Popcorn and Starbaby Evoke Lively Childhood Memories at Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

November 4, 2011

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Currently on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University is Popcorn & Starbaby: Children’s Book Illustrations by Frank Asch. Asch is a noted author and illustrator of more than 65 children’s books, including novels and juvenile nonfiction. Featuring two captivating series of original page design drawings from the artist-author’s donation of these bedtime books to the Zimmerli Art Museum in 2011, the exhibition is on view through June 24, 2012. It is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but special tours can be arranged. To reserve a class or group tour Tuesday through Sunday, please contact the Education Department, 732.932.7237, ext. 615, at least two weeks in advance.

Bedtime stories are beloved by children everywhere. As they ease a child to sleep and sweet dreams, such stories often provide amusement, as well as encourage imagination and learning. They also help to reinforce loving family bonds, appealing to readers of all ages. In addition to offering delightful pictures of childhood, this exhibition provides an informative glimpse of the labor-intensive creative process of designing children’s books prior to the common use of computerized illustration techniques.

Popcorn (1979), an early Frank Asch “Bear Book,” shows Sam Bear hosting an impromptu Halloween party while his parents are out. Sam and his young friends make a large pot of popcorn, which, to their alarm, keeps popping and soon fills the entire house! Fortunately, Sam and his friends devise a plan to clean up the popcorn mess. When Sam’s parents return, they find the house as quiet and tidy as they left it. They greet their son, who is obediently in bed, with a surprise gift.

Popcorn represents the beginning of a pattern in Asch’s creative process. He states, “I work very hard on an idea for a long time and then give up. Then that same idea, or a similar idea, drops in fully formed a while later.” While Popcorn seemed complete when it “dropped into” his consciousness, he later recalled previously “working with a similar theme, about a cookie that gets bigger and bigger with every bite, but the story never went anywhere.”

Starbaby (1980) is a delightful story about a boy who lives in the sky. After Starbaby falls to Earth, he lives among the fish in the ocean until he is caught by a fisherman, who brings the little boy home to his wife. The couple has always wanted a child to love, and Starbaby thereafter enjoys daytime activities with his doting parents. Each night, a contented Starbaby bids goodnight to all on earth, in the sea, and in the sky.

Starbaby was very personal, as Asch wrote and illustrated the book shortly before the birth of his and his wife’s only child. “It was my way of connecting the story to the role I was about to play as a father. I sensed that our son’s soul was coming to the both of us.” He indicates that is why the father in the story plays such a central role in bringing the baby into the family; whereas, in his experience, most attention usually focuses on the mother.

Born in Somerville, New Jersey, Frank Asch attended Rutgers University before obtaining a B.F.A. degree from Cooper Union, New York, in 1969, the same year he published his first children’s book, George’s Store. He currently resides in Vermont and Hawaii. His web site, www.frankasch.com, allows him to update and interact with his audiences.

This exhibition was organized by Marilyn Symmes, Director of the Zimmerli’s Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings.


The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in nineteenth-century French art; Russian art, from icons to avant-garde material; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints, as well as original illustrations for children’s books. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.


The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Johnson & Johnson; and the donors, members, and friends of the museum.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Wednesday of each month (September through June), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, major holidays, and the month of August.

Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65; and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu


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