Born on August 10, 1917, in Yonkers, New York, Margot Ladd Tomes moved with her family to Long Island when she was almost three. It was a charming, rural area with colorful people and accents. Some of those people were members of her family: the artistic Pene du Bois were cousins. She grew up with William Pene du Bois, who won the 1948 Newbery Medal for The Twenty-One Balloons and illustrated William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow.
She attended the Pratt Institute but didn’t like it—she preferred studying English and thought she might be a teacher. Instead, she was hired by a department store to create paintings for their children’s department. Throughout her life, she would design wallpaper and fabrics.
Her first children’s book was Brave Balloon of Benjamin Buckley by Barbara Wersba, published in 1963. It was Ms. Wersba who asked Ms. Tomes to illustrate her newly contracted book. Margot Tomes enjoyed it so much that she went on to illustrate more than forty books for other authors, including several for Jean Fritz. She worked for Bowman/Nobel, Clarion, Coward, Crowell, Holiday House, Lippincott, Lothrop, Putnam, and Seabury Press. She lived in New York City, where she died on July 2, 1991.