For years, Anita Lobel shied away from many memories of her childhood, and she had good reason to do so. Born in Poland just before World War II, Anita’s father ran a chocolate factory and the family was rather well off. Her mother had furs and jewels and employed servants to help with the housework and the children, including a beloved nanny, Niania. All that was soon to change when the Nazis marched into Kraków.
Left alone when her husband was forced to flee, Anita’s mother possessed forged papers and believed she could stay in the city to survive, but she wasn’t willing to risk her children. While most Jews were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps, Niania agreed to take Anita and her younger brother away from the city and ultimately to her cottage in the country, claiming them as her own children. For years the three barely got by, trading comforts from their old life in exchange for milk, bread, eggs - anything to keep them fed.
Eventually, they took shelter in a convent with other refugees. But the children were still in hiding from the Nazis, who continued to hunt Jews relentlessly. Anita’s story took a terrifying turn after the children were caught, along with other Jewish refugees at the convent, packed into trucks, sent to the city prison, then transferred to Plaszów camp. Before their wartime saga was done, Anita and her brother would march by night into the freezing January cold, heading for the notorious camp at Ravensbrück.
As she tells the gripping story in No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, somehow she and her brother survived those years and set them behind them until they were older. She did not dwell on the details until the story came spilling out in a writing workshop. Before revisiting her childhood to write down this award-winning story, Anita Lobel enjoyed and continues to enjoy a full, rich life as an American citizen and artist and sometimes writer for children.
- Born: June 3, 1934, in Kraków, Poland
- Parents: Leon and Sofia (Grunberg) Kempler
- Immigrated to the United States: 1952
- Naturalized citizen: 1956
- Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A., 1955; attended Brooklyn Museum Art School, 1975-76
- Married: fellow children’s writer and illustrator Arnold Stark Lobel in 1955. Mr. Lobel died in 1987
- Children: Adrianne and Adam
- Occupations: Freelance textile designer, 1957-64; writer and illustrator of children’s books, 1964--.
- Selected Awards: Caldecott Honor: On Market Street; National Book Award Finalist: No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War
Anita Lobel has written and illustrated a plethora of children's books. Here are some of her most memorable.
Alison acquired an amaryllis for Beryl who bought a begonia for Crystal - and so on through the alphabet, as full-page illustrations are presented of each flower.
Fearing at first that her family is going on vacation without her, Nini the cat ends up traveling with her owners to their new home.
A child buys presents from A to Z in the shops along Market Street.
Presents the days of the week, the months of the year, and numbers from one to ten through the activities of a cat and people in and around a lighthouse.
The author’s Web site has details on how she does her work and a complete list of her books.
“Anita Lobel: Drawing from Experience”
In this article from Publisher’s Weekly, Anita Lobel talks about her autobiography, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War.
“Anita Lobel: A Stunning Autobiography,” by Allen Raymond
A little more on the background to No Pretty Pictures
"Through the Looking Glass: Children's Book Reviews"
A short biography with insight into the way she looks at creating children's books.
Biography in Context
"Anita Lobel." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Biography In Context. Web. 13 May 2013.
Rochman, Hazel. "Anita Lobel's War." Booklist Aug. 1998: 1988. Biography In Context. Web. 13 May 2013.
"A Cat's Tale Hits Home in 'Nini, Here and There'." Weekend Edition Saturday 30 June 2007. General OneFile. Web. 28 May 2013.