City Honors Legendary Children’s Book Illustrator Jerry Pinkney

The acclaimed illustrator and Germantown native was recognized yesterday. Fans can meet him today at the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library.

In Philadelphia, Tuesday was Jerry Pinkney day. The City officially honored the acclaimed illustrator and Philadelphia native at a ceremony in City Hall yesterday afternoon.

Joined by his friends and family, Pinkney was presented with a special decree signed by Mayor Kenney, a statue of the liberty bell, and a book of drawings inspired by his work from the students at the City’s Parks and Recreation Summer Art Camp.

Pinkney, who was born in Germantown, said that Philadelphia has been instrumental in his development as an artist. “My first art experience at 18 was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” he said. The museum has housed some of his work in recent years.

He also credited the history of the area. “A lot of my work is centered around African American history and culture,” said Pinkney. “Part of that is slavery, the Underground Railroad, and its heroes. I grew up in Germantown and that was part of the Underground Railroad.”

Pinkney is best known for his illustrated children’s books, which include The Lion and the Mouse, a wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s fables.

City Representative Sheila Hess, who presented the award, said that Pinkney’s work could bring people together. “The shared experience of a Jerry Pinkney book between a parent and a child — or even a student and a teacher — can really spark a conversation that examines the really important lessons of life including kindness, trust, honesty, and hope,” said Hess.

Pinkney offered words of encouragement to the youth who were present from the Parks and Recreation Camp. “It’s there for you,” said Pinkney, stressing that a career in the arts is attainable. “You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to show interest, you’ve got to be curious, and you’ve got to want it, but it’s there.”

Pinkney is no stranger to recognition. Just this year, he was given two prestigious lifetime awards by the American Library Association: The 2016 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, which recognizes an African-American author or illustrator for their work for young readers, and the 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, honoring an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. Still, he said that this particular recognition was special.

“I’ve been blessed with a lot of honors, but when you’re honored and recognized in the city which you care and love about, around people that you care and love, around institutions that all helped shape me, it’s an honor,” said Pinkney. “It’s an overwhelming honor because you’re around people that you know, and that’s pretty special.”

In addition to the ceremony and a talk last night at the Free Library on the Parkway, Pinkney will continue to be honored today, as fans will have the opportunity to meet him at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library.