“I always try to treat the book itself as the artwork,” Chris Raschka says. “I don’t want you to stop while you’re reading one of my books and say, ‘Oh! What a gorgeous illustration!’ I want you to stop at the end of the book and say, ‘This is a good book.’”
Chris Raschka is one of those people who knew from an early age what he wanted to be when he grew up. “It was never a question in my mind,” he says. “As long as I can remember, I always knew what I would do: I would become a biologist.” Somewhere along the line, however, after having to kill a mouse with his bare hands, Chris Raschka began to change his mind. “I understood it intellectually,” he says, “but I just wasn’t cut out to do that.”
Fortunately, Chris Raschka’s squeamishness turned into a boon for the realm of children’s books. He decided to shift his focus to painting and drawing, and has since produced a range of outstanding books that has Publishers Weekly calling him “one of the most original illustrators at work today.” Chris Raschka illustrated A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems, a critically acclaimed anthology that was both a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. “I approached it with a version of the Hippocratic oath,” Chris Raschka says of the playful volume. “That was my goal: do no harm to these poems, which are all beautiful. I wanted my illustrations to be little welcoming introductions—a way in.”
Chris Raschka once again teamed up with his A Poke in the I partner, Paul B. Janeczko, to bring an equally lauded creation to poets everywhere. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms teaches readers the excitement and challenge that can be found in playing by the rules of poetry. Receiving starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Booklist, the title seamlessly unites text and art. Chris Raschka’s whimsical torn-paper artwork lends thoughtful details to essence of the book—that poetry is fun.
Previously, Chris Raschka turned his talents to Dylan Thomas’s timeless prose poem A Child’s Christmas in Wales, creating fluid illustrations that honor the poet’s words, evoking their musical cadences and bringing a fresh appreciation for this most lyric work. Named a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book, this beautiful edition “should bring Dylan Thomas’s work to a new generation of children,” says President Jimmy Carter.
The illustrator was also a force behind I Pledge Allegiance, a picture book cowritten by legendary children’s book author Bill Martin Jr. and fellow literacy expert Michael Sampson. “My parents have always respectfully refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” Chris Raschka says. “That’s why I was drawn to this project—in America, we each have the freedom to choose, including the freedom to choose whether or not to say the pledge.” His aim was that his quirky images, with their simple, stylized line drawings, would “bring a sense of inclusion.” He says, “That is my hope, for everyone: to make the Pledge come alive.” A different sort of collaboration went into the tongue-in-cheek Table Manners, a hilarious picture book that Chris Raschka wrote and illustrated together with artist Vladimir Radunsky, a longtime friend.
Chris Raschka grew up in suburban Chicago, but then “fled to New York,” where he now lives with his wife, son, and a variety of pets. When not working on books, the artist likes to walk around the city, knit sweaters without a pattern, go to the opera, practice yoga, and surf, a pastime that once cost him a tooth.