Think back to your earliest days and try to remember the images that captivated and inspired you. Most likely, those images were found on the pages of an illustrated children’s book.

Fans of such art filled the University of New England’s Art Gallery on its Portland campus Wednesday night for the opening reception of the Children’s Book Illustrators show.

“Books are the first entry for many young children into the world of fine art,” gallery director Anne Zill said. “What we’ve tried to do is contextualize the art with the words that may have been on the page when it was in book form.”

The exhibition is spread over the gallery’s three floors and features original works by 28 artists, including Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Dahlov Ipcar and Barbara Cooney. The show is on view through Oct. 30 at the gallery, where admission is always free.

“I’m just enamored with the show,” Debbie DiGregorio said. “It’s beautiful.”

DiGregorio is an art teacher at the C.K. Burns School in Saco, and she said that her third-graders study Ipcar’s art each year.

Two of the most colorful guests at the reception were Susan Perrine and Priscilla Nicholson. Both are fiber artists who live in Brunswick, and both came to the show decked out in the most appropriate attire: Perrine wore a jacket and Nicholson a dress, both created by Perrine using pieces of children’s books.

“I made the dress for the Altered Couture fundraiser for the Art Van,” Perrine said.

The youngest guest at the show was 10-month-old Maisy Lipman of Portland, who leaned in close to the framed works and reached out her hands in an attempt to grasp them.

“We’ve always loved children’s books,” said her dad, Zach Lipman, as he held Maisy and enjoyed the works with his mother, Mair Honan. “My mom introduced me to so many of these books, and I hope to pass it on to Maisy.”

Artist Melissa Sweet of Rockport, who has illustrations from “The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon” and “Chicken Joy on Red Bean Road” in the show, was thrilled to see Sendak’s “Little Bear” drawing in the show.

” ‘Little Bear’ was an influential book for me,” Sweet said. “To have my work in the same room with these artists is astonishing.

“It sort of makes you wish adult books were illustrated.”

Artist Lisa Jahn-Clough of Portland, whose illustrations for “Little Dog” are included in the show, said she too was honored to be included in the exhibition.

“A lot of the people (whose work is in the show) are people I grew up reading,” Jahn-Clough said. “It’s quite an impressive list of names.”

Dr. Robert McAfee, a trustee emeritus of University of New England, and his wife, Doris McAfee, told me they plan to bring their grandchildren to see the show when they visit.

“We still have all the books at home,” Robert McAfee said.

Anyone who does check out the show will find there is a shelf filled with many of the titles represented on the gallery walls. Some of the books are also for sale.

All the books, and the illustrations on the gallery walls, will transport those who view them to the whimsical and magical world of childhood, where anything is possible and imagination fuels dreams.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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