For Chris Raschka, the road to being “one of the most original illustrators at work today”, and “a master of minimalism” (Publishers Weekly) has not been a straight and narrow one. The 2006 Caldecott-award winning illustrator of The Hello, Goodbye Window almost pursued a career in the field of medicine until a last-minute decision changed the course of his life forever.
Born in Pennsylvania, as a child, Raschka loved to read and draw. Growing up in suburban Chicago, with an older brother and a younger sister, he spent a lot of time painting and playing musical instruments (eventually mastering the viola). With thoughts of becoming a zoologist, Raschka attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and graduated with a degree in biology. After graduating from college, he was on his way for a summer at a crocodile farm in India, when a sudden opportunity to work in a home for handicapped children in St. Croix diverted him. Raschka worked and traveled abroad for a few years. He eventually applied to medical school – but the dream of a career in art was never far from his mind. The day he was to begin his medical school classes, he made a monumental decision. “The morning of my first day of medical school, I called the school and told them I wasn’t going to come,” he says. “That was when I knew I really wanted to be a painter.” Deferring graduate school, Raschka took a job illustrating for the Michigan state bar association's publication Michigan Bar Journal, which led to political cartooning work. Finally, picture book artist Vladimir Radunsky persuaded him to move to New York to be nearer opportunities to illustrate children's books. His first book, Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, was published in 1992, and Raschka garnered his first significant award in 1994, with a Caldecott Honor for Yo? Yes! Often called prolific, today Raschka has over fifty children’s books to his credit. In 2012, he won the Caldecott medal for his book, A Ball for Daisy.
Raschka maneuvers a brush or oil crayon with skill and swiftness, to create visually stunning characters that weave through colors and shapes. These seem to dance upon the open background of a stage-like setting seen in many of his books. Bits of paper, splashes of watercolor, crayons, and twirling lines create pictures and texts that beg to be read out loud. His books are abstract, interesting, and above all entertaining. In 2006, Caldecott committee said this about his illustrations in the award winning book: “With a few energetic lines, Raschka suggests a world filled with affection and humor. The richly textured tones of these expressive illustrations convey the emotional warmth of the intergenerational connection.”