TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Bruce Degen

Bruce Degen

Bruce Degen (born June 14, 1945) is a children's literature author and illustrator, with over forty books to his credit.

He is probably best known as the illustrator of The Magic School Bus series of books, by Joanna Cole. He has collaborated with Nancy White Charstrom on the popular Jesse Bear books, and the Caldecott Medal winning Commander Toad series by Jane Yolen. Degen has authored Jamberry, Daddy Is a Doodlebug, and Shirley's Wonderful Baby.

He was encouraged by an elementary school teacher to become an illustrator, and pursue his primary love for art found in children’s books. Humor is one of his key values, as expressed by a quote comparing children's illustration to traditional fine arts: "You don't see many people walking around a gallery are chuckling. And I realized that I wanted a chuckle."

His career has included such diverse activities as advertising design, teaching art to students, teaching children's book illustration to adults, painting scenery for opera productions, and running a lithography studio in Israel. Mr. Degen currently lives in Connecticut.

He was born in 1945 and raised in Brooklyn. His youth was marked by the contrast between urban New York City with the summertimes he spent in rural upstate New York, where he would pick wild berries. He credits these experiences as the inspiration for his book, Jamberry.

"It was green. It was soft. You could walk around in bare feet, and we used to go out and pick lots of berries that grew wild. I always thought of the world as being particularly generous and joyful. And when I was searching my memories, trying to write a book for very young children about being joyful, that popped right up."

Degen attended elementary school in Brooklyn, New York, and went on to attend art schools in Manhattan, including LaGuardia High School and Cooper Union for his Bachelors of Fine Arts. He then attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he obtained a Masters of Fine Arts, with a major in printmaking and a minor in painting.

Before creating the Magic Schoolbus series, he taught art and other subjects at Beach Channel High School in the Rockaway Beach, Queens section of New York City.

"Mr. Degen, his wife [Christine Degen], and their two sons, Benjamin and Alexander, live in Connecticut in a renovated farmhouse with ducks on the pond, bats in the barn, and a family tree that Jesse Bear himself would love to climb."

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