Born on April 22, 1887 in Minden, Germany, Kurt Wiese led a colorful life before he became a children’s book illustrator.
He wanted to be an artist, but few people made their living that way, so he became an exporter in China. From 1909 to 1915, he traveled throughout the Far East. When World War I began, he was captured by the Japanese, who sent him to a prisoner-of-war camp in Australia. That’s when he began to take his art seriously.
After being released at the end of the war, Wiese returned to Germany, but the economy was so bad that he followed many other Germans in moving to Brazil. He began his illustration career there.
In 1927, Wiese moved to the United States, where he married Gertrude Hansen in 1930. They lived on a farm in Frenchtown, New Jersey for the rest of their lives. His first critical success was Felix Salten’s Bambi in 1929.
Mr. Wiese wrote and illustrated 20 children’s books and illustrated another 300 for other authors. He received the Caldecott Honor Book Award in 1946 for You Can Write Chinese and in 1948 for Fish in the Air. He also illustrated the Newbery Award winner Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, and the Newbery Honor books Honk the Moose, Li Lun, Lad of Courage, and Daughter of the Mountains. Mr. Wiese died on May 27, 1974.