Video:Profile of Jerry Pinkneywith Anita Silvey
Learn more about the life and work of famed children's book author, Jerry Pinkney.See Transcript
Transcript:Profile of Jerry Pinkney
I’m Anita Silvey, author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from A Children’s Book and The Children’s Book a Day Almanac online. And I’m here for About.com. Let’s talk about the work and life of Jerry Pinkney.
Early Career as an Illustrator
Jerry Pinkney was born in Philadelphia, 1939, 1940, and he absolutely loved drawing. It was a passion from childhood and his parents encouraged. And, so, eventually he will go to the Philadelphia College of Art and study there. And, came in the early 1960s to Boston, as part of a greeting card company, really.
Breaking Into an All-White Market
He had been trained in illustration, design. In the 1950s up through really the early 1960s, the children's book world in the United States was, as a famous article entitled it, "the all white world." There was not integration in children's books, and, in `1962, the book that’s going to change that was published, and that was Ezra Jack Keats,’ “A Snowy Day.” And it showed a black boy in Brooklyn experiencing the joy of a day of snow. But the book was so successful it was going to go ahead and sell a few million copies. That suddenly that started to open the gates to letting others in. And one of the first people to walk through that door was Jerry Pinkney. And, his first illustration assignment came in – in 1964.
So, he has had a long career that has spanned many decades. What it meant was that emerging body of black writers, who needed illustrators, Jerry was there to do that work. So, he wasn’t only doing his own picture books he was also illustrating the work of other writers.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Certainly the most important novel of that time is Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, about segregation in the south. He really creates characters that children are getting to know in this book. He became a close friend of activist Julius Lester. Julius Lester for a while pursued a musical career and then came to writing for children and so then they illustrated a series of the Brear Rabbit Tales together. They started to create books together and collaborate. And he and his wife Gloria also began to do books together. And, he’s going to grow as an artist over decades.
My favorite book of Jerry Pinkney's without question was one that he was a tireless advocate for. John Henry, the folk hero, was always his childhood hero. And, it took him a long time to convince Julius Lester that Julius Lester should write a text.
He finally convinced Julius that John Henry was a hero very much like Martin Luther King. This has some of the most brilliant of the Jerry Pinkney art work. He excels in amazing portraits, strong figures, great panoramic scenes of the countryside. This was a book that was a labor of love. He has done well over 200 books. This year, in 2010, won the Caldecott Award for the first time. He’s a wonderful inspiration for everybody out there working.
Thanks for watching, For more information, visit us online at about.com.