Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney (born December 22, 1939) is an American illustrator of children’s books. He has received the Caldecott Medal five times,Coretta Scott King Award four times, four New York Times Best Illustrated Awards (most recently 2006 Little Red Hen), four Gold and four Silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (John Henry 1994). In 2000 he was given the Virginia Hamilton Literary award from Kent State University and in 2004 the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for outstanding contributions in the field of children’s literature.


Pinkney was born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1939, and began drawing at the age of four. As a child he had great difficulty with dyslexia in elementary school, but his love of and talent for drawing was useful in elevating his self-esteem and gaining the attention of his teachers and fellow classmates. In junior high school his work was noticed by cartoonist John Liney, who encouraged him to pursue the career of an artist.

Pinkney concentrated on commercial art at the Dobbins Vocational School as a teen, and was granted a full scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, where he met his wife Gloria. Upon graduation, he held a variety of positions in the field of design and illustration, including as a greeting card designer. Eventually he founded Kaleidoscope Studios with fellow artists, and two years later he opened his own Jerry Pinkney Studio and focused on illustrating children’s books.

Pinkney’s illustrative work often incorporates African American motifs. His works include Patricia C. McKissack’s Goin’ Someplace Special, a story of segregation in mid-century South, John Henry, for which he received one of his five Caldecott honors, and Julius Lester’s Tales of Uncle Remus. He also designed twelve postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage series. "I always wanted to bring a sense of dignity to my characters," says Pinkney. "I personalize my characters. You see through my work how varied black folks are."

Literary Works

At a very young age Jerry became interested in drawing. He had two older brothers who enjoyed drawing comics books and photo magazines and he began to follow in their footsteps. Soon he began to realize that he would rather sit and draw instead of doing other things. While in junior high school Jerry worked at a newsstand and sketched people as they passed by. This is where Jerry met cartoonist John Liney who encouraged him to draw and exposed him to making a living from drawing. Jerry went on and graduated from Dobbins Vocational School and attended Philadelphia Museum College of Art. He later moved to Boston where he worked at a greeting card company and went on to open Kaleidoscope Studio with two other artists. He eventually opened his own studio, Jerry Pinkney Studio, and later moved to New York. Mr. Pinkney has always had an interest in diversity and many of his children’s books celebrate multicultural and African-American themes. Mr. Pinkney still lives in New York and has been an art professor at the University of Delaware and State University of New York at Buffalo. Over the years he has given workshops and been a guest speaker at universities and art schools across the country.

Books Illustrated

  • Tayler, Mildred. The Song of the Trees. New York: Dial, 1975.
  • Lester, Julius. The Tales of Uncle Remus. New York: Dial, 1987.
  • San Souci, Robert D. The Talking Eggs. New York: Dial, 1989.
  • Pinkney, Gloria. Back Home. New York: Dial, 1992.
  • Lester, Julius. John Henry. New York: Dial, 1994.
  • Lester, Julius. Sam and the Tigers. New York: Dial, 1996.
  • Lester, Julius. Black Cowboy, Wild Horses. New York: Dial, 1998.
  • Andersen, Hans Christian. The Little Match Girl. Adapted by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial, 1999.
  • Andersen, Hans Christian. The Nightingale. Adapted by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial, 2002.
  • Lester, Julius. Little Red Hen. New York: Dial, 2006.
  • Lester, Julius. The Old African. New Tork: Dial, 2005..


  • “Building Bridges: The Life and Times of Jerry Pinkney.” 2004.


“Books give me a great feeling of personal and artistic satisfaction. When I’m 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, it’s magic.”

“I wanted to show that an African-American artist could make it in this country on a national level in the graphic arts. I want to be a strong role model for my family and for other African Americans.”


External Links


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