CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG Biography - Writers


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Name: Chris Van Allsburg                                                             
Born: June 18, 1949                                                                 
Chris Van Allsburg (born June 18, 1949 in East Grand Rapids, Michigan) is an         
American author and illustrator of children's books. He won the Caldecott Medal     
for Jumanji (1982) and The Polar Express (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     
He attended art school at the University of Michigan, and received his MFA from     
Rhode Island School of Design. Mr. Van Allsburg is said to have disliked             
children before becoming a father, making his decision to work on children's         
books rather odd.                                                                   
His books often depict fantastic, uncontrolled events and utilize sometimes         
brutal irony. Van Allsburg breaks out of the comfortable world of children's         
literature to explore the darker side of human nature. For example, his book The     
Sweetest Fig 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's books, but Van Allsburg's             
chilling characterization of the man brings a frightening tone to the narrative.     
The Wretched Stone, 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 and Zathura).                             
Every book features Fritz, a bull terrier that is based on a real-life dog owned     
by Chris Van Allsburg's brother-in-law. He appears in every book and even on his     
website, sometimes as a real dog, or a toy, or other things as a tribute to the     
dog's death.