Author of the Month: Ed Emberley

Ed Emberley

Ed Emberley is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. He is best known for his creative and lively drawing books, as well as 1992’s Go Away Big Green Monster—a smashing success with audiences around the world.

Edward Randolph Emberley was born October 19 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Akin and Evelyn Emberley. Ed started drawing when he was in kindergarten with the encouragement of his parents and school teachers. With their help, he enrolled at the Massachusetts School of Art (now College of Art and Design) and earned a degree in painting and illustration. While he was there, Ed also met his wife Barbara Collins, a student of fashion design.

After graduation, Ed gained design experience painting signs with the U.S. Army for two years and as a commercial paste-up artist, specializing in cartoons for periodicals. He didn’t show interest in children’s literature until the late 1950s—but his first effort getting anything published was not successful. After waiting five years, Ed decided to write a book on his own, The Wing on a Flea (1961) instead of waiting for his publisher.

The Wing on a Flea is a unique piece of children’s concept literature. Within the pages, Ed draws basic shapes in fine pencil drawings, then elaborates on what these shapes can be made into. Any aspiring artist can easily take Ed’s drawings as well and draw their own mystifying shapes. The book was greeted warmly by critics, including The New York Times, who called it “fresh and imaginative”.

After finding himself in demand by several publishing companies, Ed took on projects using different techniques and styles. For example, London Bridge Is Falling is drawn with pencil and has a pale, color wash, while Drummer Hoff uses woodcuts highlighted with bright colors.

Ed has collaborated with his wife Barbara on many occasions, and two of their booksDrummer Hoff and One Wide River to Cross—have earned the Caldecott Medal for illustration. Their children, Rebecca and Michael, have also earned respect in the children’s literature world with their books.

Ed Emberley has always been an avid supporter of young artists and encourages them with his intriguing drawing books, such as Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint Drawing Book, where the readers learn how to draw a simple image out of their own thumbprint. His popular and heartwarming philosophy has always been anyone can draw. What will you draw with Ed?


Fast Facts about Ed Emberley:

  • Owns Bird in the Bush press, and prints limited edition children’s books.
  • Enjoys cross-country skiing, sailing, kayaking, bicycling, and hiking.
  • He and his family have written a book togetherThree: an Emberley Family Sketch Book, which includes poems, illustrated stories, and comments by each family member.
  • The Wing of a Flea was an American Library Association Notable Book.
  • His most recent illustrated book is Spare Parts.


CRRL has these books by Ed Emberley:

Drummer Hoff by Barbara Emberley (illustrations by Ed Emberley)
A cumulative folk song in which seven soldiers build a magnificent cannon, but Drummer Hoff fires it off. 



Ed Emberley's Big Green Drawing Book
Simple, step-by-step instructions for drawing people and animals using a minimum of line and circle combinations.




Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals
Explains how to use a few simple shapes, letters, numbers, and symbols to draw almost any animal.




Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces
Step-by-step instructions for drawing a wide variety of faces reflecting various emotions and professions.




Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains
Provides simple instructions for drawing a variety of trucks and trains.



Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book
Instructions for creating a variety of shapes and figures using thumbprints and a few simple lines.



Ed Emberley's Halloween Drawing Book
Step-by-step instructions for drawing Halloween cartoon figures and objects.





Glad Monster, Sad Monster
Monsters of different colors explain what makes them feel glad, sad, loving, worried, silly, and angry. Fold-out masks encourage readers to talk about their feelings.




Go Away, Big Green Monster!
Die-cut pages through which bits of a monster are revealed are designed to help a child control nighttime fears of monsters.




If You're a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley (illustrations by Ed Emberley)
Monsters sing their own version of this popular song that encourages everyone to express their happiness through voice and movement.




Mice on Ice by Rebecca Emberley (illustrations by Ed Emberley)
Colorful mice go ice skating and are unexpectedly joined by a feline friend.



Night's Nice
Moonlit treetops, city lamps aglow, bright fireworks bursting in a dark July sky, and other wondrous illuminated evening sights are captured in a colorful picture book with a die-cut moon and silver foil title type on the cover.



Nighty Night Little Green Monster
With the turn of every die-cut page, see Little Green Monster's face gradually appear. Then, as the stars come out, get ready to say good night!




Photo credits: Ed Emberley's Great Thumb Print Book by Toekneesan (C.C. by 2.0)
Penguin Group by Ed Emberley by Jolante van Hemert (C.C. by 2.0)