TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Trina Schart Hyman

Trina Schart Hyman

Trina was born on April 8, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Margaret Doris Bruck and Albert H. Schart. She grew up in a rural area of Pennsylvania learning to read and draw at an early age. She credits her mother for instilling in her the joy of books by reading to her from the time she was an infant. She spent a whole year wearing a red satin cape that her mother had made for her because her favorite story was Little Red Riding Hood.

Trina’s father fueled her imagination by telling her magical tales about the origins of the universe. He also brought her to the Philadelphia Art Museum on days when they had to drive into the city to visit the orthodontist. About this time, her younger sister Karleen was born. When Karleen was old enough, they shared elaborate fairy adventures together, mostly concocted by Trina to amuse little Karleen.

Although she skipped first grade, Trina never felt like she was a good student, preferring to doodle rather than do the assigned work. It wasn’t until she enrolled at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art in 1956 that she blossomed.

In 1959, she married mathematician and engineer, Harris Hyman, and they moved to Boston where he had gotten a job. She continued studying at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. After graduation in 1960, Trina and her husband moved to Stockholm, Sweden where he attended the university and worked for IBM part time. During the two years that they lived there, Trina studied at the Konstfackskolan (Swedish State Art School), and illustrated her first children’s book called Toffe och den lilla bilen (Toffe and the Little Car).

The manuscript of Trina’s first children’s book was written in Swedish, which she had to translate before drawing the illustrations. Upon returning to Boston, Trina met Helen Jones, the children’s book editor of Little, Brown Publishing. Jones was instrumental in helping and guiding Trina’s career.

The Hyman’s had a baby girl, Katrin, in 1963, who Trina describes as being the most “stubborn, aggressive, opinionated baby” that she has ever seen. After a brief move to New York in 1965, they divorced in 1968, and Trina and Katrin moved to Lyme, New Hampshire with friends.

Trina would work late into the night while everyone slept, and her friend Nancie would get up early to get the children off to school. Soon, they bought an old farmhouse in Lyme, where Trina still lives today.

Distrustful of technology, Trina proudly admits to not owning a “mind-destroying, soul-sucking” television, or any other convenience remotely technological. Making a solemn vow at the time of her daughter’s birth, she chose instead to fill their home with hundreds of good books and took the time to read them. She credits this practice with teaching her daughter to read at the age of four.

By 1971, she was approached by the editors of a new children’s magazine called Cricket, and became their art director until 1979. She hired quality illustrators and was instrumental in forming the early style of the magazine, which, no doubt, contributed to its reputation as one of the finest children’s magazine on the market today.

Trina received the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1984 for Little Red Riding Hood, which is still one of her favorite stories. The following year, she received the Caldecott Medal for Saint George and the Dragon, written by Margaret Hodges, and in 1990, again she received an Honor Medal for Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Her latest book, A Child's Calendar by John Updike, was just voted a Caldecott Honor Book for 2000.

It was not until her daughter’s marriage to a man from Cameroon, that Trina realized that all of her heroes and heroines were white. She began to see a need for multicultural children’s books. For The Fortune Tellers, she was able to convince writer and friend Lloyd Alexander to change the setting to Cameroon by changing only a few words in his manuscript. She had been to visit Katrin twice while she lived in Cameroon and had fallen for the beautiful countryside and its people.

Trina's days are shorter now with fewer book contracts by choice. Rheumatoid arthritis has cut her production down to only one book a year.


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