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Olivier Dunrea


Olivier in his Studio

Olivier is the resident author/illustrator at Henwoodie. His first book, Eddy B, Pigboy was published in 1983 by Atheneum. Most of his inspiration comes from his love of animals (especially chickens and pigs), archaeology and ancient architecture, his southern childhood, and most strongly, his mythical island world of Moel Eyris. Books such as Ravena, Mogwaogs on the March,  The Trow-Wifes, Treasure  and Bear Noel show glimpses of Moel Eyris and its wonderful, eccentric characters.

on the drawingboard

As a painter and illustrator Olivier works in gouache - an opaque watercolor medium. He puts the paint on the paper in layers,  building up texture and details. He works on handmade or mouldmade colored papers from France, Belgium, and Italy. As a watercolorist, Olivier’s style is soft and detailed, painted on either hot press or cold press watercolor  paper.


T ips on Writing

example of a storyboard        manuscript editing in progress

As a writer it is important to write about the things and people you care about. Write from the heart. Pay close attention to the details---both in your writing and your illustrating. The most common mistake young writers tend to make is leaving out all the exciting details. It is important to reread what has been written closely and carefully. Make changes, edit yourself, and rewrite some more. The best writing tip I can give to anyone who wants to be a good writer is: Listen to your words. Let your ear tell you when something doesnt’t sound right. Read your writing aloud to yourself, make a tape recording and let that be your rough draft if necessary. I have learned the most about my own writing by reading what I have written aloud and listening carefully to the rhythm and flow of my words and story. I trust my ear to tell me when a word does not sound right, needs to be changed. I don’t worry about the technical aspects of writing, that can always come later with editing and copy editing. I listen to my words and want to hear if the words tell my story the way I want my story told




December 3, 2000 New York Times Book Review




Peace Among the Animals


by Karen Leggett

Here is ''Bear Noel,'' written and illustrated by Olivier Dunrea, a calming book for a season that is anything but calm. A huge and jovial Bear Noel tromps through the north woods, bringing Christmas to the animals -- Hare and Wolf, Fox and Boar, Hedgehog and Possum. A refrain, repeated on each page as each new animal is alerted, is perfect for read-aloud merriment: ''He is getting nearer. . . . He is laughing. . . . He is coming (whispered). . . . Who is coming? . . . Bear Noel!'' (shouted). The full beauty of Olivier Dunrea's book, however, is in the details. Snow falls from the top of every page into the oblivion of the snow-white bottom, sometimes gently yet other times so briskly we can see the eyes and face of Fox braced against the cold. The snow is thick and seemingly untouched, covering every branch and rock, but there is still a hint of green moss on the side of a tree and evergreens darkly etched against the night sky. The snow ''shimmers and sparkles'' on the trees but lies ''hushed and silent'' on the frozen ground. Dunrea matches word to image as each sensuous illustration expands across the page. For a brief moment, the snow stops as the animals feast at the small tree Bear Noel has decorated with berries and nuts and seed balls. For a brief moment, says Bear Noel, ''All creatures may come together without fear.'' It is Christmas Eve. Hare stands on the back of Wolf. Fox protects Hedgehog. Bear Noel jingles his bells. Here is the message of peace the season is meant to convey. On the last page, we see only Bear Noel silently disappearing into the snow. Does the peace among the animals last? Could it? There is an unspoken invitation for the child to wonder. Bear Noel is as simple, complex and elegant a story as each single snowflake.


Cover of "The Trow-Wifes Treasure"

The Trow-Wife's Treasure is Olivier’s  book published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in March 1998. Currently, Olivier has done illustrations for two books which he did not write: The Boy Who Loved to Draw by Barbara Brenner [Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston] and The Rusty Trusty Tractor  by Joy Cowley [Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale]. His next book project that he has both written and illustrated is Bear Noel [Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York


The Trow-Wife's Treasure [reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, February 9, 1998]

Meticulously yet unassumingly wrought in both text and art, this fairy tale possesses a distinct and ancient flavor. Bracken van Eyck is more than content to tend his small farm and enjoy the companionship of his loyal dog, Caleb, on a mythical European island. On a typical day, "he worked in the fields. He played with Caleb and read his books. He helped his neighbors if they needed him." And when a distraught trow-wife (a troll-like creature) appears and asks Bracken’s help in finding her baby, who has been whisked away by the wind, Bracken calmly assists her. The trow-wife thanks Bracken for his trouble by presenting him with an unusual hen---one that will deliver a special treasure after a year and a day. Dunrea’s (The Painter Who Loved Chickens) spare sentences skillfully convey a colorful adventure, while the trow-wife’s dialect (Can thoo no help me find me bairn?) signals her otherworldly spirit. Bracken’s good nature is the star here; the man himself appears almost stoic, his facial features obscured by a wide-brimmed brown hat and a bushy black beard. Precise gouache paintings of realistic livestock, rocky landscapes and barnyard buildings of gray stone vividly depict the isolated islander’s world. An exceptional page design sets words and pictures on blue-gray ground, then frames both with slim red lines; these subtle elements suggest the formality of a traditional tale. The trow-wife’s treasure becomes not just Bracken’s, but the readers’.




You can read an interview with Olivier and find his books online at Olivier's books are also available at Barnes and and Unfortunately (well, fortunately for us, anyway)  Bear Noel has sold out it's 1st and 2nd printings and the 3rd printing is available only from Barnes and Noble at this point!  Follow the link if you are looking for a copy!



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©1998 Moel Eyris Studio