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Peter Sís

Children's Author

Peter Sís is the celebrated writer and illustrator of Madlenka and the Caldecott Honor book Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei. In this exclusive video interview with Reading Rockets, Peter Sís talks about the winding path that led him to New York City, his father’s Tibetan journey, and how his own children have influenced his work.


Peter Sís is an internationally respected artist, illustrator, and author. Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1949, Sís studied film in Prague, won the 1980 Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear Award, and was sent by the Czech government to Los Angeles to produce a film for the 1984 Olympic Games.

An Illustrious Life

When exposed to potentially career-making opportunities, Sís defied his communist government by seeking asylum in the United States. After collaborating on an MTV project with Bob Dylan and creating the memorable poster for the movie Amadeus, Sís drove a white Mustang cross-country to New York City, where he proceeded to establish himself as a premier children’s illustrator and author.

Since 1984, Sís has won numerous awards, including the Caldecott Honor, the Society of Illustrators’ gold and silver medals, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book honor awards. He is a five-time winner of The New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Sís’s art has appeared in publications such as Time, Newsweek, and The Atlantic Monthly. He has published nearly 1,000 drawings in The New York Times Book Review alone.

In the middle of his prolific and disciplined illustrating career, Sís met and married Ten-y Lajtha, a documentary-film editor. Their two children, Madeleine and Matej, have had a profound impact on Sís’s life priorities and book topics. Madeleine inspired the books Madlenka and Ballerina!, while Matej’s interests led to Dinosaur! and Fire Truck.

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