TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Russell Hoban

Russell Hoban

Russell Hoban was born on February 4, 1925, at 2:50 a.m. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents, Abram and Jennie Hoban, were Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine; his father was the advertising manager of a Jewish newspaper as well as the director of a Philadelphia drama guild. Mr. Hoban was thus exposed to the arts early on, and became interested in writing at an early age, winning prizes for his stories and poems during his school years. He has two sisters, Tana and Freeda, to whom The Moment Under The Moment is dedicated. (Tana took the sphinx photos on the jacket.)

Mr. Hoban served in the U.S. Infantry during WWII. For a time he taught art in New York and Connecticut. He then worked as a freelance illustrator, and eventually an advertising copywriter. He also managed to begin writing books during this period.

He began publishing children's books in 1958, and since then has published more than 50. Many of these books were illustrated by Lillian Hoban, whom he met at the Graphic Sketch Club in Philadelphia. They also studied together at the Philadelphia Museum School. They were married in 1944, and had four children: Phoebe, Abrom, Esmé, and Julia. Mr. Hoban mentions Esmé in the acknowledgements to Pilgermann, saying that in 1980 she and her husband Moti took him on the trip that inspired the book.

In 1968, he published his first full-length novel, The Mouse and His Child. It's widely regarded as a children's classic, though Mr. Hoban himself has said he thinks of it simply as his first novel, rather than a book strictly for children. It was made into an animated film in 1977, featuring the voices of Peter Ustinov and Chloris Leachman.

In 1969 Mr. Hoban moved to London (originally for a two-year stay) and has resided there ever since. His marriage to Lillian broke up about this time; she returned to the U.S. and continued to live in Wilton, Connecticut with the children. Though her collaborations with Mr. Hoban ended when the marriage broke up, she continued to write and illustrate children's books, including some collaborations with their daughter Julia (to whom Bread and Jam for Frances is dedicated).