“I often visit classrooms and ask who loves to draw,” says Peter H. Reynolds, illustrator of the acclaimed Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald and author-illustrator of The Dot, Ish, Sky Color, So Few Of Me, and other enchanting picture books that celebrate the creative process. “In kindergarten and first grade, all the hands go up. In second grade, most of the hands go up. In third grade, half the hands are up. By fourth and fifth grade, most of the hands are down, or perhaps pointing to ‘the class artist.’ It’s sad to see the artistic, creative energy slowing down, being packed away. I am convinced it’s because children learn early that there are ‘rules’ to follow. But when it comes to expressing yourself, you can invent your own rules. You can change them, you can stretch them, or you can ignore them all and dive headfirst into the unknown.
“Nothing irks me more than seeing a person’s creativity get shut down,” he continues. “Through my books, I want to help give kids—and grown-up kids—the vocabulary to protect their exploration, in art, writing, and thinking.” It certainly appears his approach is working: not only has The Dot garnered high critical acclaim, it also received the 2004 Christopher Medal, awarded to works that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”
Peter H. Reynolds recalls that when he was approached about illustrating Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody—the first in what would become an extremely popular chapter-book series for middle-graders—he jumped at the chance. For one thing, the feisty, independent Judy reminded him of his own daughter, who was eleven years old at the time. “Judy seemed very real to me, compared to fantasy versions of what little girls are like,” he says. What’s more, the story itself—in which a moody Judy struggles to create a Me collage for school—clicked with his own beliefs as an educator about the role a child’s temperament can play in the learning process.
But it was Judy’s younger “bother,” Stink, who would strike the greatest chord within Peter H. Reynolds. “I’ve fallen in love with the whole cast of characters in the world of Judy Moody, but Stink has always been a favorite of mine. He reminds me of myself growing up: dealing with a sister prone to teasing and bossing around—and having to get creative in order to stand tall beside her.” And now Stink is getting the chance to be heard in his own series also by Megan McDonald— which features the artwork of Peter H. Reynolds that Judy’s fans have grown to love, including comic strips drawn by Stink himself.
Peter H. Reynolds and his twin brother, Paul (now his business partner), were born in Canada but moved to a Massachusetts suburb when they were three years old. They made their first foray into publishing at the age of seven, when they began producing their own newspapers and comic books on their father’s photocopier. An incessant doodler since childhood, Peter H. Reynolds credits his unique brand of humor and his love for the absurd to growing up with “very eccentric British parents” who were fond of watching Monty Python. “It was not a normal house,” he recalls. From his parents he also inherited an appreciation for tea, which he uses both as a beverage and an art medium. In addition, the illustrator brings to the Judy Moody series his sensibility as a “very visual person.”
Founder of the award-winning educational media developer and publisher FableVision, where he produces award-winning children’s broadcast programming, educational videos, and multimedia applications, Peter H. Reynolds was recently honored by Verizon as Literacy Leader of the Year. The author-illustrator lives with his family in Dedham, Massachusetts.