Bean, Jonathan 1979-

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Bean, Jonathan 1979-


Born March 23, 1979; son of John and Pauline Bean. Education: Messiah College (PA), B.A., 2001; School of Visual Arts (New York, NY), M.F.A., 2005. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, bird watching, landscape drawing.


Home—New York, NY.


Author and illustrator. Dimensions, Reading, PA, staff artist; illustrator for New York Times and Cricket magazine. Messiah College, Grantham, PA, adjunct instructor in art, 2008.

Awards, Honors

Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for best picture book, 2008, and Charlotte Zolotow Award Honor Book designation, Cooperative Children's Book Center, both 2008, both for At Night; Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award, New York Public Library/Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 2008, for The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson.



At Night, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.

Our House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2009.


Lynne Jonell, Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.

Wendy Orr, Mokie and Bik, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.

Lauren Thompson, The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

Lynne Jonell, Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2008.

Wendy Orr, Mokie and Bik Go to Sea, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2008.


Jonathan Bean grew up in Pennsylvania, the second of four children who were all homeschooled by their parents. He had an interest in art and illustrated books from a young age. "I grew up with my mom reading me Virginia Lee Burton books and later I discovered Wanda Gag," he told Shannon Maughan in Publishers Weekly, referring to the author-illustrators of the childhood classics Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Millions of Cats respectively. During high school, Bean took weekly drawing classes with Myron Barnstone of Barnstone Studios, where he studied basic techniques, practiced them over and over, and explored how great artists incorporated them into their works. As a senior, he wrote an essay exploring form in artworks from ancient Greece to modern times.

After graduating with a degree in fine arts illustration from Pennsylvania Messiah College, Bean worked as staff artist for a company that created craft and paint-by-number patterns. During the day, he helped transform artworks—sometimes his own—into cross-stitch patterns, while at night he worked on his own illustrations. Attending graduate school in New York City, Bean focused on children's-book illustration and developed a portfolio to show to publishers. One of his graduate projects developed into his first picture book, and by the time he received his master's degree in 2005, Bean was getting steady work as an illustrator for magazines, including Cricket.

In 2007, Bean's illustrations appeared in four separate children's books, including one he had also authored. His work included drawings for a flip-book incorporated in writer Lynne Jonell's novel Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, as well as crosshatch-style illustrations for Wendy Orr's chapter book Mokie and Bik. Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan called Bean's work in the latter "often graceful and always appealing," and School Library Journal contributor Carole Phillips likewise observed that Bean's drawings for Mokie and Bik "capture the exuberant spirit of the [characters] and splendidly match their energetic adventures."

Bean also produced artwork for Lauren Thompson's picture book The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, a clever reworking of "The House That Jack Built." Bean's illustrations, in tones of gold, red, cream, and black, impressed many critics. "The art tells its own story," Jennifer Brabander observed in Horn Book, adding that Bean's work has "an old-fashioned sensibility" reminiscent of Gag and Burton. In Booklist Ilene Cooper similarly noted that "Bean uses the best of old and new in artwork that harkens back to the works of Lois Lenski, Robert McClosky, and especially Wanda Gag." "This tribute to the artists of an earlier age should take its place among bedtime favorites," a Publishers Weekly writer concluded, and a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed Bean "someone to watch." The New York Public Library and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation agreed, awarding Bean the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for 2008 for The Apple Pie That Papa Baked.

Bean's artistic talent also enhanced his first original picture book, At Night, an award-winning bedtime story about a girl who makes a comfortable bed on a rooftop during a hot summer night in the city. "The plot is so quiet it would escape a lesser writer," a Publishers Weekly writer observed, but Bean "creates almost magical rhythms in this pitch-perfect story." Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg similarly observed that Bean's "spare sentences have a lulling rhythm," while his illustrations "add a quiet drama." The artist's watercolor images "perfectly depict the shadows, darkness, and light of the slumbering city," Ieva Bates wrote in School Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed Bean's "sweet, gentle story … perfectly constructed and balanced." At Night has "a modest text that quietly lets the art take center stage," Jennifer M. Brabander remarked in Horn Book, the critic concluding that Bean's debut is "perfect reading for a warm night."

To other aspiring artists, Bean offered the following advice: "Once you think you have the skill and the talent, don't give up," as he told Howard Richman of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers. "Make the most of every opportunity, of every professor you have, and of every connection. I sent out work for four or five years before I really found work that paid. At first I was just piecing together a living, rather than making a living. I envied some of my fellow students who were employed by others. But if you can stick at it long enough, you can really have something solid. Don't give up. Continue to work away at it."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, June 1, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of Mokie and Bik, p. 82; July 1, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of At Night, p. 60; August, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, p. 68.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2007, Deborah Stevenson, review of At Night, pp. 73-74.

Horn Book, September-October, 2007, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of At Night, p. 556; January-February, 2008, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, p. 80.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of At Night.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, reviews of At Night and The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, p. 88; December 24, 2007, Shannon Maughan, "Flying Starts," p. 16.

School Library Journal, July, 2007, Carole Phillips, review of Mokie and Bik, p. 82; September, 2007, Ieva Bates, review of At Night, p. 157, and Catherine Callegari, review of The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, p. 177.


Jonathan Bean Home Page, (October 14, 2007).

Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Web site, (summer, 2005), Howard Richman, "Jonathan Bean Succeeding as an Illustrator."