An Artist/Author Is Born!

How does a person become an award-winning author and artist of more than 26 children’s books? For Lois Ehlert, her journey into art and literature began on November 9, 1934, when she started her happy childhood as the oldest child of three to Harry and Gladys Ehlert. Although her parents had their daily occupations, most of their spare time was spent “making things.”  Her father loved working with wood; her mother fancied fabric. When Lois showed an interest in making things too, her parents designated a corner of the living room as her art corner. As long as Lois created daily, she would be allowed to “keep her mess out” and not have to clean it up each day. This bargain suited Lois fine. Since so few quality art supplies were available to children during this time, Lois preferred the scraps of rich and vibrant fabric her mother supplied, to the “wimpy” colors of construction paper available at that time.  Her father coupled these colorful fabric treasures with a sundry of textual elements like wire, nails, and bits of contoured wood. Lois reclaimed these otherwise useless items and used them to create her first collage compositions. Ehlert continued to develop her artistic skills and received a scholarship to the Layton School of Art (now known as the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A Ravenous Reader

As a child, Lois was an avid reader. She cherished her weekly visits to the library and quickly made her way through all the books in the children’s portion of the library. Although Lois loved the stories, she was always disappointed with the lackluster quality of the illustrations that accompanied the children’s books of that day. Black, white and occasionally red, were the only colors used in most children’s books at that time.  

 College Life At Layton

While at college Lois learned new ways to construct and illustrate books, such as die-cutting holes in pages and using a greater variety of colors. This formal education, combined with her artful upbringing, helped to develop the style that she would employ in her books for years to come.

 A Career In Publishing

After graduating college in 1957, Lois began her career in children’s book publishing as a graphic designer and illustrator. Color printing was very limited at this time, and Lois was frequently frustrated when the colors on the final book were dull and lifeless. Her dissatisfaction with the industries inability to produce vibrant color led her to leave the children’s book industry and work solely in graphic design for some years. As time went by, she began to see an increased emphasis on graphics in the world of book publishing. She returned to children’s books and worked as a freelance graphic artist. Although she was successful, Lois found little creative satisfaction in illustrating other authors’ books. She needed an outlet of her very own.

Lois The Author

In 1987, at the age of 53, Lois’ released her first book, “Growing Vegetable Soup.” It was a well-reviewed book that was applauded for using pictures and words to show the steps in cultivating a garden. She followed Growing Vegetable Soup by publishing another book called Planting a Rainbow. Both books were revered for their use of bold colors and her personally created artwork. Planting a Rainbow received a Caldecott honor. Lois Ehlert is an author and artist of more than 26 children’s books. Her dynamic books invite readers of all ages to interact within the pages of visual wonder. Her art values the creative process and the natural world. Her eye for detail and accuracy make her books a real success and are not only entertaining but educational too.

Still Working @ 83!

Lois Ehlert has won many awards for her work, far too many to mention here. Her innovative work has inspired many in children's book publishing. Lois Ehlert has a style will undoubtedly continue to delight generations for years to come.

Online Resources:

The Kansas City library system has created a page dedicated solely to Lois Ehlert. The link below take you to their site where you can peruse the entire list of Lois’ books. Next to each title are links to online activities that coordinate with each book.

The “Art Bar” for kids: Most children learn best by watching someone else first. At the Art Bar Blog, kids can witness the collage process, step by step.

Art Lessons from around the world: The World known “Tate Museum” in the united Kingdom is a fanstasic place to learn about collage. This link gives a supply list and inspirational topics too.

Make your own book: What is a better way to preserve your childs artwork than in a handmade book!

*Rainbow Art Collage: At Barley and Birch, making a collage is made simple by printing off some great rainbow images that you student can easily incorporate into a great and impressive collage! And who doesn’t love rainbows!