Meet Authors & Illustrators

Diane and Leo Dillon

Leo and Diane Dillon

    Leo and Diane Dillon have been collaborating and creating award-winning art for many years and have illustrated more than twenty-five picture books together. They met while attending the Parsons School of Design and were friends and also fierce rivals. They fell in love, married, and opened a studio. For years they designed posters maps and book covers but were given a chance to illustrate a picture book when one of their book covers caught the eye of a children's book editor. Their first book The Ring and the Prairie came out in 1970.

    Like many people today the Dillons work from home, and their "business" is part of everyday life. When they receive a manuscript and decide that they want to illustrate it, the Dillons have to decide on the technique to use. Then they need to learn more about the art director's plans for the book. It is important to know the overall layout and to determine the size of the illustrations before starting any of the art. One of them may work on the pencil drawings, the other the finishes. Leo and Diane work on every illustration together and pass the piece back and forth with each adding a special touch of his or her own.

    Sometimes their discussions become arguments, but they always get resolved. "The third artist, the one that is the combination of the two of us, is very demanding. It is hard to keep a good fight going while, at the same time, we're discssing the work." While they collaborate on the art, Leo and Diane do have separate studios. Diane notes "When we walk into each other's studio we've learned not to look until we're invited." Their studios and house become cluttered with books that are checked for reference and inspiration.

    As deadlines approach and changes to the text are made, there are consultations with the art director and editor. They also conduct a constant rereading of the text which often brings out new ideas for illustrations. Even with the pressures, the doubts and the problems, the Dillons love what they do. "Working for children is a responsibility, as well as fulfilling," explains Leo.

    It is apparent that others also love what they do. Leo and Diane have received numerous honors including two Caldecott medals, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a Corretta Scott King Award. They have made the New York Times Ten Best Illustrated List several times.

Click here for more information about the Dillons.

 

Reviews

To Everything There is a Season: Verses From Ecclesiastes
Leo & Diane Dillon
    The text is taken from the Bible, the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter III, verses 1-8 and Chapter I, verse 4. These words have been read and spoken for more than 2,000 years. The Dillons use the text and their art to celebrate the seasons (moments in time) of human existence. They have selected scenes from the major cultures of the world to illustrate the poetic text. For example, "A time to plant" is set in ancient Japan and "A time to kill" is set in Mexico. For each of their spreads they have used artistic styles appropriate to the culture and the time period depicted. For the scene set in ancient Japan they made the art look like the woodblock prints which were used to depict life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For Mexico, they used the technique from the screen fold picture books or codices created prior to the arrival of Europeans. This is an exquisite book that offers plenty of information about the totality of human experience. That being said, it is a book that will not really appeal to young children. The text must be explained and it presumes a large body of knowledge to make the art and text work together. It would make a lovely gift for an adult or older child. 1998, Blue SkyPress/Scholastic, Ages 10 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0590478877
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Best Science Fiction, 1998 ; Locus Magazine; United States
   Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Fourteenth Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1998 ; American Library Association-Booklist; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 1999 ; Children's Book Council; United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 2001 ; Children's Book Council; United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 2000 ; Children's Book Council; United States
   Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 1999 ; National Council for the Social Studies; United States
   Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 1998 ; Cahners; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 1998 ; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, September 1998 ; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 1998 ; Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 1999 Picture Books United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 2001 ; Utah

The Girl Who Dreamed Only Geese The Girl Who Dreamed Only Geese, and Other Tales of the Far North
Howard Norman
Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
   From the frozen countries of the far north, rich with centuries of storytelling tradition, comes this exquisite collection of ten Inuit tales. Traced with humor and sadness, the fantastic and the fatal, these wisdom bearing tales star humans, giants, and all imaginable creatures. The lessons they teach are steeped in the geography, culture and folklore that produced them. Super artists Leo & Diane Dillon, here inspired by native Inuit masters, add sizzle to the arctic tales. 1997, Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace, Ages 9 up, $22.00. Reviewer: Deborah Zink Roffino
ISBN: 0152309799
Best Books:
   Books in the Middle: Outstanding Books, 1997 ; Voice of Youth Advocates; United States
   Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1998 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States
   Capitol Choices, 1997 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 1998 ; Children's Book Council; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, September 1997 ; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, November 1997 ; Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 1997 ; Cahners; United States
   Smithsonian Magazine's Notable Books for Children, 1997 ; Smithsonian; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Aesop Prize Accolade 1998 United States
   New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year Winner 1997 United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, 1999 ; Vermont
   Maine Student Book Award, 1998-1999 ; Maine

Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali
Khephra Burns
Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
   This lavishly illustrated story recounts the legend of Mansa Musa, a fourteenth century African king. Raised in the village of Kaba Kangaba, Kankan (later known as Mansa Musa) has an ordinary boyhood until slave raiders arrive and take him away from his family. Purchased by a mysterious stranger, Kankan and his master embark on a voyage of awareness and self-discovery. Kankan learns that his homeland, Mali, is unknown in most parts of the wide world. Inspired by spiritual encounters with Simbon, a lion who is king of beasts and men, Kankan is determined to return home and lead his people to greatness. An author's note explains that historically, Kankan/Mansa Musa fostered a great empire that possibly encompassed all of Africa. His kingdom became famous throughout the world for its great wealth and generosity. Some even believe that Kankan's brother reached the New World before Columbus. 2001, Harcourt, $18.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
ISBN: 0152003754
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Capitol Choices, 2001 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young Readers, 2002 ; National Council for the Social Studies; United States

Many Thousand Gone : African Americans From Slavery to Freedom Many Thousand Gone : African Americans From Slavery to Freedom
Virginia Hamilton
Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
   This groundbreaking work traces the history of slavery in America from the earliest slave trading to the Emancipation Proclamation and the growth of the Underground Railroad. The author presents personal accounts and individual profiles of well-known figures such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass and other lesser-known slaves such as Henry Box Brown, Jackson and Eliza. 1995, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 8 up, $18.00, $18.99 and $12.00. Reviewer: Debra Briatico
ISBN: 0590738739
ISBN: 0394928733
ISBN: 0394828739
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1993 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1993 ; American Library Association-Booklist; United States
   Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, Second Edition, 1997 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Notable Books for Children, 1993 ; American Library Association-ALSC; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Carter G. Woodson Book Awards Outstanding Merit Book 1994 United States
   Society of Midland Authors Book Awards Winner 1994 Nonfiction United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 1995 ; Utah
   William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1995-1996 ; Kansas

Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles - Think of That!
Leo & Diane Dillon
   Once again the Dillons have successfully combined text with their unique colorful illustrations to create an exciting visual package in this book that aptly describes the life of legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, while also managing to highlight his dancing ways. The simple one line per page format kicks off and continues throughout the book. Sing-song rhyming lines and the repetitive phrase "rap a tap tap--think of that" alternate with each other to produce an appealing page-turner geared to the young set. A shadowy illusion technique gives Mr. Bojangles the appearance of actually toe-tapping his feet. Mr. Bojangles threads his way through bright cityscapes where people are engaged in a variety of daily activities. By absorbing the book from cover to cover the reader learns that the dancer entertained all kinds of people with whom he had contact and that his talent was viewed as a work of art. Add this book to any library or home shelf to increase awareness of a wonderful real life entertainer. 2002, The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury
ISBN: 0-590-47883-4
Best Books:
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2002 ; Children's Literature; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, August 12, 2002 ; Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Coretta Scott King Awards 2003 Illustrator United States

 

Updated 2002

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