Since 1964, Jerry Pinkney has illustrated over 75 children’s picture books. His detailed watercolor illustrations have won five Coretta Scott King Awards and five Caldecott Honor Medals (including a 2003 Honor for Noah’s Ark). Many of Jerry Pinkney’s books address African American, multicultural, and historical themes. Most recently, he has adapted and illustrated classic tales such as Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling. Jerry Pinkney collaborates regularly with authors Julius Lester, Patricia McKissack, Robert San Souci, and his wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney. In addition to children’s books, Jerry’s artwork has appeared in museums, magazines, greeting cards, and on U.S. postage stamps. Two of his children, Myles and Brian, have also become successful children’s book illustrators.
From a very young age, Brian Pinkney loved to draw and paint. Using old brushes and scraps of paper, he tried to replicate his father’s watercolor art. Brian painted in a large closet that his mother had converted into a child-sized art studio. His passion for drawing and painting eventually led him to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. While earning a master’s degree in Illustration, Brian discovered scratchboard – a lesser-used medium that actually scratches designs into an inked board. His scratchboard art has since won two Caldecott Honor Medals and two Coretta Scott King Awards. Brian illustrates his own stories and those of other authors. He most often collaborates with his wife, author Andrea Davis Pinkney.
When Myles Pinkney was in middle school, he discovered photography. Despite his interest in painting, photography quickly became his favorite way of capturing life’s images. Myles worked as a photojournalist for newspapers and magazines before opening his own portrait and freelance photography studio. In the year 2000, Myles and his wife, Sandra L. Pinkney, teamed up to produce Shades of Black, a photo-illustrated children’s book that won numerous awards. In 2002, they published A Rainbow All Around Me, another photo-illustrated book from Scholastic that celebrates the racial diversity of children. This newest book was nominated for the NAACP Image Award.
The organizers of the 2002 National Book Festival in Washington, DC invited six members of the Pinkney family to speak and sign books. Reading Rockets’ David Meissner interviewed Jerry, Brain, and Myles Pinkney at the festival. To watch video clips, read interview transcripts, or learn more about this multi-talented family, click on the links below.
- Watch interview clips and/or read the text
- The Pinkney Story
- Some books by Jerry Pinkney
- Some books by Brian Pinkney
- Some books by Myles Pinkney
The Pinkney Story
Jerry Pinkney was born in Philadelphia in 1939. Despite his difficulties with reading and spelling, he graduated from elementary school with honors. As early as the first grade, Jerry became known as the class artist. His parents and teachers recognized, supported, and encouraged his artistic talents. After graduating from Dobbins Vocational School in Commercial Art, Jerry Pinkney received a full scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. He met his wife, Gloria Jean, while studying at Dobbins.
Jerry and Gloria Jean Pinkney later moved to Boston and raised four children. They exposed their children to a wide variety of visual, musical, and performing arts, but did so without pressure or expectation. Brian Pinkney liked to draw, paint, and make little figures out of pipe cleaners. Myles also liked to draw and paint, but by middle school had become enamored with the magic of photography.
Like his father, Brian began illustrating children’s books in watercolor. But once he discovered scratchboard, it soon became his signature medium. Brian has now illustrated over two-dozen books, including his wife Andrea’s Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, which received a Caldecott Honor in 1999. Myles Pinkney worked as a photojournalist and freelance photographer before his recent entrance into the world of children’s books with his wife, Sandra. Myles’ stunning photographs have received awards and praise from parents, teachers, and children.
Although Jerry, Brian, and Myles live in different parts of New York State, they encourage each other and even collaborate on projects. Together they co-illustrated Gloria Jean Pinkney’s 2001 book, In the Forest of Your Remembrance. All three illustrate books that their wives write. So whether it is Jerry and Gloria Jean, Brian and Andrea, or Myles and Sandra, the Pinkney name is well known and easy to find on library shelves.
Books by Brian Pinkney
|Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra|
Jazz great Duke Ellington comes alive in jaunty, jazzy text and scratchboard illustrations that swirl, twirl and move across the pages. The reader can almost hear The Duke’s music in the vibrant colors of this Caldecott Honor book.
|Max Found Two Sticks|
Max recreates the city rhythms all around him with his two sticks. His imaginative play reaches a climax when a real marching band comes down his street and a drummer gives him a pair of drumsticks. Pinkney’s animated scratchboard illustrations further enliven the text.
|Seven Candles for Kwanzaa|
Although Kwanzaa commemorates an ancient African harvest ritual, it is a relatively new holiday in North America. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa comfortably explains the origins, language, and daily themes of this warm and festive seven-day holiday.
|The Adventures of Sparrowboy|
Mild-mannered paperboy Henry collides with a sparrow and turns into Sparrowboy just like his hero, Falconman – a superhero who not only delivers the paper but also helps out the neighborhood. When Henry returns from his comic-strip fantasy, things seem just a bit better than before.
|The Faithful Friend|
Based on the lore of Martinique, two boys who have been raised as brothers risk taking on a reputed wizard when one falls in love with his daughter. Dark hued scratchboard illustrations extend the mysterious and emotional tone of the text in this Caldecott Honor book.
Books by Myles Pinkney
|A Rainbow All Around Me|
There are colors all around and each one evokes feelings and ideas. Here these colors are celebrated in lively language and full-color photographs that present – and exult – a multicultural cast of kids.
|Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children|
Children come in many colors. Different colored eyes and different types of hair combine to create beautiful and unique black children. Lyrical language is paired with well-composed photographs in this handsome book that celebrates black children specifically and all children in general.
Books by This Author
When the girl in the red cape goes to visit her grandmother who lives on the other side of the snow-filled forest, she is approached by a sly wolf who then precedes her to her destination. While the story is well known, this version is distinguished by opulent illustrations that depict a brown-skinned child.
The well-known fable about how the smallest creature — a mouse — saves the majestic lion is a tale of kindness returned. Here it is effectively recast as a wordless story in a new setting. Stunning illustrations are expressive and emotive, evoking Africa's Serengeti while retaining the tale's power.
A chipmunk looks skyward and wonders about the twinkling stars before his imaginative adventure and travel to the moon. Stunning watercolors extend the familiar rhyme.