Peter Sís is an internationally acclaimed author, artist and filmmaker. Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, Peter Sís graduated in 1974 from the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and studied at the Royal College of Art in London. Sís’ mother was an artist and his father was a documentary filmmaker; his parents encouraged Sís’ artistic talent and provided a nurturing home. Beyond the walls of his house, however, freedom ended.
Peter Sís’ children’s books often begin with maps, inviting readers to join him in discovering the world. Sís grew up in Prague under communism. First he followed in the footsteps of his father, a documentary filmmaker, and created award-winning animated short films. After Sís’ defection to the United States in the early 1980s, Maurice Sendak introduced him to the world of children’s books. He has since illustrated over 50 children’s books; for many of them, he also wrote the text. At the same time, he also created editorial illustrations for The New York Times and for other leading U.S. publications. He also designed posters, book jackets, and murals, and he created three-dimensional objects. Sís’ work has been shown in numerous solo exhibits in Europe and in the United States, most recently at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sís finds it impossible to separate his life from his life’s work. The mysteries of Prague are explored in The Three Golden Keys, a book he wrote at the suggestion of his editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. His father’s time spent lost in Tibet is the subject of Sís’ Caldecott Honor Book, Tibet: Through the Red Box. Childhood heroes are the subjects of Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei, another Caldecott Honor book; Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus; A Small Tall Tale from the Far Far North, the story of Czech folk hero Jan Welzl; and The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin. Sís’ own children inspired Madlenka; Madlenka’s Dog; Fire Truck; Trucks, Trucks, Trucks; Ship Ahoy!; Dinosaur!; and Ballerina!. World travel and love for animals led Sís to write and illustrate the popular Komodo! and An Ocean World.
Sís is an eight-time winner of The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year and has won the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal twice. He also won the 2015 Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement. He has also been awarded with the American Library Association's Caldecott Honor for the illustrations of his 1996 book, Starry Messenger, the 1998 book Tibet Through The Red Box, and his 2007 work, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. The latter book also received the ALA's 2008 Robert Sibert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for young readers. He has received a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award four times: for Komodo (1993), A Small Tall Tale From the Far Far Notth (1994), Tibet Through The Red Box (1999), and The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (2008). He was named MacArthur Fellow (Class of 2003) and in 2012, Sís received the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award.