Christelow, Eileen 1943-

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Christelow, Eileen 1943-


Born April 22, 1943, in Washington, DC; daughter of Allan (an historian and business executive) and Dorothy (an economist) Christelow; married Albert B. Ahrenholz (a potter), December, 1965; children: Heather. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. (architecture), 1965; graduate study, University of California, Berkeley.


Home—East Dummerston, VT.


Children's book author and illustrator. Freelance photographer in Philadelphia, PA, 1965-71; graphic designer and illustrator in Berkeley, CA, 1973-81; freelance writer and illustrator, beginning 1982.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Awards, Honors

Little Archer Award (WI), 1982, for Henry and the Red Stripes; Washington Irving Fiction Award, 1984, and Land of Enchantment Award, and Maud Hart Lovelace Award, both 1986, all for Zucchini; International Reading Association/Children's Book Council Children's Choice selection, 1987, for The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner, 1989, for Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, 1992, for Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, 1993, for Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, 2001, for Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car, 2004, for Vote!, and 2007, for Letters from a Desperate Dog; School Library Journal Best Books list, 1995, for What Do Authors Do?; Notable Children's Book selection, American Library Association, 1999, for What Do Illustrators Do?, and Vote!; Smithsonian Notable Books for Children selection, 2002, and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, both for Where's the Big Bad Wolf?



Henry and the Red Stripes, Clarion (New York, NY), 1982.

Mr. Murphy's Marvelous Invention, Clarion (New York, NY), 1983.

Henry and the Dragon, Clarion (New York, NY), 1984.

Jerome the Babysitter, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.

Olive and the Magic Hat, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.

Jerome and the Witchcraft Kids, Clarion (New York, NY), 1988.

The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1988.

(Reteller) Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Clarion (New York, NY), 1989.

Glenda Feathers Casts a Spell, Clarion (New York, NY), 1990.

Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, Clarion (New York, NY), 1991.

Don't Wake Up Mama: Another Five Little Monkey's Story, Clarion (New York, NY), 1992.

Gertrude, the Bulldog Detective, Clarion (New York, NY), 1992.

The Five-Dog Night, Clarion (New York, NY), 1993.

The Great Pig Escape, Clarion (New York, NY), 1994.

What Do Authors Do?, Clarion (New York, NY), 1995.

Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, Clarion (New York, NY) 1996.

Not until Christmas, Walter!, Clarion (New York, NY) 1997.

Jerome Camps Out, Clarion (New York, NY) 1998.

What Do Illustrators Do?, Clarion (New York, NY) 1999.

Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car, Clarion (New York, NY) 2000.

The Great Pig Search, Clarion (New York, NY) 2001.

Where's the Big Bad Wolf?, Clarion (New York, NY) 2002.

Vote!, Clarion (New York, NY) 2003.

Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake, Clarion (New York, NY) 2004.

Five Little Monkeys Play Hide-and-Seek, Clarion (New York, NY) 2004.

Letters from a Desperate Dog, Clarion (New York, NY) 2006.

Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping, Clarion (New York, NY) 2007.

Several of Christelow's works have been published in Spanish.


(With others) Diane Downie, Math for Girls, and Other Problem Solvers, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1981.

Barbara Dana, Zucchini, Harper (New York, NY), 1982.

Thomas Rockwell, Oatmeal Is Not for Mustaches, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.

Sue Alexander, Dear Phoebe, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1984.

Barbara Steiner, Oliver Dibbs and the Dinosaur Cause, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

Jim Aylesworth, Two Terrible Frights, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

Joy Elizabeth Handcock, The Loudest Little Lion, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1988.

Barbara Steiner, Oliver Dibbs to the Rescue!, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Myra Cohn Livingston, selector, Dilly Dilly Piccalilli: Poems for the Very Young, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1989.

Mary Elise Monsell, The Mysterious Cases of Mr. Pin, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

Jim Aylesworth, The Completed Hickory Dickory Dock, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

Mary Elise Monsell, Mr. Pin: The Chocolate Files, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

Peggy Christian, The Old Coot, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

Barbara Steiner, Dolby and the Woof-Off, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.

Jan Wahl, Mrs. Owl and Mr. Pig, Lodestar (New York, NY), 1991.

Mary Elise Monsell, Mr. Pin: The Spy Who Came North from the Pole, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

Jennifer Brutschy, Celeste and Crabapple Sam, Lodestar (New York, NY), 1994.

Maryann Macdonald, Secondhand Star, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.

Mary Elise Monsell, Mr. Pin: A Fish Named Yum, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.

Maryann Macdonald, No Room for Francie, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.

Eve Bunting, The Pumpkin Fair, Clarion (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Jo Ellen McAllister-Stammen and Walter Lyon Krudop) Jim Aylesworth, The Pumpkin Fair, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Darleen Bailey Beart, The Flimflam Man, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.

Christelow's photographs have appeared in Progressive Architecture, Colloquy, Ford Foundation, Home, Media and Method, New York Times Book Review, Pennsylvania Gazette, Youth, and Teacher, as well as in various textbooks. Creator of poster art for Children's Book Council.


Eileen Christelow is an award-winning author and illustrator who produces humorous, bright, and energetic picture books. Several of Christelow's tales, such as The Great Pig Escape and Letters from a Desperate Dog, are based on episodes from real life. Whether she is illustrating her own stories or those of other authors, Christelow's animal characters—from cats and dogs to alligators and penguins—are charming and expressive.

Christelow developed an early interest in the written word. "Books were a part of life in my family," she noted in an essay on her home page. "My parents read bedtime stories to me and my brother every night." Because her family did not own a television until she was a teenager, Christelow spent most of her spare time reading. "Much of my early childhood," she wrote, "was spent slouched in an armchair or up in a tree house with my nose in a book…. A good early education for a writer!" Christelow's interest in writing was stirred by her English teachers in middle school and high school, and she initially planned to major in English at college, although she lost her enthusiasm for the subject during her freshman year.

As Christelow once explained to SATA, her career as a picture-book creator developed from her interests in architecture and photography. "I majored in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia," she stated. "While I was there, I discovered the darkroom in the graphics department. I spent more time there than I should have, taking photographs. After graduation, I earned my living as a freelance photographer, photographing buildings rather than designing them. I also photographed in the Philadelphia public school classrooms, skid row, and Chinatown. I took several trips with my cameras across the United States and one trip to Mexico. My photos appeared in various magazines and textbooks."

After a visit to Cornwall, England, and the birth of a daughter, Christelow and her family moved to Berkeley, California. There, as she recalled, "[I] found that I was tired of constantly looking at the world through a camera lens, so I began to learn about type, graphic design, and illustration. I eventually started freelancing as a designer producing ads, brochures, catalogues, and books. She decided to explore her possibilities as a children's book author and illustrator while raising her young daughter. "For several years my daughter and I researched the problem together," she later told SATA, "taking weekly trips to the library and reading at nap-time and bedtime. I found the picture book format a fascinating and frustrating challenge. I learned about pacing and I learned to keep my text spare. I also found that the years I'd spent as a photographer, trying to cap-

ture one photo that would tell an entire story, were invaluable to the process of creating stories with pens and pencils." One result of her efforts was the acquisition of a large collection of children's books, which helped her daughter to read and write. "And I wrote and illustrated several books—one of which is Henry and the Red Stripes.

"The idea for Henry and the Red Stripes first came to me when I was half asleep in a hot, steamy bath," Christelow explained. "It had been percolating in the back of my mind for months as I researched and illustrated a poster picturing twenty-six insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals camouflaged in a forest setting. That poster, combined with observing my daughter and her friends decorating themselves with paints and magic markers, led to the creation of Henry Rabbit."

Henry and the Dragon, the second "Henry" book, portrays the rabbit after a bedtime story. Henry thinks there must be a dragon about, and builds a trap to catch it. As Christelow noted in a Junior Literary Guild article, Henry and the Dragon "was inspired by memories" of her young daughter asking if any bears walked around the family house at night.

Another book by Christelow, Jerome the Babysitter, introduces a young alligator boy just as he begins his first job babysitting. His twelve charges trick and mistreat him, and even trap him on the roof, but in the end Jerome proves he is a clever as well as competent caretaker. According to Lisa Redd in School Library Journal, the alligator characters are "delightful," and rendered with "expressive faces." In the words of a Publishers Weekly critic, the book presents a "side-splitting story" and "luridly colored cartoons." Christelow has published two other works about the energetic gator: Jerome and the Witchcraft Kids and Jerome Camps Out, the latter of which is based on a true story about a youngster who was forced to share a tent with the class bully while on a school trip. "The simple text is bolstered by Christelow's funny pen-and-watercolor artwork," remarked Booklist critic Ilene Cooper of the book.

The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner features a little hen who cannot keep her mouth shut. When she hides her dog friend's diamonds in her hollowed-out eggs, diamond thieves think she is a diamond-egg-laying hen, and kidnap the little hen. The Five-Dog Night, which a Kirkus Reviews critic called a "good-natured, entertaining yarn," surprises readers by demonstrating that a five-dog night is one so cold that five dogs in the bed make the best blanket. A young dog, intent on becoming a detective, spies on her neighbors in Gertrude, theBulldog Detective; although the neighbors provide her with some fake clues in an effort to discourage her, Gertrude manages to catch some real thieves by story's end.

Christelow has produced a number of works based on the popular children's song and finger play "Five Little Monkeys." She was inspired to write Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, the first title in the series, after hearing her young daughter recite the rhyme. "Whether sublimely happy or ridiculously goofy," wrote Corinne Camarata in School Library Journal, "Christelow's expressive monkeys pack a lot of appeal." While picnicking, the rambunctious crew fearlessly teases a crocodile in Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree. According to School Library Journal reviewer Carey Ayres, young readers will "delight in the mischief-making—a humorous exaggeration of their own antics." In Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, the bored quintet help their mother prepare for a visit from Grandma Bessie. "This is pure silliness—just the kind kids like," observed Cooper. When the family's old automobile goes up the sale, the gang decides it needs a good cleaning in Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car. "Christelow's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations show great energy and movement," noted Kathy Broderick in Booklist. A naive babysitter gets more than she bargained for in Five Little Monkeys Play Hide-and-Seek, a picture book in which Christelow's illustrations "convey a sharp sense of giddy, good-hearted fun," according to Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan.

Based on an incident involving an Iowa farmer, The Great Pig Escape concerns Bert and Ethel, a pair of vegetable farmers who decide to raise pigs. When it is time for the farmers to sell the pigs at the market, the porkers escape both the market and certain death by stealing clothes, disguising themselves as people, and blending in with the crowd. After safely reaching Florida, the pigs return the clothes, along with a postcard for their owners with the comment, "Oink!" School Library Journal contributor Cynthia K. Richey described Christelow's text as "lively" and "funny," noting that the book's pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are "filled with humor." A Publishers Weekly critic described the book as a "strategic endorsement of vegetarianism." In a follow-up, The Great Pig Search, Bert and Ethel head to the Sunshine State for a vacation, although Bert is determined to locate the missing swine. "The author gets a few more giggles out of a classic comedy plot," remarked a critic in Publishers Weekly in a review of The Great Pig Search.

Christelow provides her own take on a classic fairy story in Where's the Big Bad Wolf?, "a delicious parody" of The Three Little Pigs, according to School Library Journal reviewer Mary Elam. When the pigs' houses are huffed and puffed to bits, Detective Doggedly is called upon to investigate the case. A Kirkus Reviews contributor stated that Christelow's adaptation "is good clownish fun, and the rough-and-tumble art keeps the farce bubbling." The somewhat testy relationship between Christelow's husband and their spirited pup, Emma, inspired Letters from a Desperate Dog, a story told in comic-strip format. Seemingly unable to please her owner, a frustrated Emma pens a letter to Queenie, the advice columnist at the Weekly Bone, whose words of wisdom encourage Emma to try her hand at acting. Cooper praised the story for its "heartfelt messages about friendship and the bond between animals and their human companions."

Fans of Christelow's work join aspiring young authors as the intended audience of her book What Do Authors Do? By following the efforts of two writers who have witnessed the same event, Christelow demonstrates how writers begin their books and prepare them for publication. According to Horn Book contributor Elizabeth S. Watson, "if ever there was a book to encourage youngsters to try their hand at writing, this is one." In a companion volume, What Do Illustrators Do?, Christelow examines another aspect of the creative process through the work of two artists. "By alighting on a subject with which her audience has some familiarity, Christelow instantly engages interest," concluded a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, September 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, p. 140; April 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Jerome Camps Out, p. 1449; March 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of What Do Illustrators Do?, p. 1204; May 1, 2000, Kathy Broderick, review of Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car, p. 1676; September 1, 2001, Michael Cart, review of The Great Pig Search, p. 113; October 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Where's the Big Bad Wolf?, p. 410; November 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Vote!, p. 492; August, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Five Little Monkeys Play Hide-and-Seek, p. 1941; October 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Letters from a Desperate Dog, p. 57.

Horn Book, November-December, 1995, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of What Do Authors Do?, p. 754; March-April, 2002, Peter D. Sieruta, review of The Great Pig Search, p. 200.

Junior Literary Guild, March, 1984, review of Henry and the Dragon.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1993, review of The Five-Dog Night, p. 857; July 15, 2002, review of Where's the Big Bad Wolf?, p. 1028; October 15, 2006, review of Letters from a Desperate Dog, p. 1067.

Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1985, review of Jerome the Babysitter, p. 158; June 27, 1994, review of The Great Pig Escape, p. 78; February 1, 1999, review of What Do Illustrators Do?, p. 84; September 3, 2001, review of The Great Pig Search, p. 87; August 25, 2003, review of Vote!, p. 64.

School Library Journal, March, 1986, Lisa Redd, review of Jerome the Babysitter, p. 145; July, 1989, Corinne Camarata, review of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, p. 62; August, 1991, Carey Ayres, review of Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, p. 143; November, 1994, Cynthia K. Richey, review of The Great Pig Escape, p. 73; November, 1996, Meg Stackpole, review of Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, p. 79; May, 2000, Denise Reitsma, review of Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car, p. 132; September, 2002, review of Where's the Big Bad Wolf?, p. 182; September, 2004, Roxanne Burg, review of Five Little Monkeys Play Hide-and-Seek, p. 156; November, 2006, Nancy Silverrod, review of Letters from a Desperate Dog, p. 86.


Eileen Christelow Home Page, (November 10, 2007).

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Christelow, Eileen 1943-

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