“I want kids to understand that making pictures is similar to making music; there are so many instruments and so many tunes that the possibilities for how you play are truly limitless.” —Jerry Pinkney (1939-2021)
Jerry Pinkney is a children’s literature icon. Even if you’ve never heard his name, chances are you and your child have read at least one of the many books he illustrated or authored. His career spanned six decades and 97 children’s picture books, not to mention a handful of illustrated novels. Pinkey’s books have won multiple Coretta Scott King Awards, an Orbis Pictus Award, and even a Caldecott Medal. His illustrations are lively, expressive, and invite the reader to delve in further, beyond the words.
We’ve curated a list of Jerry Pinkney’s books that showcase his dedication to the art of storytelling. All are picture books unless otherwise noted. And all should be available at a local library, in independent bookstores, and from Bookshop.org. Enjoy!
Jerry Pinkney’s Fables and Folktales
Adaptations of fables, folktales, and fairytales make up the largest portion of Jerry Pinkney’s body of work. He worked with authors to bring African and African American folktales to prominence. Additionally, he modernized European classics for today’s audiences with black characters in the lead roles. By breathing new life into tales that are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years old, Jerry Pinkney has kept these stories alive and relevant for future generations. Some to try:
Inspiring Nonfiction Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
In addition to his many works of fiction, Pinkney also illustrated some wonderful nonfiction books during his career. In these volumes, he helped showcase the lives of black Americans throughout American history. Some to try:
Jerry Pinkney’s Wordless Picture Books
As a teacher, I probably most often use Jerry Pinkney’s wordless books. He takes well known fables and removes the text, letting his rich illustrations tell the story on their own. It’s a brilliant way to share these tales with kids and to encourage pre-readers to narrate the stories themselves. (Get tips in our post on wordless picture books.) Some to try:
These are just some of the incredible books by Jerry Pinkney that you can find in your local bookstore or library. Whether you’re revisiting a classic or introducing your child to a story you never knew, these Jerry Pinkney books will encourage a love of reading in your home.
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