Meet the Author/Illustrator

Chris Van Allsburg

Portrait of Chris Van Allsburg

When Chris Van Allsburg was growing up, he had no idea he would one day be an artist. He did enjoy art, however, especially drawing cartoon characters. His favorite time was the two days a week when he had art class at school. He even went to school sick if it was an art day! As he grew older, Van Allsburg's interest in art faded a little bit. But after high school, he enrolled in an art school, mostly because he thought the classes would be easy. He was wrong about that! The classes were long and hard, and he felt that the other students had more art experience than he did. But he discovered that he still loved art as much as he had when he was younger. He mainly studied sculpture, and he went on to get a Master's degree in sculpture after college.

Van Allsburg wasn't a sculptor for very long, though. Just for fun, he began "drawing little pictures" at home. "It was either that or watch TV," he remembers. In time, he thought of a story to go with the pictures. That story became his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. The dog Van Allsburg created in that book has appeared in most of his other books since then. The dog, Fritz, is special to Van Allsburg, because he is based on a real dog Van Allsburg once knew. "It's just a little thing I do to amuse myself, I guess — to always put the dog in the book as a little homage to him," he says.

Chris Van Allsburg doesn't have a favorite subject to draw. He says, "It's not the thing that's important to me so much as the feeling the picture gives after you've drawn it. I have a favorite mood I like in my art. I like things to be mysterious." Look again at the illustrations for The Stranger. What qualities of the paintings help make the mood of the story mysterious? Talk over your ideas with a partner.

Photography Credit

Van Allsburg

Other Books Written and Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

  • Jumanji
  • Ben's Dream
  • The Wreck of the Zephyr
  • The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
  • The Polar Express
  • The Z Was Zapped
  • Two Bad Ants
  • Just a Dream
  • The Sweetest Fig
  • Bad Day at Riverbend

Books Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

  • Swan Lake
    (written by Mark Helprin)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
    (written by C. S. Lewis)
  • A City in Winter: The Queen's Tale
    (written by Mark Helprin)