By Joanna Galdone

My brother and I did not grow up enjoying our own fatherʼs picture books because when we were young he was still creating book jackets. He and my mother had a working partnership. She would read the manuscript of the novels — which came on long sheets of paper called galleys and supplied my brother and me with an endless supply of drawing paper — and suggest a scene to depict on the book jacket. As my fatherʼs work moved to chapter books and picture books, they continued planning together. I recall seeing them sitting on the living room couch many times with my fatherʼs sketches and a manuscript in their laps.

My father worked in his large studio, in our house designed by my mother and her architect brother. Because of that proximity, we all became involved in the family business. We all posed for characters in books, often wearing improvised costumes, especially so he could get accurate folds in the clothing. I learned to carry a cup of coffee from one end of the house and up a steep flight of stairs to the studio without spilling — for ten cents!

My father researched his subject matter by referencing his vast personal library and the picture collection at the New York Public Library. Equally important were his observations from life. Sketches of our nearby cats and dogs were quickly caught on the backs of envelopes while we sat at the kitchen table. On his frequent walks he was always observing nature. He wanted trees and grasses and flowers to be accurately represented in his work. He also sought out people who kept animals, such as goats, sheep, geese, cows and horses. He would bring back images to his studio in his sketch book and with photos he took. His ability to remember what he had seen always impressed me. Once, as we sat at the dining table after a meal, he started drawing sketches of people who had been on the subway on his trip into the city that day. And then he drew a sketch of what he thought I would look like when I was an old lady! Unleashed, his imagination brought many unforgettable characters to the pages of his books!

One of my father’s dreams was to someday buy a house in Vermont, where he had enjoyed sketching and painting when he was younger. The chance finally came just after I graduated from college. My parents found an old house with a barn on 32 acres, with a view of a covered bridge over the First Branch of the White River, in Tunbridge, Vermont. Still in its uninsulated, no central heat, post-Civil War condition, the house became a family residence from May through early November. Rockland County had transformed into a busy suburb during the time we had lived there, so we all enjoyed a reconnection to the countryside. For my father this life was especially pleasing. He was a connoisseur of fresh air. He loved long walks through the hilly countryside, fresh vegetables, drawing farm animals, landscapes and flowers from the garden, as well the chance to foster new friendships. His work, continued from a small sunny studio, often reflected the central Vermont landscape.

My father never retired. In fact it was a rare day that he did not sit at his drawing board. Often he was working at several books at a time in varying degrees of completion — while also searching for ideas for new books. It was always exciting for all of us — especially for him — to see the finished book. When the box containing ten complimentary copies arrived from the publisher, he would set them all in a row on the dining table and reflect on this latest book. He would often comment that no one would know how much he had toiled in the journey toward its completion!