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Jerry Pinkney (1939–2021), children’s book illustrator and author

by Linnea Crowther

Jerry Pinkney was a children’s book illustrator and author known for books including the Caldecott Medal-winning “The Lion & the Mouse.”

Illustrator and author

Pinkney illustrated more than 100 books for children and teens, beginning with the 1964 “The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales.” He often worked with author Julius Lester (1939–2018), including on “John Henry” and several books in his “The Tales of Uncle Remus” series. Pinkney also wrote his own books later in his career, including “Noah’s Ark,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “The Lion and the Mouse.” Though he worked in a number of different styles, Pinkney’s preferred medium was watercolor. He was widely honored, including winning several Coretta Scott King Awards. He illustrated notable Black Americans for the U.S. Postal Service for the first Black Heritage postage stamp series in 1977. Pinkney also provided illustrations for publications by the National Park Service and National Geographic, both on the history of the Underground Railroad.

Notable quote

“It’s amazing when you see the age that oftentimes I think publishers have to put on books. They’ll say from three to six or six to nine, and the very fact that we talk about children’s books. Well, children’s books for children. But for the artists and authors, we really know that’s not true. I think most of us feel that what we’re doing is, we may be speaking about subject matter in a way that it perhaps is easier for children to understand, but when we are at our best what we are doing is fulfilling that need, but also telling stories that, you know, adults respond to. Or perhaps putting together an information in a way that would both attract children and adults.” —from an interview for Reading Rockets

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Tributes to Jerry Pinkney

Full obituary: NPR

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