Deserved applause for illustratorsI have been enjoying the...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 19, 1999

Deserved applause for illustrators

I have been enjoying the "Parent and Child" section of The Sun, especially the featured stories. But consistently, the "Story Time" feature only notes the author and only below in the copyright corner is the illustrator mentioned.

As an illustrator, I find it a shame that the illustrator always takes a back seat to the author, when it is the illustrator who makes the words of the author spring to life.

It is the illustrations which get children (and parents) interested in reading the story and help them understand the author's words. Therefore, the illustrator should get equal billing.

I have also noted that The Sun sometimes uses the phrase "drawings by" instead of "illustrated by." This is incorrect. Illustrators do not call themselves "drawers."'

The term illustration comes from the Latin verb "illustrae," which literally means "to light up." Illustrators are doing more than just drawing, they are creating the characters, designing the costumes, the scenery, the lighting, and the mood.

They also help set the story's pace through illustrations which make kids want to turn the page.

The pairing of authors and illustrators helps make the story become whole. A famous pairing of author and illustrator is Lewis Carroll with Sir John Tenniel for "Alice in Wonderland."

Though there have been countless other illustrator's who have illustrated Alice, Tenniel's original illustrations remain the most recognized and beloved.

Kay Thompson's "Eloise" series was always illustrated by Hilary Knight. Mr. Knight truly captures the sassy Eloise.

Local author Jerdine Nolen was paired with illustrator Mark Buchner for Harvey Potter's Balloon farm. Ms. Nolen's story is absolutely wonderful, but it is the imagination of Mr. Buehner that really makes the story a magical children's classic.

So, dear editors, the next time you give credit an author, also give credit to the illustrator on the same line.

Please give credit where credit is due.

Sherrill I. Kuc

Ellicott City

Federal housing programs help bring home the dream

In his Opinion Commentary column "Owning a home no longer just a dream for minorities" (June 4), Ronald Brownstein sounds very much like a shill for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It is important to understand that the results of its programs are not as one-sided as Mr. Brownstein reports. When we look at the particulars, we see a different, and much less rosy, story.

While the housing policies his article described may well contribute to increased homeownership for minorities, we have to question their effect on our cities, where so many minorities live.

Let's look at the effects of a much-trumpeted HUD program, FHA insurance, and its relative, the secondary market in home mortgages, exemplified by the federally chartered corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae.

FHA insurance and the secondary mortgage market allow people to buy houses with little or no money down, and even create negative equity when settlement expense loans pay closing costs. But these programs actually contribute to urban decline and promote suburban sprawl.

Ordinarily, first-time home buyers couldn't afford a $120,000 home in the suburbs. They might have enough income, but traditionally to buy such a house, they needed $30,000 cash for down payment and closing costs.

Not having that much money, they would either buy a $50,000 house in the city, which they could afford, or rent in the city.

However, FHA and the secondary mortgage market come to the rescue and make the young people's flight from the city possible. Developers recognize this situation and bulldoze cornfields to build $120,000 townhouses, which they promote as a way out of the filthy, crime-ridden city.

How many young people have left Baltimore because federal mortgage programs and state infrastructure development have made it possible?

Tens of thousands, certainly, hundreds of thousands, quite possibly.

Many factors, including the flight of young people for the above reasons, conspire to drive down housing prices in our cities. But consider the situation of a young couple that bought a city house five years ago for $50,000.

They still owe $47,000. Unfortunately, the last five years have seen no inflation, home values have stagnated and after 6 months on the market, the best offer for the house has been $45,000.

After real estate commissions and closing costs, the sellers have to come up with $7,000 just to get out, and don't have $7,000. Federal tax law doesn't even allow them to take a tax loss unless they rent the property first.

So, they move anyway, to some distant suburb, renting their house to the first person with a months rent and security deposit.

Sometimes the tenants are OK, sometimes they're not. When they're not, they can be very bad, driving out a dozen good neighbors and destroying the house, perhaps stealing the plumbing or even the furnace for drug money.

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