From the Wire

Ed Young Dies at 91, After 60+ Year Career As a Children’s Author and Illustrator

Renowned children’s author and illustrator, Ed Young, passed away at the age of 91, leaving behind an incredible legacy. With a career spanning over 60 years, Young wrote 17 children’s books and illustrated over 80. His works combined elements of fantasy and traditional Chinese storytelling, reflecting his own experiences as a Chinese immigrant. Despite initially pursuing a career in architecture, Young’s talent for illustrating animals led him to delve into the world of children’s books. This captivating article explores Young’s journey, from his early beginnings to his numerous accolades, including multiple Caldecott Medals, and highlights his belief in the sophistication and emotional capacity of young readers.

Ed Young Dies at 91, After 60+ Year Career As a Children’s Author and Illustrator

This image is property of

Career Beginnings and Early Success

Studying architecture and art

Ed Young’s journey as a children’s author and illustrator began with his studies in architecture and art. After immigrating to the United States, he pursued a degree in architecture in California and Illinois. However, his passion for art led him to obtain a bachelor’s degree in the field. This foundation in both architecture and art would later influence his unique approach to storytelling and illustration in children’s books.

Introduction to children’s book illustration

While working at a design studio in Manhattan, Ed Young discovered his talent for illustrating children’s books. During his lunch breaks, he would draw the animals at Central Park Zoo, developing his skills and nurturing his passion for storytelling through art. Encouraged by his friends, he decided to pursue a career in illustrating children’s books, leading him to approach Harper & Row with his drawings.

First assignment and award-winning illustrations

Ed Young’s first assignment as an illustrator came in the form of Janice May Udry’s book “The Mean Mouse and Other Mean Stories.” His illustrations for this book caught the attention of both readers and critics, earning him an American Institute of Graphic Arts award. This accomplishment solidified his decision to pursue a career as a children’s book illustrator, setting him on a path towards numerous future successes.

Ed Young Dies at 91, After 60+ Year Career As a Children’s Author and Illustrator

This image is property of

Notable Works and Awards

The Emperor and the Kite (1968)

One of Ed Young’s most renowned works is “The Emperor and the Kite,” written by Jane Yolen. This book, which won him his first Caldecott Medal in 1968, showcases his exceptional talent for visual storytelling. Through his illustrations, Young transports readers to the enchanting world of ancient China, bringing the tale of a kite-flying princess to life.

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China (1990)

In 1990, Ed Young received his second Caldecott Medal for “Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China,” a reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale. With his evocative illustrations, Young not only captures the essence of the original story but also infuses it with Chinese cultural elements. This innovative approach to storytelling garnered critical acclaim, solidifying Young’s reputation as a trailblazer in children’s literature.

Seven Blind Mice (1993)

Young’s third Caldecott Medal came in 1993 for “Seven Blind Mice,” a captivating picture book that explores the concept of perception and individual perspectives. Through his vibrant illustrations and engaging narrative, Young challenges young readers to think critically and consider different viewpoints. This thought-provoking work showcases Young’s commitment to creating nuanced and complex stories for children.

Ed Young Dies at 91, After 60+ Year Career As a Children’s Author and Illustrator

This image is property of

Innovative Approaches to Writing and Illustration

Challenging traditional ideas about children’s comprehension

Ed Young believed in the intelligence and emotional capacity of children. He challenged the notion that illustrations in children’s books should be simplistic and easily digestible. With his intricate artwork and attention to detail, Young presented children with visual narratives that encouraged a deeper level of engagement and comprehension. His belief in the sophistication of young readers allowed him to explore complex themes and emotions in his stories.

Nuanced and complex storytelling

In addition to his innovative approach to illustration, Ed Young was also a masterful storyteller. His books often incorporated elements of folktales, fairy tales, and poetry, intertwining them with his own experiences as a Chinese immigrant. This blend of cultural richness and personal anecdotes created a distinct narrative style that resonated with readers of all ages. Young’s ability to craft nuanced and complex stories made his books stand out in the world of children’s literature.

Belief in children’s emotional intelligence

Ed Young recognized the importance of emotional intelligence in children’s development. He believed that children were capable of understanding and experiencing a wide range of emotions, just like adults. In his books, Young delved into complex emotions, challenging readers to empathize and reflect on the characters’ experiences. By acknowledging and respecting the emotional intelligence of children, Young created stories that not only entertained but also nurtured their emotional growth.

Ed Young Dies at 91, After 60+ Year Career As a Children’s Author and Illustrator

This image is property of

Legacy and Impact

Children’s author and illustrator with a lasting legacy

Ed Young’s contributions as a children’s author and illustrator have left a lasting legacy in the literary world. His unique artistic style, innovative storytelling techniques, and cultural authenticity have made his books timeless treasures. Every page of a Young-illustrated book transports readers to a world of wonder and imagination, fostering a love for reading and art in children across generations.

Reception and influence of his work

Ed Young touched the lives of countless readers and fellow authors with his remarkable body of work. His illustrations captivated audiences with their intricate details and emotional depth, and his stories resonated with readers of all ages. Young’s innovative approach to children’s literature challenged the status quo and influenced subsequent generations of authors and illustrators. His impact on the literary world is undeniable and continues to inspire new voices in children’s literature.

Survived by his daughters

Ed Young is survived by his daughters, Antonia Young and Ananda. As the daughters of an accomplished children’s author and illustrator, they carry on his legacy and the passion for storytelling and art that he instilled in them.

Ed Young Dies at 91, After 60+ Year Career As a Children’s Author and Illustrator

This image is property of


Ed Young’s career as a children’s author and illustrator was marked by creativity, innovation, and a deep understanding of the capabilities and emotional intelligence of young readers. From his early success to his notable works and awards, Young’s contributions to children’s literature continue to resonate with audiences today. His legacy as a trailblazer in the industry and his impact on subsequent generations make him a true icon of the genre. Through his art and storytelling, Ed Young has left an indelible mark on the hearts and imaginations of readers young and old.