Robert Kraus, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was born on June 21, 1925. His given name was Herman Robert Kraus. He dropped the Herman when he was in art school. When he was a young boy, he decided he wanted to become a cartoonist and sold his first work—to a barbershop—when he was 10. “The greatest compliment anyone can give you is to buy your stuff,” said Robert Kraus.
He went on to be complimented by Esquire, the Saturday Evening Post, and with many, many covers for The New Yorker. Eventually, he became aware of the artfulness of the stories and illustrations in children’s books and applied his creative energies to their publication. His first book as author and illustrator interested both Pat Cummings at Oxford University Press and Ursula Nordstrom at Harper Brothers. It was Oxford which published his first book, Junior the Spoiled Cat, in 1955. That same year, Harper published All the Mice Came. Harper continued to publish Kraus’ books until 1967, when Kraus founded Windmill Books, a small press with big books. He is best remembered forWhose Mouse Are You?, Milton the Early Riser, and Herman the Helper, all of which were illustrated by Jose Aruego and Arianne Dewey.
“I wrote Leo the Late Bloomer when I was having business problems,” Kraus said. “I tend to write about problems—Miranda’s Beautiful Dream was inspired by Martin Luther King.” He wrote Junior and the Spoiled Cat to keep himself calm when his wife, Pamela, was in labor and he couldn’t reach the doctor.
“I never slant my books to children,” he said in 1979. “My books are not sickening, cloyingly sweet, and they have a point. I’m not a person who likes to write a lot, and children’s books are the ideal forum for my ideas.”
In all, he wrote and/or illustrated more than 200 books for children. His most recent titles were Mouse in Love, published by Orchard Books and Little Louis, The Baby Bloomer, published by Harper Collins, both in 2000.
Robert Kraus married his wife, Pamela, in 1946. Together, they raised two sons, Bruce and William.
Very sadly, this talented illustrator, cartoonist, publisher, and author died in 2001.