Van Allsburg, Chris, 1949–, American writer and illustrator of children's books, b. East Grand Rapids, Mich., B.F.A. Univ. of Michigan, 1972, M.F.A. Rhode Island School of Design, 1975. Originally a sculptor, Van Allsburg began creating black-and-white art with pencil and charcoal, becoming a master draftsman. This led to his first picture book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (1979), which was followed by Jumanji (1981; Caldecott Medal), a tale of a magical board game that became the basis for a film (1995). The Wreck of the Zephyr (1983), a fantasy novel about a boy and a boat, was followed by The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), whose 14 illustrations invite readers to create stories around them, and The Polar Express (1985; Caldecott Medal), which was made into an animated film (2004). His other books include The Widow's Broom (1992), The Sweetest Fig (1993), and Zathura (2002; film, 2005), a Jumanji sequel set in outer space.
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