“I always knew I wanted to do children’s books, even when I was in art school. I feel like I know what makes [children] tick,” said author and illustrator Martha Alexander.
Martha Alexander first wrote and illustrated the Blackboard Bear books, about an imaginative little boy and the friend he’s created, more than thirty years ago. Blackboard Bear, the first of the series, was inspired by Martha’s four-year-old nephew, Christopher. Though Christopher lived in the country and had no one to play with, he had a rich creative ability to entertain himself. “Almost all of my books are involved with some feeling of a child—being small, or being left out,” Martha said.
“Blackboard Bear emerged one night, onto paper through my pencil, direct from the joy of recalling how Christopher acted out his exciting adventures.” Now Christopher has two children of his own, and a new generation of young readers can enjoy Martha’s new full-color illustrations for the Blackboard Bear books.
A Candlewick alphabet book, inspired by a 1940s song that Martha had never heard, was the project she enjoyed most. The lyrics to the song by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, and Sidney Lippman, start, “A, you’re adorable; B, you’re so beautiful; C, you’re a cutie full of charms . . .” “My editor sang it to me on the phone,” recalled Martha. “That did it—I wanted to illustrate A You’re Adorable. I especially loved putting the baby animals in the pictures. I’ve never had so much fun illustrating a book.”
Born in Georgia, Martha attended the Cincinnati Academy of Art, and lived in many places, including New York, Alaska, and Washington state, before settling in Honolulu, Hawaii. She had two children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. Martha Alexander died in 2006.