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Artist Jerry Pinkney and His Children's Picture Books

Recipient of 2010 Caldecott Medal

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Jerry Pinkney is one of my favorite illustrators of children's picture books. He is known for his watercolor paintings, created with pencil, colored pencils, and watercolor. Pinkney's artwork is characterized by rich details and shading. His realistic and vibrant illustrations help to extend and enhance the story in each of the children's picture books he has illustrated. In addition to illustrating a great many children's picture books for other authors, he has also written several retellings and adaptations of traditional tales. In fact, Jerry Pinkney is the 2010 Caldecott Medal winner for his adaptation of one of Aesop's fables, The Lion and the Mouse.

I became aware of Pinkney's work picture book by picture book. For a while it seemed as if every time I admired the watercolor illustrations in a children's picture book, they turned out to be by Jerry Pinkney. Among my favorites are his illustrations for Aesop's Fables, Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling,Valerie Flournoy's The Patchwork Quilt, Julius Lester's John Henry and Patricia C. McKissack's Goin' Someplace Special.

Jerry Pinkney: Student

Jerry Pinkney was born in Philadelphia in 1939. In a fascinating video interview on Reading Rockets, Jerry Pinkney talked about his struggles with reading, his love for art, and how he approaches telling stories with pictures. Even as a child, Pinkney revealed, he loved art and his talent was recognized. Because of his dyslexia, Pinkney said he had a hard time with reading and spelling, and, even today, it's a struggle. In the interview, Pinkney stated, "...one of the things that drawing did for me was help my self-esteem. Because even though I knew that there was a struggle in the area of reading and spelling – because I lagged far behind my fellow students – I could make pictures."

Jerry Pinkney graduated from Dobbins Vocational School with a concentration in commercial art. He received a full scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Museum College of Art (PCA), which is now known as the University of the Arts. He married his wife, Gloria, while a student at PCA.

Jerry Pinkney: Illustrator

After working as a designer at Rustcraft Greeting Card Company in Boston, Pinkney gained a reputation for his work as an illustrator at Barker-Black Studio. After opening a studio with several other artists, Pinkney later opened his Jerry Pinkney Studio, and he and his family moved to New York. Pinkney began illustrating children's picture books in 1964 and by 2000 had illustrated more than 100 picture books. Among the books he has illustrated are several written by his wife, Gloria, and a number written by Julius Lester.

Jerry Pinkney: Fine Artist

Over the years, Jerry Pinkney has gained a reputation as both a fine artist and as an illustrator of children's picture books. Pinkney's body of work has tended to focus on multicultural and African American themes, although not exclusively. Among many other projects, he designed a dozen postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service Black Heritage series. According to Pinkney, "I wanted to show that an African American artist could make it on a national level in the graphic arts. I wanted to be a strong role model for my family and other African Americans." (Penguin Putnam biography)

Jerry Pinkney: Award Winner

The list of awards Pinkney has won is extensive and includes the following:
  • Caldecott Medal
  • Multiple Caldecott Honor Books
  • Multiple Coretta Scott King Awards
  • Multiple Coretta Scott King Honor Books
  • Drexel Citation for Children's Literature
  • The Virginia Hamilton Literary Award.
In addition, his children's picture books have appeared on the notable books lists of both the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Council of Social Studies/Children's Book Council. The next time you are at the library or bookstore, look for some of the books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. I think you will be pleased with what you find.

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