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A Fuse #8 Production
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Art in the Children’s Room: Elisha Cooper Style – Part Two!

In 2012 I wrote a piece for this blog entitled Art in the Children’s Room: Elisha Cooper Style.  In it, I wrote the following:

Here at New York Public Library you might think that the branches are filled to brimming with the art of local authors and illustrators.  While it may be true that we have some lovely pieces by Ezra Jack Keats and Faith Ringgold here and there, it doesn’t come up all that often.  So I need not tell you how excited I was when I heard that Elisha Cooper had volunteered out of the goodness of his golden glorious heart to paint art for the children’s room in Greenwich Village’s Jefferson Market Branch.

ElishaCooper1What I can tell you now is that the art of New York artists is achingly absent from the various branches of New York Public Library.  Why is this?  I’ve heard any number of reasons, from the fact that if the walls had original art they could never be repainted again to the fact that art makes the branches too distinct from one another.  In other words, silly reasons.  Of course the Jefferson Market Branch is different.  A magical little fortress standing tall and proud in Greenwich Village, it often gets away with the impossible.

With all this in mind, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Mr. Cooper told me this week that he’d just completely new art for the branch.  What kind?  Well, see for yourself. The first are the signs he made for my beloved Jefferson Market branch:











The others are for the equally lucky Mulberry Street Branch:












Elisha says this about the art:

I realize I work with wood during unsettled times; there’s something contemplative/escapist about it (maybe too with art, and reading). I made cutting boards when my daughter was being treated for cancer. I made these library signs as the world flounders. Though maybe that’s too much. I just like playing with wood. And I like libraries.


For that matter, this year’s Caldecott winner was painted on found pieces of wood.  I sense a theme.

Speaking to his daughter’s cancer, please be sure to check out Elisha’s heart-wrenching memoir Falling: A Daughter, a Father, and a Journey Back if you’ve a chance.  It’s worth your attention and then some.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Wonderful. I’d just been on an Elisha Cooper kick and was checking out as many as I could find at the NYPL – except the one you mentioned. Since I became a mother, I can’t read stories (or memoirs) about when bad things happen to children.

  2. Is his original work (the one you talk about in the first post) still up at the Jefferson Market branch?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Yep. The canvasses still hang and may well do so until we’re all dead and gone. Or until the management changes.

  3. Thanks for such a great piece, Betsy!

    We love Elisha’s art, and we feel incredibly lucky to have his original paintings, and now hand painted wooden signs, at Jefferson Market.

    And you’re right, by the way. All of Elisha’s art is on permanent display:-)

    Rebecca Schosha
    Children’s Librarian, Jefferson Market Library, NYPL

  4. I’ll be heading downtown for a visit soon. I love that branch. I got to climb the tower at open house new york in 2015 and my mom always used to take my sister there while I took ballet at Joffrey across the street about 35 years ago!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      The Joffrey Ballet! I used to try to sign them up for summer reading. And did you get to see the spider when you went into the tower? I hope it’s still there. Loved that thing.

  5. Yes, the spider is still there!