Born in Chicago, IL; married Omid Balouch; children: Bailey, Auden. Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A. (graphic design), 1991.
Home and office—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Graphic artist, author, and illustrator. Co-founder, with husband Omid Balouch, of Zubi Design, 1991-99.
Golden Kite Honor Book designation, 2001, for The King and the Three Thieves; Middle East Outreach Council Honor Book designation, 2006, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books designation, Ezra Jack Keats Award, and Charlotte Zolotow Commended designation, all 2007, all for Mystery Bottle.
(Reteller) The King and the Three Thieves: A Persian Tale, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.
Mystery Bottle, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2006.
Though Kristen Balouch's route to becoming a children's book author and illustrator was circuitous, she has always had an interest in kid-oriented graphic design and earned a B.F.A. at New York's Pratt Institute. Before she began publishing, however, Balouch joined her husband, Omid Balouch, in forming Zubi Design, a company specializing in graphic design for children. Working toward her longtime goal of publishing books for children, she penned a retelling of a Persian folk tale that her husband, who is of Iranian descent, had grown up with. Balouch pitched The King and the Three Thieves: A Persian Tale to Viking, showing editors at the New York City-based publisher the computer-generated art she had developed to accompany the tale. The editors were so impressed with her work that they offered Balouch another illustration project: Listen to the Storyteller: A Trio of Musical Tales from around the World. "I loved the idea of stories told through music and illustration," Balouch explained to Shannon Maughan in Publishers Weekly, describing the book-and-audio project. According to Maughan, "the artist's arresting, often swirling perspectives and bold use of solid colors make a lasting impression."
Set in ancient Iran, The King and the Three Thieves relates what happens when a king who usually dines alone decides to share a meal with three poor men. These three men, in addition to being poor, are also very special: one can whistle people to sleep, the second can see through walls, and the third sneezes with such ferocity that he can blow down doors. When the king discovers that these three men intend to rob the royal treasury, he must quickly devise a way to prevent his wealth from being stolen. "The witty, well-told story … is beautifully illustrated," wrote Michael Cart in Booklist, the critic also noting that the computer-generated illustrations, which resemble cut paper collages, were inspired by the art on Iranian pottery. "Balouch engages the eye with sparkling patterns and crisp, solid colors," a Publishers Weekly critic commented, while in School Library Journal Doris Gebel wrote that "the bright, action-packed pictures and graceful telling make this a good choice for reading out loud."
Mystery Bottle, Balouch's third book, is an original story that includes the same type of magic and Iranian
inspiration to be found in The King and the Three Thieves. In the book, a young boy receives a magic bottle that transports him to the far-away home of his grandfather. As the two sit, share a cup of tea, and chat about books and other topics, Grandfather explains that the magic bottle can bring the boy back to visit him at any time. The illustrations are "scattered with cultural details of Brooklyn and Tehran," a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted, adding that Balouch includes maps featuring words in both English and Arabic. Julie Cummins, writing in Booklist, agreed that the collage-like illustrations include stamp art. While she felt that the story might be beyond the youngest readers, "the artwork …," Cummins concluded, "is striking."
As Balouch told Maughan, while she needs a quiet environment in which to write, her sketching requirements are completely different. "I love to go outdoors and do my thinking and sketching," the illustrator explained. "During the warm months I wander around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden or Central Park, and do my best sketching in crowded public places." Along with working on her illustrations, Balouch also makes school visits and offers workshops that, like her books, introduce students to Persian folklore and Iranian culture.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of The King and the Three Thieves: A Persian Tale, p. 714; February 1, 2006, Julie Cummins, review of Mystery Bottle, p. 53.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2001, review of The King and the Three Thieves, p. 176.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, review of Mystery Bottle, p. 177.
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1999, review of Listen to the Storyteller: A Trio of Musical Tales from around the World, p. 73; December 20, 1999, Shannon Maughan, "Music and Computers Help Tell a Story," p. 26; November 6, 2000, review of The King and the Three Thieves, p. 89.
School Library Journal, October, 1999, Grace Oliff, review of Listen to the Storyteller, p. 119; January, 2001, Doris Gebel, review of The King and the Three Thieves, p. 114.
Kristen Balouch Home Page,http://www.kristenbalouch.com (January 8, 2007).