P.J. Lynch began to draw when he was very young. “My mama says that while everyone else was off playing football, I was always drawing,” he says. “I got a lot of encouragement to continue with it. I’m not sure which came first—the encouragement or my showing any talent. But because I was encouraged, I kept at it, practiced, and improved.”
P.J. Lynch does more now than merely practice. Well known in publishing for the research he devotes to his exquisite and detailed illustrations, he has won the Kate Greenaway Medal for outstanding illustration in children’s books twice and is a three-time recipient of the Christopher Medal, which is awarded to works that “affirm the highest dignity of the human spirit.”
Among his Christopher Medal–winning books is Susan Wojciechowski’s The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a tale of a woodcarver whose grieving heart is healed by a gentle request. P.J. Lynch recalls first hearing the story read in an editorial meeting, where there were more than a few damp eyes in the group. At that time he had illustrated only stories of fantasy, “magic, fairies, that sort of thing.” He was not sure just how he would create what this tale needed, but he knew he wanted to do it. And so, to immerse himself in the story’s setting, he flew from his home in Ireland to the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, where he studied early American furniture, buildings, and artifacts.
Similarly, before working on Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth, P.J. Lynch traveled to a tiny island in Minnesota to walk the same woods that author Doug Wood used to walk with his grandfather. Illustrating Amy Hest’s When Jessie Came Across the Sea required little research, however, as the story is one the Belfast-born artist felt he could immediately relate to. “Immigration is an experience with which the Irish are very familiar,” he explains. “Although it is a very personal story of one girl’s journey, it is also a story on an epic scale.”
Other works P.J. Lynch has illustrated for Candlewick Press include A Christmas Carol, The Gift of the Magi, Lincoln and His Boys, Mysterious Traveler, and No One But You.
“I hope my work never settles into a recognizable ‘style,’” says P.J. Lynch, who now lives in Dublin, Ireland, with his family. “So long as I am learning, my work will always be changing.”