Chris Raschka – American illustrator and author, b. 1959
Chris Raschka’s bright colors and energetic characters have established him as one of today’s foremost children’s book creators. The son of history professors, Raschka was always drawing as a child. Though he majored in biology at Saint Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minnesota, Raschka eventually parlayed his talent for illustration into editorial cartooning for a small newspaper; He eventually moved with his wife to New York City in order to gain more opportunities to illustrate children’s books.
Chris Raschka’s love of jazz inspired his first picture book, Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop (1992). Breaking out of traditional picture book treatment of biography, the book’s loose narrative structure draws the reader into the cadence and rhythms of Jazz music. Raschka’s scraggly line drawings of Parker and his saxophone skillfully convey the spirit of the legendary musician rather than producing an exact replica of Parker’s features. Bright colors and surreal landscapes — including marching lollipops, disembodied legs with dancing shoes, and jazzy birds — reflect the style of Raschka’s subsequent books.
Chris Raschka similarly jettisoned realism for a subjective style in order to capture the feelings and experiences of young children in Yo! Yes? (1993)* This Caldecott Honor Book depict the conversation of two young boys, one black and one while, who form a friendship. The Joy of breaking through sadness and boredom is conveyed with a maximum of two words per page, mimicking the way young children sometimes communicate. Spare imagery and economic language focus the reader on the excitement of new friendship. A similar style pervades the companion volume, Ring! Yo? (2000), which follows the same two characters as they talk, argue, and then make up during the course of a perfectly depicted juvenile telephone call. Provided with only one side of the phone call, the reader must imagine foe rest of the conversation. (An “explanation” is given at the end.)
Themes of loneliness and friendship are also explored in like, likes, like (1999), in which a cat is left: alone by a group of animals who have all paired off. The cat wanders the countryside until he finds a friend: a fellow cat. Waffle (2001) continues the theme of foe lonely outsider, with a different outcome. Instead of finding a friend, the title character discovers his special talents and strengths so he can quit “waffling.”
Chris Raschka has also illustrated work by other authors. His geometric backgrounds and traditional yet forward-looking drawings of children complement Margaret Wise Brown’s posthumously published Another Important Book (1999)- Swatches of patterned fabric added to paintings illuminate the poetry collection A Poke in the I (2001), edited by Paul Janeczko. Raschka’s handwriting and artwork bring to mind Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day in Happy to Be Happy (1999), an ebullient celebration of African American girls and their hair. In 2006, Chris Raschka won the Caldecott Medal for the book The Hello, Goodbye Window, written by Norton Juster . In all of Raschka’s work, the bright, lively drawings and unique narrative style have an enduring appeal.
Source: Children’s Books and their Creators, Anita Silvey.
Chris Raschka Works
As Author & Illustrator
- (Under name Christopher Raschka) R and R: A Story about Two Alphabets, Brethren Press, 1990.
- Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, Orchard (New York, NY), 1992.
- Yo! Yes?, Orchard (New York, NY), 1993.
- Elizabeth Imagined an Iceberg, Orchard (New York, NY), 1994.
- Can’t Sleep, Orchard (New York, NY), 1995.
- The Blushful Hippopotamus, Orchard (New York, NY), 1995.
- Mysterious Thelonious, Orchard (New York, NY), 1997.
- Arlene Sardine, Orchard (New York, NY), 1998.
- Like Likes Like, DK (New York, NY), 1999.
- Moosey Moose, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Doggy Dog, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Goosey Goose, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Lamby Lamb, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Ring! Yo?, DK (New York, NY), 2000.
- Sluggy Slug, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Snaily Snail, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Whaley Whale, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Wormy Worm, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
- Waffle, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
- Little Tree, based on a poem by e. e. cummings, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
- (With Vladimir Radunsky) Table Manners: The Edifying Story of Two Friends Whose
- Discovery of Good Manners Promises Them a Glorious Future, Candlewick(Cambridge, MA), 2001.
- John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.
- Talk to Me about the Alphabet, Holt (New York, NY), 2003.
- (With Vladimir Radunsky) Boy Meets Girl; Girl Meets Boy, Seuil Chronicle (SanFrancisco, CA), 2004.
- New York Is English, Chattanooga Is Creek, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
- Five for a Little One, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.
- James H. Lehman, The Saga of Shakespeare Pintlewood and the Great Silver Fountain Pen, Brotherstone (Elgin, IL), 1990.
- James H. Lehman, Owl and the Tuba, Brotherstone (Elgin, IL), 1991.
- Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Colleen Aalsburg Wiessner, Benjamin Brody’s Backyard Bag, Brethren Press (Elgin, IL), 1991.
- George Dolnikowski, This I Remember, Brethren Press (Elgin, IL), 1994.
- Nikki Giovanni, The Genie in the Jar, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.
- Simple Gifts: A Shaker Hymn, Holt (New York, NY), 1998.
- Margaret Wise Brown, Another Important Book, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
- bell hooks, Happy to Be Nappy, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.
- Sharon Creech, Fishing in the Air, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
- Paul Janeczko, editor, A Poke in the Eye, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
- bell hooks, Be Boy Buzz, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
- Claude Nougaro, Armstrong, Didier Jeunesse (Paris, France), 2002.
- Francis Bellamy, I Pledge Allegiance: The Pledge of Allegiance, with commentary by Bill Martin, Jr., and Michael Sampson, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
- Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
- bell hooks, Skin Again, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.
- Agnès Grunelius-Hollard, Petite fille et le loup, Didier Jeunesse (Paris, France), 2004.
- Paul B. Janeczko, editor, A Kick in the Head, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
- Norton Juster, The Hello, Good-bye Window, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.