TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Pat Cummings

Pat Cummings

Pat Cummings is the illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award winner My Mama Needs Me, written by Mildred Pitts Walter. She is also the author/illustrator of the Harper Growing Tree book, My Aunt Came Back and Angel Baby. An instructor of children's book illustration at the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, she lives with her husband and a big cat named Cash in Brooklyn, NY.

"In addition to the Coretta Scott King and the Boston Globe-Horn Book awards, Pat Cummings is the recipient of nine t-shirts, thirteen mugs, 315 ballerina drawings, and one embroidered pillow from readers. She has been illustrating children's books ever since her graduation from Pratt Institute in the mid-seventies. Ten years later, she began writing them as well when she realized that exposing her younger brother's childhood exploits was an ideal means of revenge. Repeatedly changing Artie's name (to avoid legal action) has made it possible for her to sneak several books about him into print. She thinks he secretly loves it.

"My father was in the army," Pat recalls, "and, as a result, we were constantly traveling. We never lived anywhere for more than three years at a time. My sisters and brother and I were always the new kids on the block." She appreciates having been exposed to different places and lifestyles and still likes to travel and team about other cultures. Now it is research for different books that leads her to African marketplaces, castles in Spain, or unexplored comers of New York City.

"Through the years, drawing was a constant form of entertainment and a handy ice-breaker in new school situations. "In fifth grade, I did a healthy business selling ballerina drawings during recess. My dancers had pinpoint waists, huge flowered tutus, and legs that tapered down to tiny, needlelike toe shoes. Luckily, my parents encouraged my interest in art. My whole family was-and is a very close-knit and supportive unit.

"I grew up in the fairy-tale generation. My earliest memories are of stories that my mother read to us from a book called Tales of the Rhine. We lived in Germany then and would visit castles along the Rhine that made the stories come to life. I recall scenes with dragons and princesses and heroes who turned into stars. The book had few illustrations, but I still remember scenes as they appeared in my mind while she read."

"Ms. Cummings doesn't recall having picture books with positive Black characters as a child. Her goal now is to insure that children who read her books will find a bit of themselves, their world, and their stories reflected in the pages. "I want the book to be worth the time children spend with it. They have to find something between the pages that strengthens them, informs them, embraces or just tickles them. Then, the book works."

"Currently Pat and her husband, Chuku Lee, live in a loft in beautiful downtown Brooklyn, New York. Their cat, Cash, occasionally models for her books, as do family members and friends."