Chris Van Allsburg was born on June 18th, 1949 in Grand Rapids Michigan. As a child Chris’ family moved three times, although always staying within Grand Rapids. The last house he lived in with his parents and sister was a Tudor style house in East Grand Rapid, which would later become the inspiration for the cover illustration of The Polar Express. Although Chris never studied art in high school he got accepted to the University of Michigan college of Architecture and Design as an art student. It was there that Chris would meet his future wife, Lisa Morrison, a fellow art student who was also obtaining her degree in education. Chris graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 with a degree in sculpture and attended the Rhode Island School of Design to further his studies in sculpture. In 1972, Chris and Lisa got married and Lisa started working as an elementary school art teacher within the Providence school system. While sculpting was Chris primary passion he also began to draw pictures, which he felt were of little importance.
Lisa, who frequently used picture books in her classroom, brought Chris’ drawings to her friend David Macauly, who at the time was an illustrator and author. Upon seeing the drawings Macauly persuaded Lisa to show them to his editor Walter Lorraine. Lorraine was very impressed with the drawings; however instead of having Chris illustrate others’ stories he encouraged him to write his own. Chris began to set some time aside to work on what would become The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, which was published in 1979. In 1980, he was awarded the Caldecott Honor Medal for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. Since then Chris has written and illustrated 17 books of his own, and also illustrated three books for Mark Helprin. Three of Chris’ books have also been turned into motion pictures.
Chris has been awarded medals for his work including two Caldecott Medals for Jumanji, and The Polar