Caldecott-medalist Peggy Rathmann
was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in the suburbs with two brothers
and two sisters.
"In the summer we
lolled in plastic wading pools guzzling Kool-Aid. In the winter we sculpted
giant snow animals. It was a good life."
Ms. Rathmann graduated from Mounds View High School in New Brighton, Minnesota,
then attended colleges everywhere, changing her major often. She eventually
earned a B.A.in psychology from the University of Minnesota.
"I wanted to teach
sign language to gorillas, but after taking a class in signing, I realized
what I'd rather do was draw pictures of gorillas."
Ms. Rathmann studied commercial art at the
American Academy in Chicago, fine art at the Atelier Lack in Minneapolis,
and children's-book writing and illustration at the Otis Parsons School
of Design in Los Angeles.
"I spent the first three weeks of my writing
class at Otis Parsons filching characters from my classmates' stories.
Finally, the teacher convinced me that even a beginning writer can create
an original character if the character is driven by the writer's most
secret weirdness. Eureka! A little girl with a passion for plagiarism!
I didn't want anyone to know it was me, so I made the character look like
The resulting book, Ruby the Copycat, earned Ms. Rathmann
the "Most Promising New Author" distinction in Publishers Weekly's
1991 annual Cuffie Awards. In 1992 she illustrated Bootsie Barker
Bites for Barbara Bottner, her teacher at Otis Parsons.
A homework assignment produced an almost wordless story, Good
Night, Gorilla, inspired by a childhood memory.
"When I was little,
the highlight of the summer was running barefoot through the grass, in
the dark, screaming. We played Kick-the-Can, and Three-Times-Around-the-House,
and sometimes we just stood staring into other people's picture windows,
wondering what it would be like to go home to someone else's house."
That story, however, was only nineteen pages long, and everyone agreed
that the ending was a dud. Two years and ten endings later, Good
Night, Gorilla was published and recognized as an ALA Notable
Children's Book for 1994.
The recipient of the 1996 Caldecott Medal, Officer Buckle and
Gloria, is the story of a school safety officer upstaged by his
"We have a videotape of my mother chatting in
the dining room while, unnoticed by her or the cameraman, the dog is licking
every poached egg on the buffet. The next scene shows the whole family
at the breakfast table, complimenting my mother on the delicious poached
eggs. The dog, of course, is pretending not to know what a poached egg
is. The first time we watched that tape we were so shocked, we couldn't
stop laughing. I suspect that videotape had a big influence on my choice
of subject matter."
In 1998, Ten Minutes till Bedtime was published and recognized
as an ALA Notable Children's book. It's the hilarious story of a vacationing
crowd of hamster tourists who crash a child's countdown to bedtime.
Peggy's most recent book, The Day The
Babies Crawled Away follows the unforgettable journey of five
babies and the little boy trying to rescue them.
Ms. Rathmann lives and works in Nicasio, CA on
a ranch she shares with her husband, John Wick, and a very funny bunch
Peggy Rathmann photo by John Wick.