Writer & Illustrator
I BOOK ORDERING
Arnold McCully was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in
but grew up in Garden City, New York. Her father was
writer for network radio shows, and her mother was an
and singer. It was her mother who inspired her
abilities as a child. "She saw that I was trying to
people and objects, and set me to practicing for
Ms. McCully says. "She saw my ability to draw
a skill, a talent to be developed so that it might support
As a child, Emily Arnold McCully doodled and sketched and
her own stories, binding them into books. As class artist in school,
she designed posters, backdrops, and programs for concerts and
plays. During high school, she often visited the Museum of Modern
Art in New York City and sketched people in Union Square. The
city fueled her ambitions for an active life in the arts, theater,
She attended Pembroke College (now part of Brown University),
but instead of studying drawing, she devoted her time to theater,
reading, and art history. "I was tired of the freakishness
that seemed to be part of being an artist. For years, people stood
around me as I drew, marveling that I could reproduce someone
or something. I decided to throw myself into other activities,
which I hadn't done before."
But after graduation, she ended up as a quasi-secretary in an
advertising agency. She also earned an M.A. in art history at
Columbia. Finally, realizing she had no future in the advertising
agency, she put together a portfolio of drawings and took it around
to all sorts of art directors. Gradually, jobs trickled in, mostly
for book covers. Finally, an editor at Harper and Row Junior Books
spotted a poster she had done that featured children. She received
her first book illustration assignment, which led to another,
and so on.
Meanwhile, she wrote fiction and published a short story that
was selected for the O'Henry Collection. It was followed by two
novels. She has now produced more than one hundred books for children.
"My advice for aspiring artists and writers is this,' she
says. "Don't worry about what other people are doing. Don't
try to emulate. Work from what is inside you, crying out, however
softly, however timidly, for expression."
McCully feels strongly that books should stir the imagination,
and she abhors those who would make all books merely palliative
or instructive. Like Issac Bashevis Singer, she too believes that
children's books are the last refuge of storytelling.
the awards she has won, Ms. McCully has received a
Christopher Award for Picnic, the Caldecott award for
Mirette on the High Wire, and the Jane Addams Children's
Book Award in the Books for Younger Children category for The
Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom.
Arnold McCully lives in New