger world. For example, in illustrating the poem “A hedge between,/keeps friendship green,” included in Granfa’ Grig, Robert Frost stands on the far side of the hedge. Marguerite in particular contains such humorous allusions to art, entertainment, politics, and children’s literature.
Whether he illustrates stories or poetry anthologies, Tripp’s pictures are peopled with a marvelous assortment of animals, full of character and emotion. P.R.
From Children's Books and Their Creators; Silvey, Anita, editor; Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. Article by Riley, Patricia.