Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Chris Van Allsburg'
Start a new discussion about 'Chris Van Allsburg'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Chris Van Allsburg is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 and illustrator
Illustrator
An Illustrator is a narrative artist who specializes in enhancing writing by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text...

 of children's books
Children's literature
Children's literature is for readers and listeners up to about age twelve; it is often defined in four different ways: books written by children, books written for children, books chosen by children, or books chosen for children. It is often illustrated. The term is used in senses which sometimes...

. He twice won the Caldecott Medal
Caldecott Medal
The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children , a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published that year. The award was named in honor of nineteenth-century English...

, for Jumanji
Jumanji
Jumanji is the title of a 1981 children's illustrated short story and fantasy story written and illustrated by the American author Chris Van Allsburg. It was made into a 1995 film of the same name. Both the book and the movie are about a magical board game that implements real animals and other...

(1982) and The Polar Express
The Polar Express
The Polar Express is a 1985 children's book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, a former professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. It was adapted as an Oscar-nominated motion-capture film in 2004....

(1985), both of which he wrote and illustrated, and both of which were later adapted into successful motion pictures. He received the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1980 for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
The Garden of Abdul Gasazi is a best-selling children's picture book written in 1979 by the American author Chris Van Allsburg...

.

Early life and education


Van Allsburg was born in East Grand Rapids, Michigan
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
East Grand Rapids is a city in Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is a suburb of Grand Rapids and is located on the shore of Reeds Lake. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 10,694.-Geography:...

 where he was the second child to his mother Doris Christianen Van Allsburg and his father Richard Van Allsburg. Van Allsburg became a younger brother when his older sister was born in 1947. When Chris was first born his family lived in an old farm house. His family then moved when Chris was three years old. They moved to a new house at the edge of Grand Rapids. His new house was located close enough to his elementary school, so he could walk there for class. His family moved again to East Grand Rapids. He would attend middle school and high school at East Grand Rapids. He attended the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

, which at that time included the 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
Rhode Island School of Design
Rhode Island School of Design is a fine arts and design college located in Providence, Rhode Island. It was founded in 1877. Located at the base of College Hill, the RISD campus is contiguous with the Brown University campus. The two institutions share social, academic, and community resources and...

 (RISD), graduating with a master's degree in sculpture in 1975. After graduation, Van Allsburg set up a sculpture studio.

Career


While Van Allsburg focused on sculpture, his wife thought that his drawings would make good illustrations for children’s books. After his wife showed his pictures to a children’s book editor, Van Allsburg wrote his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, in 1979. Since then, he has written and illustrated fifteen books. His art has also been featured on the covers of an edition of C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

' series The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children by C. S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages...

published by HarperCollins in 1994, as well as in three children's books written by Mark Helprin
Mark Helprin
Mark Helprin is an American novelist, journalist, and conservative commentator.-Background:Helprin was raised on the Hudson River and in the British West Indies, and holds degrees from Harvard College and Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His postgraduate work was done at Princeton...

.

Works


His books often depict fantastic, uncontrolled events and utilize sometimes brutal irony. Van Allsburg breaks out of the comfortable world of children literature to explore the darker side of human nature. For example, his book The Sweetest Fig
The Sweetest Fig
The Sweetest Fig is a children's fantasy novel written in 1993 by the American author Chris Van Allsburg. It tells the dark, unsettling story of an affluent, cold-hearted French dentist who eats a fig that makes his wildest dreams come true....

is about a selfish man who is suddenly given the opportunity to make his wildest dreams come true. His greed is eventually his downfall. This is not an unusual moral for a story in children books, but Van Allsburg's chilling characterization of the man brings a frightening tone to the narrative. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a 1984 picture book by the American author Chris Van Allsburg consisting of a series of unrelated, highly detailed images in the author's distinctive style...

, a collection of images on one side, and one sentence on the other (meant to be 'recovered pages' of longer books) continues the themes of darker undertones and was the inspiration for a short story by author Stephen King
Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy fiction. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books...

, in his collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes (as his author's note expands upon). The Wretched Stone
The Wretched Stone
The Wretched Stone is a children's picture book written and illustrated by the American author Chris Van Allsburg.Told from the perspective of Captain Randall Ethan Hope, the crew of the Rita Anne finds a strange, glowing, cubic stone on an exotic island...

, in which a ship's crew is mesmerized and corrupted by the titular rock, is an allegorical tale about the negative impact of television .

Other literary themes include dreams, the environment, and items with lives of their own (like the board games in Jumanji
Jumanji
Jumanji is the title of a 1981 children's illustrated short story and fantasy story written and illustrated by the American author Chris Van Allsburg. It was made into a 1995 film of the same name. Both the book and the movie are about a magical board game that implements real animals and other...

 and Zathura
Zathura
Zathura is an illustrated children's book by the American author Chris Van Allsburg as well as a film that was based on the book. Two boys are drawn into an intergalactic adventure when their house is magically hurled through space...

, two books which are almost the same story, with the only difference being the theme of the board game and the events which are caused by playing).

Many books feature Fritz, a bull terrier
Bull Terrier
The Bull Terrier or English Bull Terrier is a breed of dog in the terrier family. They are known for their large, egg-shaped head, small triangular eyes, and "jaunty gait." Their temperament has been described as generally fun-loving, active and clownish...

 that is based on a real-life dog owned by Chris Van Allsburg's brother-in-law. He appears in many of the books and even on his website, sometimes as a real dog, or a toy, or other things as a tribute to the dog's life.

Van Allsburg's drawings are particularly notable for their use of perspective
Perspective (visual)
Perspective, in context of vision and visual perception, is the way in which objects appear to the eye based on their spatial attributes; or their dimensions and the position of the eye relative to the objects...

. In many cases the illustrations are drawn from a child's eye height. This viewpoint likely appeals to children because it conveys the world as they see it. It may also appeal to adults because they may (unconsciously) perceive the world as they did when they were children.

Chris Van Allsburg lives in Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...

 with Lisa Van Allsburg, his wife of 30 years. They have two daughters, Sophia and Anna. Van Allsburg converted to Judaism
Conversion to Judaism
Conversion to Judaism is a formal act undertaken by a non-Jewish person who wishes to be recognised as a full member of the Jewish community. A Jewish conversion is both a religious act and an expression of association with the Jewish people...

, his spouse's faith.

External links