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The story of Ben is fiction, but it could be the story of more than one jazz musician who grew up in the twenties. Using the art-deco style of the period, Rachel Isadora not only captures the poignancy and yearning of a youthful talent, but in page after page of striking art seems to convey the very sound of music.
Many children dream of becoming dancers, musicians, actors, and artists, but few have the opportunity, the skill, and the determination to live out those dreams. Rachel Isadora is the exception. When she was young, she wanted to be a ballerina--and she became one. And now she has firmly established herself in a second career as an artist with an impressive string of picture books, including Ben's Trumpet, a Caldecott Honor Book.
Born and raised in New York City, Rachel studied at the School of American Ballet (associated with the New York City Ballet) as a Ford Foundation scholarship student. She danced with the Boston Ballet until a foot injury forced her to consider another career: book illustration. "I had always drawn for my own entertainment," says Rachel, "but I'd never had any instruction, and I wasn't sure how to proceed. So I just took a collection of sketches-odds and ends on bits of paper-to the first editor who would see me. She suggested I do a book about what I knew best." The result was Max, published in 1976 and named an ALA Notable Book.
Since Max, Rachel has written and illustrated many other books, and has illustrated three books by her editor, Elizabeth Shub. When Rachel begins a new book, she first imagines the story through the pictures. I 'see' each illustration separately," she says. "I write a description of what I envision on each page; then I go over it with my editor and make revisions. Next I do the actual drawing, and finally I write the text."
Rachel Isadora lives in New York City with her two children. When she is not busy with her family, she spends most of her spare time drawing. "Work like this is a dancer's fantasy," she says. "Because ballet is so demanding, dancers' stage careers are short. They can only dream of going on and on forever. With art, I can go on and on, and for me it's the only work that compares in intensity and joy."