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Lois Ehlert (1934–2021), “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” illustrator

by Linnea Crowther

Lois Ehlert was an illustrator known for children’s books including the classic “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.”

Working with collage

Ehlert was working as a graphic designer before she began illustrating children’s books while she was in her 50s. Her first book was 1987’s “Growing Vegetable Soup,” but it was the 1989 book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” with text by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, that became her best-known work. Its simple images, depicting the letters of the alphabet climbing a coconut tree, have delighted children for decades, and Ehlert received several awards for her work on it. In 2013, President Barack Obama read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” to children at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Ehlert’s unmistakable style was collages composed of bright, simple shapes that resonated with the preschoolers who were her audience. She also illustrated books including “Eating the Alphabet,” “Crocodile Smile,” and “Color Zoo,” for which she was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

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Ehlert’s advice for children who love to make art

“If you are interested in art or writing — any of the creative arts — please find a spot for yourself where you can leave your supplies and you can go there when you have an idea, because if you don’t you will waste time finding paper, pencil, and other art supplies. By the time you get to do it your idea probably will vanish.” —from an interview for Reading Rockets

Tributes to Lois Ehlert

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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