Discovering that some of your favorite children’s stories are written by the same author is quite an incredible find. Contemporary classics such as: Jumanji, The Polar Express, and Zathura, to name a few, were all illustrated and written by Chris Van Allsburg.
Born June 18, 1949, in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, Van Allsburg was the youngest child of Richard and Doris Van Allsburg. He was an excellent student and due to his intelligence, when the time came, he was selected to be interviewed by an advisor from the University of Michigan, who would admit students then and there if they deemed fit for the university. Before his interview, Van Allsburg had not put too much thought into what he would like to study—always leaning towards math and science, but after a brief consultation with his academic advisor, he developed an interest for architecture and design.
Despite the fact that Van Allsburg had never taken an art class in his life, he was able to sway the advisor into believing that he had been studying the arts privately at home so he could focus on more strict academics in the classroom—landing him admittance into the College of Arts. Van Allsburg began his studies during the fall of 1967, and found himself overwhelmed by the challenges of being an art student without any substantial background knowledge, but soon he found his passion in sculpting. Van Allsburg would earn his arts degree in sculpting and graduated in 1972 and continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Starting A Career
After finishing school, Van Allsburg settled down in Providence and continued sculpting and showing his works at exhibitions. At night, he would find himself making little drawings, and although they didn’t seem like art to him, Allan Stone—Van Allsburg's exhibitor—found potential in them. Eventually, they were exhibited at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. Van Allsburg's wife, an elementary school teacher, encouraged him to design storybook illustrations.
Van Allsburg soon connected with Walter Lorraine, an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company, who thoroughly enjoyed his illustrations but wanted Van Allsburg to come up with his own stories to illustrate, rather than someone else’s. Van Allsburg accepted the challenge and in 1979 published his first children’s book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. He has since written and illustrated fifteen of his own books, as well as illustrated books for Mark Helprin.
Van Allsburg has been repeatedly recognized for his books, receiving awards such as the Caldecott Honor Medal and Caldecott Medals for both Jumanji and The Polar Express, as well as the National Book Award. He has undeniably made substantial contributions to children’s literature with his craft. See below for a brief selection of our collection on Chris Van Allsburg.
A Selection of Collectible Chris Van Allsburg Books
Jumanji tells the story of Peter and Judy, a curious set of siblings who set off in search for a cure for boredom, only to be face with real-life dangers of the jungle after begining to play an abandoned board game found in the park. Published in 1981 and received the Caldecott Medal the following year. Details>
The Polar Express
The Polar Express describes a young boy's trip to the North Pole on a train filled with other children and the magical "first gift" he receives from Santa Claus. This classic story rekindles the spirit of Christmas in audiences both young and old. Details>
The Wretched Stone
Told through the diary of Captain Allan Hope, The Wretched Stone narrates the happenings of Hope's crew, after bringing a glowing rock aboard the Rita Anne. Details>
Picking up where Jumanji left off, Zathura illustrates what happens to Danny and Walter Budwing, the unfortunate brothers who find the game that took Peter and Julie on an unforgetable adventure. Details>