A video interview with

Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney's detailed watercolor illustrations have won five Coretta Scott King Awards and five Caldecott Honor Medals. In this exclusive video interview with Reading Rockets, Jerry Pinkney talks about growing up as a slow reader and the early encouragement he received as a young artist.

You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography of Jerry Pinkney, or see a selected list of his children's books. We've also included additional video interviews with Jerry Pinkney here.


Since 1964, Jerry Pinkney has illustrated over 75 children's picture books. His detailed watercolor illustrations have won five Coretta Scott King Awards and five Caldecott Honor Medals (including a 2003 Honor for Noah's Ark). Many of Jerry Pinkney's books address African American, multicultural, and historical themes. Most recently, he has adapted and illustrated classic tales such as Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. Jerry Pinkney collaborates regularly with authors Julius Lester, Patricia McKissack, Robert San Souci, and his wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney. In addition to children's books, Jerry's artwork has appeared in museums, magazines, greeting cards, and on U.S. postage stamps. Two of his children, Myles and Brian, have also become successful children's book illustrators.

The Pinkney story

Jerry Pinkney was born in Philadelphia in 1939. Despite his difficulties with reading and spelling, he graduated from elementary school with honors. As early as the first grade, Jerry became known as the class artist. His parents and teachers recognized, supported, and encouraged his artistic talents. After graduating from Dobbins Vocational School in Commercial Art, Jerry Pinkney received a full scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. He met his wife, Gloria Jean, while studying at Dobbins.

Jerry and Gloria Jean Pinkney later moved to Boston and raised four children. They exposed their children to a wide variety of visual, musical, and performing arts, but did so without pressure or expectation. Brian Pinkney liked to draw, paint, and make figures out of pipe cleaners. Myles also liked to draw and paint, but by middle school had become enamored with the magic of photography.

Like his father, Brian began illustrating children's books in watercolor. But once he discovered scratchboard, it soon became his signature medium. Brian has now illustrated over two-dozen books, including his wife Andrea's Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, which received a Caldecott Honor in 1999. Myles Pinkney worked as a photojournalist and freelance photographer before his recent entrance into the world of children's books with his wife, Sandra. Myles' stunning photographs have received awards and praise from parents, teachers, and children.

Although Jerry, Brian, and Myles live in different parts of New York State, they encourage each other and even collaborate on projects. Together they co-illustrated Gloria Jean Pinkney's 2001 book, In the Forest of Your Remembrance. All three illustrate books that their wives write. So whether it is Jerry and Gloria Jean, Brian and Andrea, or Myles and Sandra, the Pinkney name is well known and easy to find on library shelves.

More interviews with Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney on literacy

Jerry Pinkney addresses the importance of literacy at the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival

NRM Kids Ask: Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney is an award-winning artist who began his creative journey in the field of illustration in 1960. (Norman Rockwell Museum Artist Laureate program)

Jerry Pinkney for the Philadelphia Museum of Art

"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox