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(Picture copied from the official Chris Van Allsburg Web Site by Houghton Mifflin. The official site link is below.)


A Biography of Chris Van Allsburg


Chris Van Allsburg was born on June 18, 1949 in Grand Rapids Michigan. As a boy he liked drawing, but did not think that grown-ups did that as their career. Instead, he thought about becoming a lawyer or a famous football player.

When Chris was 17 he was accepted to the art school at the University of Michigan. He was not an artist and should not have been allowed to go to the school, but the school made a mistake and let him in anyway. This mistake changed his life. In college Chris realized that he was a very good sculptor. His friends always told him that they could see a story in his art.

After college, Chris worked as a sculptor and only drew pictures as a hobby. His wife was an elementary school teacher and she convinced him to send his pictures to a publisher to see if he could illustrate books. The publisher saw stories in the pictures and asked Chris if he could write as well as draw. He decided to try it, and wrote The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. The book sold very well and started his writing career.

Chris Van Allsburg writes books where magic exists in everyday life. His endings always leave you guessing what really happened or what will happen next. Two of the more well known books that he has written and illustrated are Jumanji and Polar Express. He has written 15 books to date.

When Chris Van Allsburg was asked to explain how he got the ideas for his stories, he told the interviewer that he drew a picture first. Then he asked himself two questions, "What if?" and "What then?" For example, to come up with the idea for Jumanji, he thought, "What if two board children discover a bored game? What then? What if the board game came to life? What then?"

Since he published The Garden of Abdul Gasazi in 1979, Chris Van Allsburg has written almost one book per year until he wrote Bad Day at Riverbend in 1995. That book showed a new side of Chris Van Allsburg. The book was drawn as a coloring book and on the last page there was a picture of Chris' daughter. In 1995 Chris became a father instead of a writer and he has not published a new book since then.


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