TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Stephen Gammell

Stephen Gammell

Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Stephen Gammell grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. He claims that his new book, Hey, Pancakes!, is very representative of his early family life. His father was an art editor for a major magazine and brought home periodicals that gave Stephen early artistic inspiration. His father and mother also supplied him with lots of pencils and paper, and most of all, encouragement. The rest was up to Stephen—he found pencils more entertaining than toys and credits drawing with getting him through school. He never had any formal artistic training.

He started his career with commercial freelance work, but became interested in children's book illustration. His first book, A Nutty Business, was published in 1973. Since that time, he has gone on to illustrate over fifty titles. His book, Where the Buffaloes Begin, received a Caldecott Honor in 1982, as did The Relatives Came in 1986. Song and Dance Man received the Caldecott Award in 1989. Look for him posing as a mailman in Old Henry. Many titles include likenesses of friends and neighbors and a favorite ladder-back chair.

Stephen and his wife, Linda, a photographer, live in St. Paul, Minnesota. He heads off to his studio over a restaurant and gallery every day.

"Many years ago, a dear friend and colleague was introducing me to a group of folks interested in getting into the business of picture books, and she said, 'Stephen's pictures look like they just happened before you turn the page.' That statement startled me, and I've never forgotten it.

"I have kept that in mind each time I do a book. I try to have that element of surprise and fun in every drawing. This is why I never do any sketches beforehand, or plan ahead. My desire is that it happens for me in much the same way it happens to whoever will be looking at the book.

"When I am working on the book, it's for me and for you. When the book is done, it's mostly for you. Does it work? Only you can say."