Monday, November 30, 2015


I have been eagerly waiting for November so I can blog about the illustrator Margot Zemach, who was born on November 30, 1931.
Zemach had an incredibly wacky and wonderful sense of visual humor---perhaps more fully developed than any other illustrator I can think of. To me, this reflects her understanding that no matter how hard we try to maintain our dignity, life is ultimately messy and even ridiculous.

Illustration from "It could Be Worse"
Her humor was always about everyday, the ordinary foibles of life. 
Illustration from "The Three Little Pigs"

If anything could possibly go wrong in her illustrated world, it did. She was a genius at depicting the embarrassing and all-too-frequent moments that make us, animals and humans alike, look foolish. Yet her art was always kind and loving---never cruel.
Illustration from "The Three Sillies"
In her earliest work, when books were still being printed with only two or three colors, her keen sense of the humor of life was already present.
Illustration from "A Penny A Look"
I haven't even begun to talk about her skill as a visual artist. Her line vibrates with life. Her color is sophisticated, appealing, and often unexpected, yet is always in service to the story the art is telling---never a show-off. The seeming looseness and sloppiness of her work is deceiving. It takes a genius to create art of such vigor, life, and joy that it practically leaps off the page.
Illustration from "Duffy And The Devil"
I think of Margot Zemach as one of the greatest children's book illustrators of the century. The tragedy is that she died in 1989 at the age of 57, of Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). She was then at an impressive level of achievement, and probably would have gone even higher if she had lived longer. The greatest tribute we can give her is to find her books, read them, and share them with others.


  1. Thanks, I needed this one too!

  2. much of what you say about margot zemach could be said about you.

  3. I agree: Wendy, you seem like a direct descendant of Zemach, with your humor and your energy and love of life. These illustrations made me laugh out loud even as I wondered where my copies of these books may have gone. A belated Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. I am very flattered and humbled by these comparisons. I confess that I can't think of myself as at the level of Margot, but I thank you both for the tributes.