TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Anita Lobel

Anita Lobel

Anita Lobel was born in Cracow, Poland, just before the beginning of World War II. In the proper Jewish household of her childhood there were several servants. One of them was Anita's beloved nanny, who had taken care of Anita and her younger brother since their birth. Throughout the war, this strong-willed Catholic countrywoman guarded Anita and her brother, passing them off as her own children. For five years they were moved from town to village until they were discovered hiding in a convent and taken to a concentration camp. Somehow they survived until liberation and were brought to Sweden. Eventually Anita's parents were located, and the family was reunited in Stockholm. There Anita went to high school and began taking art lessons. When the family emigrated to New York, Anita won a scholarship to Pratt Institute.

In New York she met and married Arnold Lobel. She became a textile designer, working at home while their two children were growing up. One Christmas she gave Susan Hirschman, then Arnold Lobel's editor, three small scarves that she had made from some of the intricate flowery prints that she specialized in, Susan suggested she do a picture book, and the result was Sven's Bridge. The book was published in 1965 and made the New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year list that fall. (It was redesigned in full color and reissued by Greenwillow in 1992.)

Anita soon discovered that she could combine the exuberance of her decorative fabric designs with the narrative form of picture books. There have been many books over the years, including pictures for texts by various writers; collaborations with Arnold, such as On Market Street and The Rose in My Garden; and her own adaptations from Scandinavian folk stories (King Rooster, Queen Hen; The Pancake; The Straw Maid).

Some of Anita's most challenging favorites have been Princess Furball and Toads and Diamonds by Charlotte Huck; This Quiet Lady by Charlotte Zolotow; and The Cat and the Cook retold by Ethel Heins; as well as her own alphabet books Alison's Zinnia and Away from Home-and The Dwarf Giant, the art for which was inspired by Japanese theater. Her most recent work is her memoir of her childhood in war-torn Poland called No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War.

Anita's interests in theater and music and foreign languages have served her well in her work both as an author and an illustrator. She has also designed clothes, embroidered tapestries, and designed stained glass windows. She has been an actress and a singer. "It is the 'drama' in a picture-book text that interests me the most," she has said. "I 'stage' the story the way a director might work on a theater piece. Even though I have been involved with picture books for many years, with each new text, whether or not I have written it, I am always looking for a new 'vision.' And in the past few years full-color printing techniques have been so improved that I have had a chance to rediscover the way I wanted to paint pictures when I was a young student in art school."


Books Illustrated: