Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg (born June 18, 1949) is an American illustrator and writer of children's books. He has won two Caldecott Medals for U.S. picture book illustration, for Jumanji (1981) and The Polar Express (1985), both of which he also wrote; both were later adapted as successful motion pictures. He was also a Caldecott runner-up in 1980 for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.[1][2] For his contribution as a children's illustrator, he was a 1986 U.S. nominee for the biennial International Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition for creators of children's books.[3] He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Michigan in April 2012.

Chris Van Allsburg
Van Allsburg in 2011
Van Allsburg in 2011
Born (1949-06-18) June 18, 1949 (age 73)
East Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
OccupationIllustrator, writer
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Rhode Island School of Design
GenreChildren's picture books
Notable works
Notable awardsCaldecott Medal
1982, 1986
Lisa Van Allsburg
(m. 1974)

Life and careerEdit

Van Allsburg was born on June 18, 1949 to a Dutch family in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, the second child of Doris Christianen and Richard Van Allsburg.[4] He has a sister named Karen, born in 1947. His family lived in an old farmhouse, but when he was three years old, they moved to a Grand Rapids home near an elementary school that Chris was able to walk to for class. His family moved again to East Grand Rapids where he attended middle school and high school.[5]

Van Allsburg attended the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan, which at that time included an art school. He majored in sculpture, learning bronze casting, wood carving, resin molding, and other techniques.

He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 and continued his education at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), graduating with a master's degree in sculpture in 1975. After graduation, Van Allsburg set up a sculpture studio.[citation needed]

Van Allsburg struggled for a time with his sculpture studio. At home he began a series of sketches that his wife thought would be suitable for children's books. She showed his work to an editor who contracted his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, in 1979.[6]

As of 2022, Van Allsburg has written and/or illustrated 21 books. His art has also been featured on the covers of an edition of C. S. Lewis's series The Chronicles of Narnia, published by HarperCollins in 1994, as well as in three children's books written by Mark Helprin.

Personal lifeEdit

Van Allsburg lives in Beverly, Massachusetts with Lisa Van Allsburg, his wife since 1974. They have two daughters, Sophia and Anna. Van Allsburg converted to Judaism, his spouse's faith.[7]




  1. ^ "Chris Van Allsburg". Archived from the original on April 12, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  2. ^ "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "The Randolph Caldecott Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  3. ^ "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002". The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online ( Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  4. ^ Mehren, Elizabeth (December 12, 1995). "'Jumanji' Author Getting Aboard Hollywood Express". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "Biography". Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  6. ^ "Chris Van Allsburg – The Polar Express".
  7. ^ Bloom, Nate (November 12, 2004). "Celebrity Jews". Retrieved November 18, 2011.

External linksEdit