Kristina Rodanas’ Biography
When I was a little girl and someone asked the "what do you want to be when you grow up" question, I would proudly declare, "a cowboy!" Secretly, however, I wished I could grow up to be a Native American "Indian." My dreams, of course, could not come true, but I have managed to weave my childhood fantasies into a career that allows me to live vicariously through the stories I tell and illustrate. Best of all, my picture books have helped to bring alive the wonderful traditions of Native Americans, as well as the cultures and histories of people from all around the world.
As a child, art came easily to me and I remember illustrating stories for my elementary school classmates. For a pencil drawing I charged five cents. A colored one was ten cents! During my spare time, I wandered through the woods of New Hampshire hoping to catch sight of a fawn or a red tailed hawk. Sometimes I would lie in a green meadow to listen to the hum of dragonflies and study the changing shapes of clouds.
Soon after I graduated from Boston University, I became an elementary school art teacher. My work with children reminded me of what it's like to see through the eyes of a child.
Later, when I began to write and illustrate stories, I tried to use words and images that would interest children and, hopefully, encourage them to read. I have always hoped that young readers will learn something from my books that they can apply to their own lives, so my book characters tend to find creative solutions to their challenges. Sometimes fixing a problem is not simply the result of magic, so the characters in many of my picture books including "Dragonfly's Tale", "Dance of the Sacred Circle", "Follow the Stars", and "The Blind Hunter" demonstrate how to work at making their dreams come true.
To me, storytelling is an art form and illustration is fine art. When I write for children, I try to inspire emotional and creative responses to my words. When I draw for children, I do much the same thing. I choose textures, lines, and color combinations carefully, and I show emotion in my characters through facial expression and body language. My purpose is to create a "feeling" in the reader, something beautiful and lasting. Recently, a young reader sent me a letter that said, "I can still see the pictures in my mind long after I closed the book."
Many years have gone by since I was asked what it was that I aspired to be. I have written and illustrated many stories for children, and many of my stories have been read by children in many lands. I still spend sunny afternoons gazing at clouds and take long walks through the woods with my dogs (who often appear somewhere in my books). I continue to imagine what it would be like to live in a Native American village of long ago or ride a winged horse through the night sky. The difference is that now I can turn my daydreams into picture books and, thankfully, get paid more than ten cents to do so.
Here is what some reviewers have said
about my children's books:
"Perhaps because Rodanas is not trying to revive archival material, but instead is inspired by her own love of the natural world, her text and artwork fairly dance with life. The animals, trees, and grasslands vibrate with color and texture…"
- School Library Journal
"Kristina Rodanas's fine pencil on watercolor illustrations are in perfect harmony with her telling, and through their fluidity of line and form, they bring out the bond which unites all forms of life."
- The School Librarian (UK)
Read more reviews of books by Kristina Rodanas.