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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Steptoe, John

John Steptoe Stevie
Story of Jumping Mouse Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

Author and illustrator John Steptoe was born on Sept. 14, 1950, in Brooklyn, NY. From early childhood, he drew pictures and told stories to go with them. He received formal art training at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan.

He published his first book, Stevie, at the age of 19 (written at the age of 16!). It received outstanding critical acclaim for depicting a black inner city child’s experiences in black dialog and simple illustrations. It appeared in its entirety in Life magazine, hailed as “a new kind of book for black children.”

Steptoe also studied at the Vermont Academy and was instructed by the African American oil painter, Norman Lewis. He went on to a 20-year career, illustrating 15 picture books, ten of which he also wrote. The Story of the Jumping Mouse (1985) and Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (1988) were both awarded Caldecott Honors. Steptoe was also awarded the Coretta Scott King award twice, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and the Milner Award.

Study of his work shows great range and growth as an artist and a man, but his work was stopped short by his death at the age of 39, after a long illness. His book Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters has been proclaimed as a breakthrough for African American storytelling for children.

 

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