Born in Amsterdam on May 5, 1910, Leo Lionni received his doctorate in economics from the University of Genoa. But he found himself drawn to the artwork he’d been practicing since age six. In 1933, he began his career in advertising design as an art director for a food supplier.
In 1939, in order to avoid the unhealthy political climate in Italy, Lionni emigrated to the United States, where he worked as an art director for the N.W. Ayer advertising agency. In 1949, he became the art director for Fortune magazine.
In 1959, he began his career in children’s books with the publication of Little Blue and Little Yellow, a book he devised to entertain his grandchildren while they were traveling on a commuter train. Today, his ouvre includes four Caldecott Honor titles, Inch by Inch, Frederick, Swimmy, and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse.
“Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. … It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives.”