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Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and, to the shock of his millions of fans, almost did not become an illustrator at all. He attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with the vague idea of pursuing a law degree, but after a freshman course in drawing he decided to study sculpture. In 1972, he moved to Providence, Rhode Island for a graduate degree in sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design. Shortly after he received his degree, Van Allsburg began to show his sculptures in New York City galleries, where their surreal imaginativeness quickly won him a reputation as an artist to watch. He didn't begin drawing until his teaching commitments at RISD and a cold studio too far across town kept him from his sculpture.

To his wife, Lisa, and other friends, Van Allsburg's pictures showed a strong narrative style that they thought would translate well into illustrations for a book. Houghton Mifflin thought so too, and quickly signed Van Allsburg to his first book deal. Houghton Mifflin has published fifteen of Van Allsburg's books - from his Caldecott Honor Award-winning first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, to his recent space adventure, Zathura.

The success of Van Allsburg's Jumanji and The Polar Express is also phenomenal: Both received Caldecott Awards, Jumanji was made into a movie in 1996, and The Polar Express starring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis, was released last November. Among his other books, The Widow's Broom and The Sweetest Fig have also been optioned for the movies.

Over the course of his stellar career, Van Allsburg's books have never failed to fascinate the intellect, pique the senses and emphasize the power of imagination. Each one showcases his unfettered imagination, "a place where an ordinary world of comfort and regularity meets a world of fantasy, magic, and sometimes even menace."

Van Allsburg lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, Sophie and Anna.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

Chris Van Allsburg Facts

BirthdayJune 18, 1949 (74)
BirthplaceGrand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Selected Filmography

Not available.