a parking attendant at the Hollywood Bowl, and a greeter at Ikea.
In the meantime, he sought illustration work the San Francisco
way—via Craigslist—which landed him an illustration project,
2011’s Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens, by Kathy Belge
and Marke Bieschke, for Zest Books. He also taught art to kids in
after-school programs and posted his own work on his blog. “One
day,” Robinson says, “ I got an email from a guy asking if I have an
agent, and if so, just consider this fan mail.” The message was from
Steven Malk at Writers House, who helped the illustrator put
together his portfolio and get his start in picture books.
Robinson’s busy pace shows no signs of letting up. His forthcoming books include a collaboration with Caldecott Honor
author Mac Barnett, and he continues to make animated short
films, including the recent “What Is Music?,” in which his
trademark mixed-media collage art brings interviews with kids
to life (sample q&a: “What kinds of music do your parents listen
to?” “Classical music, like Madonna”).
Speaking with children, he says, is the “other great thing that I
get to do as an illustrator of books. I get to go to schools and share
the work and do readings in libraries and in classrooms. I feel very
involved with the different school districts in the Bay Area.” When
it came time to write his illustrator bio for The Smallest Girl in the
Smallest Grade, which is about the diminutive Sally who finally finds
her voice, he shared in the jacket copy that he had been the “thinnest,
shiest boy in the smallest grade”: “ I just wanted to let kids know
that we all have things we have to overcome.” —C. J.
In the two short years since Christian Robinson’s picture- book debut, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, by Renée Watson, the illustrator has done artwork for four additional picture books, the second of which, Rain!, by Linda Blackman, earned him the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award.
His fifth picture book, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, by
Justin Roberts, is due out this fall. Although the accolades are
pouring in now and he has steady work, his career path was hard-ly a foregone conclusion.
Robinson grew up in Los Angeles and studied animation at
CalArts in Valencia, Calif. After graduating in 2008, he moved
to San Francisco to intern with Pixar, where he says his intern-
ship mentor, Ben Butcher, encouraged him to draw characters
in his own style and “explore different ways of illustrating
things.” One day, Butcher suggested he post some of his art on
a board and bring it to a meeting with executives on the studio’s
forthcoming film Up. “ I came to this meeting,” Robinson says,
“and I was in a little dark corner, really overwhelmed. Halfway
through, the director [Pete Docter] looks at the work and says
‘Oh, who did this? We should have him do a book.’ ”
A retelling of Up with Robinson’s illustrations, Beware of Dug,
came out in 2009. After the Pixar internship, he says, “ I thought
the world would open up and life would just be sunshine and rain-
bows, but it wasn’t really. I’d say for a year and a half I was just
wandering, not really doing anything in animation or illustration.”
Among several “safety jobs,” he worked as a shoe salesman for Crocs,
FOR FALL EDITED BY DIANE ROBACK AND CAROLYN JURIS
With children’s and YA books capturing 16 positions on Nielsen’s
top 20 ranking for the year so far, the industry heads into fall with
strong sales and high hopes for the holiday season. New books
from the likes of Jeff Kinney, Patricia MacLachlan, Oliver Jeffers,
Chris Van Allsburg, Cassandra Clare, and Scott Westerfeld, as well
as a number of noteworthy debuts, should earn cheers from
booksellers and young readers alike. Happy reading!