Pinkney, Jerry 1939–

views updated May 23 2018

Jerry Pinkney 1939


At a Glance

Discovered Illustration

Branched Out

Worked at Home

Teamed Up


Image not available for copyright reasons

In a career that has spanned more than three decades, award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney has balanced his time among designing books, teaching his craft, and producing commercial and personal art work. He has brought dozens of books to life-particularly for children-with vibrant watercolor pictures that are beloved by people of all ages. Pinkney brings the best kinds of talent to his collaborative work as an illustrator, lauded Michael Cart in Booklist.He consistently demonstrates not only a sympathetic intellectual grasp of an authors material, but also an empathetic understanding of its emotional content.

The fourth of six children, Pinkney grew up in Philadelphia. At a young age he became interested in drawing when he mimicked his much older brothers, who drew pictures from comic books and photo-rich magazines such as Life. Then Pinkney discovered that art could make him-an average student in other areas-stand out at school. I remember an incident in the first grade when I was growing up in Philadelphia that sort of shaped the idea in my mind that I wanted to be an artist, he wrote in Talking With Artists.For a Fire Prevention Week project I got to draw a red fire engine on a big sheet of brown paper. I got a lot of attention from that and I liked it. I was encouraged by my teacher and, as I kept drawing, I became the class artist.

Pinkneys parents, especially his mother, supported his art. During his junior high school years, Pinkney took private drawing classes because the school he attended did not offer any art instruction. Another important event happened at this time. While minding his newspaper stand at the corner of a busy Philadelphia intersection, he sketched pictures of the things he saw around him, including the mannequins in the store windows across the street. One day John Liney, the creator of the Little Henry comic strip, noticed Pinkney practicing diligently at the newsstand and invited the boy to visit his studio nearby. Liney showed Pinkney the studio and the work he was doing, and gave him art supplies. I still remember that experience fondly, recalled Pinkney some 30 years later in Something About the Author Autobiography Series.In many ways he was the first person to plant a seed of the possibilities of making a living as an artist.

For high school, Pinkney enrolled in the Dobbins Vocational School, where he took a commercial art course that included calligraphy, perspective drawing, and product rendering in various media. Pinkney and fellow students studied drawing live models even though it was offered only at night. Pinkney received steady encouragement and excelled in his art classes. At Dobbins he also met Gloria Maultsby, whom he dated throughout high school and married during his college years.

Pinkney became the first member of his family to attend college when his high school excellence earned him a two-and-a-half-year scholarship at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. He found the experience to be an eye-opener. Until that time, he had never been in an

At a Glance

Born December22, 1939, in Philadelphia, PA; son of James H. (a carpenter) and Williemae Landers Pinkney; married Gloria Maultsby (artist), 1960; children: Troy Bernadette, Jerry Brian, Scott Cannon, Myles Carter.Education: Attended Philadelphia Museum College of Art (now University of the Arts), 1957-59.

Illustrator and designer of nearly 100 childrens books. Designer-illustrator for several studios, 1960-1970; Rhode Island School of Design, visiting critic, 1969-70, adjunct professor, 1971; founded Jerry Pinkney, Inc., 1971; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, associate professor of illustration, 1986-87; Univ. of Delaware, distinguished visiting prof., 1986-88, assoc. prof. of art, 1988-; Univ. of Buffalo, NY, visiting artist, 1989; Syracuse Univ., guest faculty, 1989; State Univ. of NY at Buffalo, visiting prof., 1991. Work has appeared in exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum, Natl. Ctr. of Afro-American Artists, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Selected awards: National Book Award finalist and Newberry Medal for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, 1977; Carter G. Woodson Award for Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir and Count on Your Fingers African Style, 1980; Coretta Scott King Awards for The Patchwork Quilt, 1986, Half a Moon and One Whole Star, 1987, Mirandy and Brother Wind, 1988; Caldecott Honor Book for Mirandy and Brother Wind, 1989, and The Talking Eggs, 1990.

Addresses: Home41 Furnace Rock Rd., Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520. OffÎce-Dept. of Art, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.

art gallery, and the idea of expressing himself through his work was new. He concentrated his education in graphic design, little aware of the possibility of a career in illustration. During his third year of college, he married Gloria, and he left school when she bore their first child.

Discovered Illustration

After working as a florist, he found a position at the Rustcraft Greeting Card Company in Boston. Pinkney quickly realized that greeting cards would not be his lifes work, so he learned as much as he could about the industrys design and printing processes before joining the Barker-Black Studio as an illustrator. Pinkney got a taste of the future while at Barker-Black: for the first time he produced the pictures for a childrens book, The Adventures of Spider written by Joyce Arkhurst.

Pinkney found that he liked tying his art to a story. For the next two years he worked on a number of textbooks before deciding to break with Barker-Black. He and several other artists formed Kaleidoscope Studio, but by 1971 he decided to strike out on his own and founded Jerry Pinkney, Inc. He and his family moved to Croton-on-Hudson, New York, to be closer to the large book publishing houses. To support his wife and four children, he turned to more lucrative advertising work, but he did not enjoy it. He still managed to create several picture books each year for the love of it. Since childrens publishers looked for African American artists to illustrate books about black Americans in the 1970s, Pinkney found an increasing market for his skills.

Gradually Pinkney increased the amount of time he spent illustrating. He did African American historical calendars for Seagrams and limited edition books for Franklin Library, among them Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, and These Thirteen by William Faulkner. Other projects included a portrait of Jesse Jackson for the U.S. Information Agency, a poster for the U.S. Parks Department, and illustrations for an article on the Underground Railroad published in National Geographic magazine.

Branched Out

When Pinkney discovered that the federal Department of Engraving commissioned artists to design postage stamps, he contacted the art coordinator at the postal service and showed him his portfolio. In 1983 the U.S. Postal Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee asked Pinkney to join them. As a member of the committed, Pinkney had input into which stamps would be issued. He also designed stamps for the Black Heritage series-Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Benjamin Banneker, and Whitney Moore Young, Jr., among others. In addition he created some for the United Way organization and the Help End Hunger campaign.

Many of the books Pinkney illustrated early in his career retold legends, folktales, or myths. With The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, Pinkney had the chance to portray a modern black family, particularly a grandmother and granddaughter. His work on this title won both the Christopher Award and the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration. These were only two of the numerous awards Pinkney would win over the next decade, including a Caldecott Honor Book award for Mirandy and Brother Wind, a book about a girl who catches the wind in a bottle in order to win a dancing contest. At this point in his career, Pinkney made the commitment to spend more of his time illustrating books.

Since 1986 Pinkney has taught at various university art schools. Teaching has given him the financial means to discontinue his advertising work, has allowed him to focus on childrens books, and has been very important to his artistic growth. Interacting with faculty members and having the opportunity to display his paintings at faculty art shows have provided the incentive for him to work on personal projects as well as commissioned works.

Worked at Home

Pinkney struck a balance between teaching art several days each week and working in his airy and light home studio. A typical day would start by nine oclock and last until as late as eight or ten at night. Pinkney might relax by taking a lunch break and maybe going for a walk. On such days work could be many things, including packaging art for shipping, researching the life and times of historical characters, or talking on the telephone to editors about a work in progress. Naturally, work also would mean drawing or painting. Intent on his art, Pinkney works easily and with pleasure. Books give me a great feeling of personal and artistic satisfaction, he told Something About the Author.When Im working on a book, I wish the phone would never ring. I love doing it. My satisfaction comes from the actual marks on the paper, and when it sings, its magic.

Before agreeing to illustrate a book, Pinkney must like the story. He told Something About the Author, Im able to suggest mood or envision the characters for a book quickly. After reading a manuscript, I know what a character should look like. While he often portrayed African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics, Pinkney also illustrated many books with animal characters. For Tales of Uncle Remus, retold by Julius Lester, Pinkney painted animals wearing clothing and acting like people, while in Turtle in July, by Marilyn Singer, the animal characters lived in natural settings and acted accordingly. I try to keep a balance in my work, Pinkney wrote in Talking With Artists.If I find that Im working on projects that include an awful lot of animals and less people I want to balance it, so I go back and forth. When I get to a point where Ive had it with drawing animals, Ill pick a project where there are more human figures involved. The variety can be quite, quite, exciting.

Teamed Up

Pinkneys wife and children often worked as models for his human characters, and Gloria occasionally took photos of Pinkney for the same reason. Mrs. Pinkney also helped with business aspects of her husbands work. In the early 1990s, the married couple teamed up in another way. They created two picture-book memoirs:Back Home and Sunday Outing. The books told the story of young Ernestine, a Philadelphia native who dreams of visiting her uncle and aunts farm in North Carolina. After finding ways to save money for the journey, Ernestine travels there on her own. The visit proves to be memorable and further cements the loving relationships between her and her extended family. Reviewing Back Home for Booklist, Ann Flowers called Pinkneys images glorious, adding, The story is simple, but the illustrations are an explosion of textures and colors-quilts and overalls, baskets and peaches, linoleum and weathered wood-and, clearly, kind and loving people. In Something About the Author, Pinkney described himself as terrible at perspective, and added, As a result, I distort, but in a way that makes the illustrations work. I dont see things until I draw them. When I put a line down, the only thing I know is how it should feel and I know when it doesnt feel right.

Pinkney took advantage of his popularity and critical acclaim to arrange school visits and talks with children about his work. Taking his role as a model seriously, he offered school children and art students the kind of encouragement that he received as a boy. During these visits Pinkney noticed the wide ethnic diversity in the classroom. Many of his later projects, such as Pretend Youre a Cat and Home Place, reflected this cultural diversity, and Pinkney would like to do more. These are the kinds of projects Im looking for, Pinkney wrote in Something About the Author Autobiographical Series.These books are needed and are my contribution in terms of my concern for this country and the issue of racism.

Selected Books Illustrated for Children

The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales, written by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst, Little, Brown, 1964.

Folktales and Fairytales of Africa, compiled by Lila Green, Silver Burdett, 1967.

Babushka and the Pig, written by Ann Trofimuk, Houghton, 1969.

More Adventures of Spider, written by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst, Scholastic Book Services, 1972.

Song of the Trees, written by Mildred D. Taylor, Dial,1975.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, written by Mildred D.Taylor, Dial, 1976.

Mary McLeod Bethune (biography), written by Eloise Greenfield, Crowell, 1977.

Tonweya and the Eagles, and Other Lakota Indian Tales, written by Rosebud Yellow Robe, Dial, 1979.

Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, written by Boise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little, Crowell, 1979.

Count on Your Fingers African Style, written by Glaudia Zaslavsky, Crowell, 1980.

The Patchwork Quilt, written by Valerie Flournoy, Dial,1985.

Half a Moon and One Whole Star, written by Crescent Dragonwagon, Macmillan, 1986.

Creatures of the Desert World and Strange Animals of the Sea, written by Barbara Gibson, National Geographic Society, 1987.

The Tales of Uncle Remus, written by Julius Lester, Dial, 1987.

More Tales of Uncle Remus: Further Adventures of Brer Rabbit, His Friends, Enemies and Others, written by Julius Lester, Dial, 1988.

Mirandy and Brother Wind, written by Pat McKissack, Knopf, 1988.

The Talking Eggs, written by Robert D. San Souci, Dial, 1989.

Turtle in July, written by Marilyn Singer, Macmillan,1989.

Home Place, written by Crescent Dragonwagon, Macmillan, 1990.

Pretend Youre a Cat, written by Jean Marzollo, Dial,1990.

Back Home, written by Gloria Jean Pinkney, Dial/Penguin, 1992.

The Last Tales of Uncle Remus, written by Julius Lester, Dial, 1994.

The Sunday Outing, written by Gloria Jean Pinkney, Dial/Penguin, 1994.

John Henry, written by Julius Lester, Dial, 1994.

Tanyas Reunion, written by Valerie Flournoy, Dial,1995.

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, written by Alan Schroeder, Dial/Penguin, 1996.

The Hired Hand: An African-American Folktale, written by Robert D. San Souci, Dial, 1997.



Something About the Author, Volume 41, Gale Research, 1985; Volume 71, 1993.

Something About the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 12, Gale Research, 1991.

Cummings, Pat, compiler and ed.,Talking with Artists, Bradbury Press, 1992.


Booklist, October 15, 1993, p. 452; December 15, 1993, p. 750; May 1, 1994, p. 1609; June 1, 1994, p. 1809; September 1, 1995, p. 85; October 15, 1995, p. 404; February 15, 1996, p. 1024; June 1, 1996, p. 1722; February 15, 1997, p. 1025.

Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 1994, p. 70.

Horn Book, January/February 1993, p. 83; November/December 1993, p. 734; May/June 1994, p. 341; September/October 1994, p. 581; November/December 1994, p. 739; September/October 1995, p. 587; January/February 1996, p. 99; September/October 1996, p. 589;

New York Times, May 23, 1993, pp. WC4-WC5.

Publishers Weekly, July 5, 1993, p. 71; August 9, 1993, p. 478; May 23, 1994, p. 88; September 5, 1994, p. 108; September 18, 1995, p. 131; August 5, 1996, p. 441.

U.S. News and World Report, December 5, 1994, p. 95.


Additional information for this profile was obtained from Meet the Caldecott Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney (videotape),American School Publishers series, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill School Publishing, 1991.

Jeanne M. Lesinski

Pinkney, Jerry 1939-

views updated May 29 2018

PINKNEY, Jerry 1939-


Born December 22, 1939, in Philadelphia, PA; son of James H. (a carpenter) and Williemae (a homemaker) Pinkney; married Gloria Maultsby, 1960; children: Troy Bernadette, Jerry Brian, Scott Cannon, Myles Carter. Education: Attended Philadelphia Museum College of Art (now University of the Arts), 1957-59. Hobbies and other interests: "I am a lover of music, with a large music collection. I enjoy all kinds of music: jazz, classical, rock, and pop."


Home and office 41 Furnace Rock Rd., P.O. Box 667, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.


Worked as a designer/illustrator for Rustcraft Greeting Card Co., Dedham, MA, and Barker-Black Studio, Boston, MA, and helped found the Kaleidoscope Studio before opening his own studio, Jerry Pinkney Studio, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, in 1971. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, visiting critic, 1969-70, member of visiting committee, 1991; Pratt Institute,Brooklyn, NY, associate professor of illustration, 1986-87; University of Delaware, distinguished visiting professor, 1986-88, associate professor of art, 1988-92; University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, visiting artist, 1989; Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, guest faculty, 1989; Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY, art mentor, 1989; State University of New YorkBuffalo, visiting professor, 1991; guest lecturer at numerous schools and universities; served on judging committees for numerous art and illustration shows. United States Postal Service, Stamp Advisory Committee, 1982-92, Quality Assurance Committee, 1986-92; served on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Artist Team for the space shuttle Columbia; Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, board of trustees, 2001; appointed to the National Council on the Arts, 2003; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY, board of trustees, 2003. Designer of commemorative stamps for the United States Postal Service "Black Heritage" series and the "Honey Bee" commemorative envelope. Exhibitions: Pinkney has exhibited his works at numerous group and one-man shows throughout the United States and in Japan, Italy, Russia, Taiwan, and Jamaica, including shows at the Brooklyn Museum, the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, MA, the Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Abilene, TX.


Society of Illustrators.

Awards, Honors

Numerous awards for illustration from the Society of Illustrators; New Jersey Institute of Technology award, 1969, for Babushka and the Pig; Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1973, Children's Book Showcase selection, 1976, and Jane Addams Book Group Award, 1976, all for Song of the Trees, written by Mildred D. Taylor; Newbery Medal, American Library Association (ALA), Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Jane Addams Book Group Award, and National Book Award finalist, all 1977, and Young Readers Choice award, 1979, all for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, written by Mildred D. Taylor; Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir and Tonweya and the Eagles, and Other Lakota Indian Tales were both American Institute of Graphic Arts Book Show selections, 1980; Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and Carter G. Woodson Award, National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), both 1980, for Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, written by Eloise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little; Outstanding Science Book Award, National Association of Science Teachers, 1980, Carter G. Woodson Award, NCSS, and Coretta Scott King Award runner-up, ALA, all for Count on Your Fingers African Style, written by Claudia Zaslavsky; Christopher Award, and Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, ALA, both 1986, for The Patchwork Quilt, written by Valerie Flournoy; Redbook Award, 1987, for Creatures of the Desert World and Strange Animals of the Sea, written by Barbara Gibson; Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, ALA, 1987, for Half a Moon and One Whole Star; Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, ALA, 1988, and Caldecott Honor Book, 1989, both for Mirandy and Brother Wind; Caldecott Honor Book, 1989, for The Talking Eggs; Golden Kite Award, 1990, for Home Place; citation for children's literature from Drexel University, 1992; Philadelphia College of Art and Design Alumni Award, 1992; David McCord Children's Literature Citation, Framingham State College, 1992; Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for picture books, Caldecott Honor Medal, both 1995, and Nebraska Golden Sower Award, 1997, all for John Henry; Golden Kite Honor Award, 1996, Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, ALA, and Christopher Award, both 1997, all for Minty: The Story of Young Harriet Tubman, written by Alan Schroeder; Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year, New York Times, 1997, for The Hired Hand, retold by Robert D. San Souci; Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, 2000, for body of work; Outstanding Pennsylvania Author, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, 2000, for body of work; Children's Book of Distinction, Riverbank Review, 2000, for Journeys with Elijah, retold by Barbara Diamond Goldin; Washington Irving Children's Choice Award, Westchester Library Association, 2000, for Black Cowboys, Wild Horses: A True Story; Caldecott Honor Book, 2000, for The Ugly Duckling; Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, ALA, 2002, for Goin' Someplace Special; Caldecott Honor Book, 2002, for Noah's Ark; Outstanding Learning Disabled Achievers Award, 2003; Bill Martin, Jr., Picture Book Award, Lab School of Washington D.C., 2004, for Goin' Someplace Special; University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, 2004; Roberta Long Medal Award, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2004; honorary doctorate of fine arts from Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, 2004.



The Tales of Uncle Remus (also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1987.

More Tales of Uncle Remus: Further Adventures of Brer Rabbit, His Friends, Enemies, and Others (also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1988.

Further Tales of Uncle Remus: The Misadventures of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Wolf, the Doodang, and All the Other Creatures (also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1990.

John Henry, Dial (New York, NY), 1994.

The Last Tales of Uncle Remus (also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1994.

Sam and the Tigers: A New Telling of Little Black Sambo, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story, Dial (New York, NY), 1998.

Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales (contains The Tales of Uncle Remus, More Tales of Uncle Remus, Further Tales of Uncle Remus, and The Last Tales of Uncle Remus ), Phyllis Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Albidaro and the Mischievous Dream, Phyllis Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 2000.

The Old African, Dial (New York, NY), 2004.


Rudyard Kipling, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Match Girl, Phyllis Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Ugly Duckling, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Aesop's Fables, SeaStar Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Nightingale, Phyllis Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Noah's Ark, SeaStar Books (New York, NY), 2002.


Joyce Cooper Arkhurst, reteller, The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1964.

Adeline McCall, This Is Music, Allyn & Bacon (Boston, MA), 1965.

V. Mikhailovich Garshin, The Traveling Frog, McGraw (New York, NY), 1966.

Lila Green, compiler, Folktales and Fairytales of Africa, Silver Burdett (Morristown, NJ), 1967.

Ken Sobol, The Clock Museum, McGraw (New York, NY), 1967.

Harold J. Saleh, Even Tiny Ants Must Sleep, McGraw (New York, NY), 1967.

John W. Spellman, editor, The Beautiful Blue Jay, and Other Tales of India, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1967.

Ralph Dale, Shoes, Pennies, and Rockets, L. W. Singer (Syracuse, NY), 1968.

Traudl (pseudonym of Traudl Flaxman), Kostas the Rooster, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1968.

Cora Annett, Homerhenry, Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1969.

Irv Phillips, The Twin Witches of Fingle Fu, L. W. Singer (Syracuse, NY), 1969.

Fern Powell, The Porcupine and the Tiger, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1969.

Ann Trofimuk, Babushka and the Pig, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1969.

Thelma Shaw, Juano and the Wonderful Fresh Fish, Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1969.

Ken Sobol, Sizes and Shapes, McGraw (New York, NY), 1969.

Francine Jacobs, adapter, The King's Ditch: A Hawaiian Tale, Coward (New York, NY), 1971.

Joyce Cooper Arkhurst, More Adventures of Spider, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1972.

Adjai Robinson, Femi and Old Grandaddie, Coward (New York, NY), 1972.

Mari Evans, JD, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1973.

Adjai Robinson, Kasho and the Twin Flutes, Coward (New York, NY), 1973.

Berniece Freschet, Prince Littlefoot, Ginn (Lexington, MA), 1973.

Beth P. Wilson, The Great Minu, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1974.

Mildred D. Taylor, Song of the Trees, Dial (New York, NY), 1975.

Cruz Martel, Yagua Days, Dial (New York, NY), 1976.

Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Dial (New York, NY), 1976, reprinted as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition, Penguin (New York, NY), 2000.

Phyllis Green, Mildred Murphy, How Does Your Garden Grow?, Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1977.

Eloise Greenfield, Mary McLeod Bethune (biography), Crowell (New York, NY), 1977.

Verna Aardema, Ji-Nongo-Nongo Means Riddles, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1978.

Lila Green, reteller, Tales from Africa, Silver Burdett (Morristown, NJ), 1979.

Rosebud Yellow Robe, reteller, Tonweya and the Eagles, and Other Lakota Indian Tales, Dial (New York, NY), 1979.

Eloise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little, Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, Crowell (New York, NY), 1979.

Virginia Hamilton, Jahdu, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1980.

Claudia Zaslavsky, Count on Your Fingers African Style, Crowell (New York, NY), 1980.

William Wise, Monster Myths of Ancient Greece, Putnam (New York, NY), 1981.

Barbara Michels and Bettye White, editors, Apples on a Stick: The Folklore of Black Children, Coward (New York, NY), 1983.

Valerie Flournoy, The Patchwork Quilt, Dial (New York, NY), 1985.

Crescent Dragonwagon, Half a Moon and One Whole Star, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.

Barbara Gibson, Creatures of the Desert World and Strange Animals of the Sea, edited by Donald J. Crump, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1987.

Nancy White Carlstrom, Wild, Wild Sunflower Child Anna, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.

Julia Fields, The Green Lion of Zion Street, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.

Pat McKissack, Mirandy and Brother Wind, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.

Verna Aardema, Rabbit Makes a Monkey of Lion, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.

Robert D. San Souci, The Talking Eggs, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.

Marilyn Singer, Turtle in July, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1989.

Crescent Dragonwagon, Home Place, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1990.

Jean Marzollo, Pretend You're a Cat, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.

Sonia Levitin, The Man Who Kept His Heart in a Bucket, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.

Arnold Adoff, In for Winter, Out for Spring, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1991.

Virginia Hamilton, Drylongso, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Gloria Jean Pinkney, Back Home, Penguin (New York, NY), 1992.

Colin Eisler, selector, David's Songs: His Psalms and Their Story, Dial (New York, NY), 1992.

Thylias Moss, I Want to Be, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.

Johanna Hurwitz, New Shoes for Silvia, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.

Nancy Willard, A Starlit Somersault Downhill, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

Gloria Jean Pinkney, The Sunday Outing, Dial (New York, NY), 1994.

Valerie Flournoy, Tanya's Reunion, Dial (New York, NY), 1995.

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book: The Mowgli Stories, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.

Alan Schroeder, Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.

Robert D. San Souci, reteller, The Hired Hand: An African-American Folktale, Dial (New York, NY), 1997.

Gary Paulsen, Sarny, A Life Remembered, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.

Barbara Diamond Goldin, reteller, Journeys with Elijah: Eight Tales of the Prophet, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1999.

Johanna Hurwitz, New Shoes for Sylvia, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Patricia C. McKissack, Goin' Someplace Special, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Brian and Myles C. Pinkney) Gloria Jean Pinkney, In the Forest of Your Remembrance: Thirty-Three Goodly News Tellings for the Whole Family, Penguin (New York, NY), 2001.

Arthur Herzog Jr. and Billie Holiday, God Bless the Child, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Brian and Myles C. Pinkney) Gloria Jean Pinkney, compiler, Music from Our Lord's Holy Heaven, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of illustrations to textbooks and magazines, including Boys' Life, Contact, Essence, Post, and Seventeen. Also illustrator of Helen Fletcher's The Year around Book, and of a series of limited-edition books for adults published by Franklin Library that includes Wuthering Heights, The Winthrop Covenant, Early Autumn, Rabbit Run, Gulliver's Travels, Selected Plays, Tom Jones, The Flowering of New England, These Thirteen, The Covenant, Lolita, Rabbit Redux, and The Education of Henry Adams.


The Patchwork Quilt, Half a Moon and One Whole Star, and Yagua Days were presented on Reading Rainbow, PBS-TV; John Henry, Rikki Tikki Tavi, The Ugly Duckling, and Noah's Ark were adapted for audio and video by Weston Woods (Norwalk, CT).


From the day he began copying drawings from comic books and photo magazines, illustrator Jerry Pinkney pushed himself to be the best artist he could be. Pinkney's drive has made him, some four decades later, a nationally recognized illustrator of children's books, as well as a designer and illustrator of stamps, posters, calendars, and books for adults. Much of his work pays tribute to his African-American heritage, but the artist has illustrated books about Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans as well. Expressing his commitment to multicultural works in his autobiographical essay in Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS ), Pinkney said "these books are needed and are my contribution in terms of my concern for this country and the issue of racism."

Pinkney was born in 1939, to a large family living on an all-black block in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His neighborhood and extended family provided the young Pinkney with all the entertainment he needed, for the children were always involved in the many family projects, ranging from all-day barbecues to summer-long house raising ventures. He discovered drawing at an early age, and remembered in SAAS that "I was always caught in the middle between the thing that I wanted to do, which would be to sit and draw, and the other side of me that really wanted to be more social; and yet, being social was more work for me." Pinkney's artistic urges were rewarded in school, where his teachers and fellow students admired and encouraged his work, but he also remembered that "somehow I hooked into that competitive mode so that it became very important that I succeed." This "competitive mode" drove his performance throughout the rest of his schooling, and though Pinkney received consistently high marks in his classes, he was plagued by doubts about his abilities and his intelligence. He said in SAAS that he was "unable to make a connection between what I thought about myself and how others felt about my achievements."

Pinkney's mother actively encouraged his study of art, and his father, though skeptical, supported his decision to continue pursuing art studies into high school as well. Dobbins Vocational High School had an excellent program in commercial art, and Pinkney received encouragement and guidance from his teachers and peers. Upon graduation, he applied for and received a four-year scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, becoming the first in his family to go to college. There he met and married his wife, Gloria, and established a network of contacts that would support him throughout his artistic career. Those contacts also landed him his first job, with a greeting card company near Boston. In Boston, Pinkney was involved in the expanding civil rights movement. As a result of the wide variety of people he met through these activities, Pinkney said in SAAS that "I worked toward being a well-rounded artist and I chose not to focus on one style or put all my energies into one visual discipline."

Pinkney's commitment to expanding his artistic range left him frustrated with his job, so with some friends he founded the Kaleidoscope Studio, where he worked for a little over two years before starting a studio of his ownthe Jerry Pinkney Studio. Though he kept busy doing advertising and textbook illustration, Pinkney most loved doing illustrations for books and tried to do at least one or two a year. "The marriage of typography and illustration was always very important to me, and the picture-book area provided me with the opportunity to illustrate and design," he commented in his autobiographical sketch. Fredrick Woodard, interviewed by Donnarae MacCann and Olga Richard in Wilson Library Bulletin, noted that in Mirandy and Brother Wind the "stunning color and movement [of Pinkney's illustrations] are in perfect harmony with the beauty of the book's folk language." The book, which won the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and was named a Caldecott Honor Book, tells the story of a young girl convinced that she will dance with the wind at an upcoming dance.

Soon Pinkney had even more book illustration offers because, he explained in SAAS, "the late sixties and early seventies brought an awareness of black writers. Publishers sought out black artists to illustrate black subject matter and the work of black writers. And there I wasit was almost like a setup." Pinkney was soon creating illustrations for a wide variety of projects, including African-American historical calendars, a number of limited-edition books for Franklin Library and, in 1983, a set of stamps for the U.S. Postal Service's Black Heritage series that included Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Scott Joplin, and Jackie Robinson. Pinkney commented in SAAS: "I was trying to use these projects as vehicles to address the issues of being an African-American and the importance of African-American contributions to society. I wanted to show that an African-American artist could certainly make it in this country on a national level in the visual graphic arts. And I wanted to show my children the possibilities that lay ahead for them. That was very important. I wanted to be a strong role model for my family and for other African-Americans."

During this period, Pinkney got involved with a number of book projects that brought him a great deal of critical attention. The Patchwork Quilt, written by Valerie Flournoy, tells of a wonderful relationship between a grandmother and a granddaughter and celebrates the strength of the black family. Pinkney found people to model the relationships described in the book, and he created his drawings from these modeling sessions. The book won a number of awards, including two that were very important to the illustrator: the Christopher Award and the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. Pinkney carried his live model concept further in crafting the illustrations for Julius Lester's retelling of The Tales of Uncle Remus. "After a number of preliminary drawings, I realized that the answer was for me to model and pose as the animals," he said in SAAS. "And that's what I did. I got dressed up in vests and baggy pants, and I took on the posture and attitude of whatever that animal might be." June Jordan, reviewing the book in New York Times Book Review, commented that "every single illustration is fastidious, inspired and a marvel of delightful imagination."

Pinkney's collaboration with author Julius Lester on John Henry was, the illustrator wrote in his acceptance speech for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, their attempt "to create an African-American hero that would inspire all." Based on published versions of the traditional folk song as well as on additional verses remembered by Lester, the picture book depicts the life of John Henry from birth through his fatal contest with a steam drill. Praising Pinkney's "challenging visual imagery" in her review in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Elizabeth Bush noted that his "earthy, craggy watercolors capture the sober, thoughtful side of Henry's story."

As Pinkney once commented regarding John Henry, "As far back as I can recall, I have sustained the memory of the legend of John Henry. I am not sure why it took me so long to entertain the notion to unlock John Henry from its place in my memories. After all, he had been a part of my most cherished remembrance of African-American perseverance, along with Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth. And John Henry and High John de Conquer were the only tall tale black heroes to come from that period in American history. I became intrigued with the realization that black heroes did not exist in African-American folklore until after the Civil War. Before emancipation, African-American story characters, like the enslaved, had only two weapons that they were able to use: good old-fashioned common sense, and that of trickster. Only after freedom could African Americans afford to create black heroes in our folklore. How fortunate I was when Julius Lester embraced the idea to create the text; who better to take on the task than Julius, a civil rights advocate, folk-singer and author. Our collaboration is a John Henry that represents and symbolizes the men and boys who made up the crews, whose muscles built the roads and railroads in this country in the late 1800s. One can only imagine the stamina and endurance of the men and boys, black and white, employed for such dangerous work. I tried to give reverence to the men, by instilling in each person I portrayed a sense of his own history. With this book we strived to create an African-American hero that would inspire all."

Using the few facts known about Harriet Tubman's childhood, author Alan Schroeder teamed up with Pinkney to produce Minty: A Story of the Young Harriet Tubman. The book tells the story of how Mintytaken from Tubman's cradle name, Aramintaacquires the skills she needs to escape and survive alone in the wilderness, those same skills she later uses to lead hundreds of fellow slaves to freedom. In a School Library Journal review, Louise L. Sherman said that "Pinkney's illustrations are outstanding and his depictions of Minty are particularly powerful and expressive."

Another picture book in which Pinkney explores African-American history is Goin' Someplace Special, which Patricia C. McKissack wrote and Pinkney illustrated. The story is about a little girl named 'Tricia Ann who is allowed to go Someplace Special, alone, for the very first time. Her journey across the Jim Crow South is difficultshe has to sit at the back of the bus and cannot rest on a bench in the park because it is for "whites only." The racism that she faces almost makes her give up, but remembering her grandmother's encouragement, she perseveres. Finally, she arrives at Someplace Special: the Nashville Public Library. In Pinkney's illustration, the building is "bathed in a hopeful lemon sunshine" that illuminates the sign over the door: "Public Library: All Are Welcome," Robin Smith wrote in Horn Book. Other reviewers commented upon the bright turquoise and yellow dress in which Pinkney clad the little girl, a frock which "jumps out of every picture," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic.

In recent years, Pinkney has been adapting and retelling classic works in addition to illustrating them. Titles include Rudyard Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi; Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling, and The Nightingale; and Aesop's Fables. Pinkney's adaptation of The Ugly Duckling garnered him his fourth Caldecott Honor Book award. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, called The Little Match Girl a "beautifully illustrated version of a classic tale." A reviewer in Horn Book called Pinkney's Aesop's Fables the "quintessential Aesop, lovingly retold in a contemporary yet timeless style embellished with a profusion of glorious illustrations." His adaptation of The Nightingale, with the setting moved from China to Morocco, also drew praise. His re-interpretation of the story is "fresh," Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist, "but true to the spirit of the original." Pinkney's artwork for The Nightingale was also praised: the "gouache and watercolor illustrations have the stained radiance of sunlight through glass; even his figures appear lit from within," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Pinkney's work in Noah's Ark "some of the finest illustrations of his career." Pinkney adheres closely to the events as told in the Bible, but unlike some other adapters of this story, he "seems utterly comfortable with the majesty of the tale," Stephanie Zvirin commented in Booklist. As a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted, Pinkney's "sweeping spreads of dappled paintings capture brilliantly the hugeness of the Ark," and Zvirin thought that Pinkney's "strong, straightforward" language evoked "the deep rumble of a distant voice."

Although Pinkney is now an accomplished artist and teaches art to others at numerous universities, he has not lost the drive to improve that launched his career. He told SAAS that his future goals are "to have my work continually grow and to have something artistic to put back into the pot. Another goal is to continue acting as a role model, sharing my time with young artists and children. As for the work itself, my interest is in doing more multi-cultural projects." As the author once commented, "How blessed and privileged I am to draw upon my childhood stories and have the opportunity to share them with you through my illustration today."

Biographical and Critical Sources


African American Almanac, edited by Jessie Carnie Smithland and Joseph Palmisano, 8th edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Cederholm, Theresa Dickason, compiler and editor, Afro-American Artists: A Bibliographical Directory, Boston Public Library (Boston, MA), 1973.

Children's Literature Review, Volume 43, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Kingman, Lee, and others, compilers, Illustrators of Children's Books: 1957-1966, Horn Book (Boston, MA), 1968.

Marcus, Leonard S., Ways of Telling, Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.

Marcus, Leonard S., Side by Side, Walker (New York, NY), 2002.

McKissack, Patricia, Goin' Someplace Special, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

Pinkney, Jerry, Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 12, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.

Twelve Black Artists from Boston, Brandeis University (Waltham, MA), 1969.


Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2002, Mondella S. Jones, "Awards Spotlight," p. 9.

Booklist, October 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Little Match Girl, p. 443; January 1, 2000, review of The Ugly Duckling, p. 825; July, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Aesop's Fables, p. 2011; September 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Nightingale, p. 121; October 1, 2002, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Noah's Ark, p. 342; February 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of God Bless the Child.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1994, Elizabeth Bush, review of John Henry, p. 54; February, 2004, review of God Bless the Child.

Horn Book, January-February, 1996, Jerry Pinkney, "John Henry," pp. 32-34; September-October, 1996, p. 589; January, 2001, review of Aesop's Fables, p. 100; November-December, 2001, Robin Smith, review of Goin' Someplace Special, pp. 736-737; November-December, 2002, Mary M. Burns, review of The Nightingale, p. 733; May-June, 2003, Barbara Bader, "Multiculturalism in the Mainstream," pp. 265-292.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1996, review of Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, p. 537; September 15, 2001, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 1362; August 1, 2002, review of The Nightingale, p. 1120; October 1, 2002, review of Noah's Ark, p. 1478; January 15, 2004, review of God Bless the Child.

New York Times, February 26, 1978; December 13, 1988; May 23, 1993, pp. WC4-WC5; August 21, 2001, Doreen Carvajal, "Illustrating Familiar Tales for a New Generation," p. E1.

New York Times Book Review, May 17, 1987, June Jordan, "A Truly Bad Rabbit," p. 32; November 13, 1995, Jack Zipes, "Power Rangers of Yore," p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2002, review of In the Forest of Your Remembrance: Thirty-three Goodly News Tellings for the Whole Family, p. 63; July 8, 2002, review of The Nightingale, p. 49; September 30, 2002, review of Noah's Ark, p. 69.

Reading Today, April-May, 2002, "Park, Wiesner Named Winners of Newbery, Caldecott Medals," p. 11.

School Library Journal, May, 1996, Louise L. Sherman, review of Minty, p. 108; November, 2000, Julie Cummins, review of Albidaro and the Mischievous Dream, p. 126; September, 2001, Mary Elam, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 199, Kathryn Kosiorek, review of In the Forest of Your Remembrance, p. 252; November, 2002, Kathy Piehl, review of Noah's Ark, pp. 146-147; October, 2003, review of Noah's Ark, p. S26; February, 2004, review of God Bless the Child.

Watercolor, fall, 2003, Daniel Grant, "Jerry Pinkney Joins the National Council on the Arts," pp. 18-23.

Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1989, Donnarae MacCann and Olga Richard, "Picture Books for Children," pp. 92-93.

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