George Ancona (1929-2021) was an award-winning author and photographer of more than one hundred books for children, many about arts and culture. He wrote and photographed Boys Dancing: From School Gym to Theater Stage; Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities; and It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden.
"I grew up in Coney Island, New York. My parents came from the Yucatan in Mexico, but they met in New York, fell in love, and got married. I was born a year later. We only spoke Spanish at home. Our neighbors came from many countries. Some neighbors worked on the Coney Island amusement park rides. I got to ride the merry-go-round for free.
When I graduated high school, I went to Mexico for the first time. I got to know my grandparents, uncles,and cousins. I also met some of Mexico’s great painters. When I returned, I worked as a graphic designer with some terrific photographers. I saw that they were having more fun than I was. They traveled all over the world, took pictures, and got paid for it. I decided to quit my job and start taking photographs for picture stories and documentary films. I went to North Africa, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Pakistan, Japan, and all over the United States.
One day a friend whose wife wrote children’s books asked if I would like to take pictures for a book she was writing. I agreed, and we published a book called Faces. It was fun. I began to collaborate with other authors to make children’s books. One day my editor suggested I write a book. “Who me? I don’t know how to write.” But I did write my first book and took the pictures. It was called Monsters on Wheels. Of the 115 books I’ve done, about half are collaborations. When I finish a book I always feel that the cover is like a door to the world and the people in it."