Born on May 9 in Nutley, New Jersey, William Pène Sherman du Bois, would become one of America’s most beloved children’s book illustrators and authors. His family had been involved in the arts for generations. When Pène du Bois was eight, his family moved to Paris, where they lived for the next six years. Here, he said, he acquired a sense of order and meticulousness, which is evident throughout his books. He served as a correspondent during World War II for Yank magazine and became the first art director for The Paris Review in 1953.
His illustrations were created in pencil and then traced in ink. In a wonderful book of mystery, invention, and fun, the author writes about an inventor who crash lands his balloon in the Pacific and then sojourns on the island of Krakatoa just before it blows up. This book is the 1948 Newbery Medal winner, The 21 Balloons. As this book’s blurb says, “Half this book is based on scientific truths. The rest is absolute nonsense.” He also illustrated books for Charlotte Zolotow, among them William’s Doll, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Roald Dahl. His book, Lion, received a Caldecott Honor in 1957.
Mr. Pène du Bois died in 1993 in Nice, France.