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  • Jerry PinkneyIllustrator–USA

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Jerry Pinkney was born in 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, he struggled to read but compensated for this challenge with his ability to draw. He sustained this passion throughout elementary and secondary school and was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to study graphic design at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, although he was not expected or encouraged to apply. He settled in Boston, Massachusetts, with his family after leaving art school and enjoyed some success as a commercial artist while there.

As an African American, Pinkney was actively engaged at a local level in the civil rights movement sweeping the United States during the 1960s. He believed that art served as one of the many expressive voices in the fight for social justice, and he was invited to work on significant projects that promoted African-American culture and heritage. While he enjoyed the many artistic challenges that came his way, he became increasingly drawn to narrative storytelling and its potential to convey the stories of his childhood to which he was deeply connected. By extension, his books served as a mirror for children who did not often see themselves in the pages of a book.

In 1964, Pinkney illustrated his first book, entitled The Adventures of Spider, and went on to illustrate more than one hundred more books over the course of fifty-three years. His body of work encompasses fairytales, folktales, fables, legends, historical and contemporary fiction, informational books, biographies, and poetry. Though he focuses on capturing and conveying the African-American experience, he has embraced the opportunity to illustrate works that represent a variety of other cultures. Each book he illustrates is filled with superbly drawn watercolor masterpieces, all intricately detailed and finely textured, that vividly portray the emotions and nuances of human and animal characters in a ways that speak directly to the minds and hearts of children.

His books have received every major US award and accolade for children's books, and he has been honored with several lifetime achievement awards for his substantial and significant contributions to children's literature. He was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1998 and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2011.

Pinkney continues to be actively involved in teaching and mentoring young illustrators in his capacity as a faculty member or visiting professor at various universities. He also serves as an advocate and a source of inspiration for children with dyslexia, having not received a diagnosis until he was in his forties. Pinkney travels extensively to deliver talks, conduct workshops, and connect with his young audience in schools and libraries throughout the United States and the world. He frequently exhibits his work at prestigious museums and art galleries, but he remains committed to his love of storytelling through picturebooks.

Jerry Pinkney's illustrious career and distinctive style—honed from observation, conceptualism, personification, and realism—has transcended the inequities in the US publishing industry to afford generations of child readers of all races and dispositions a glimpse into true dedication and artistry. [End Page 67]



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