Superstitious people usually fear Friday the thirteenth, but not Anna Grossnickle Hines. In November 1981 that potentially unlucky day turned into a windfall of good fortune when she found out she’d sold her first book, Taste the Raindrops (Greenwillow, 1983).
As a child, Hines preferred to draw pictures rather than talk to people because she was shy. “I liked it when my teacher put my pictures up on the wall and they were admired by people,” she says.
Unlike most people, Hines knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life by the age of seven. “I was looking at a Little Golden Book of Heidi one day while sitting in my dad’s chair and I realized that somebody had to make all those pictures and that was the job I wanted.”
Hines’s strength lies in her ability to see the extraordinary in the everyday activities of childhood; those special events that seem mundane to adults but are momentous to a child. For instance, in What Joe Saw (Greenwillow, 1994) Hines found inspiration in her daughter, Sarah, who was always the last in line because she stopped to investigate everything along her path. Joe, like Sarah, sees things no one else sees because he takes the time to look. Hines’s rhythmic prose and detailed paintings encourage young readers to follow Joe’s lead.
In My Own Big Bed (illustrated by Mary Watson, Greenwillow, 1998), Hines helps children make the transition from crib to bed by exploring several possible fears—falling out, getting scared, feeling lonely, getting lost, etc. In Hines’s hands, this story of budding independence chronicles a milestone in every child’s life.
My Grandma is Coming to Town (illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Candlewick, 2003) tenderly touches on another universal childhood moment: stranger anxiety. When her first grandson was born, Hines lived in Pennsylvania and flew to California to see him as often as possible. She read to him frequently, taught him to play pat-a-cake and talked to him on the phone when he was old enough. But no matter how often she stayed in touch, he always took a little time to warm up to her at the beginning of each visit. In My Grandma is Coming to Town, sharing a few familiar rhymes does the trick!
Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts (Greenwillow, 2001) marked an exciting new illustration style for Hines—quilting. Nineteen handmade quilts illustrate her collection of seasonal poems. According to Hines, “I had the poems [written] for quite awhile, but I wanted to do something really different.” After piecing together a quilt that illustrated several events in her mother’s life, Hines reasoned she could quilt the story of her winter, spring, summer and fall poems. She made several sketches and one finished quilt for her editor at Greenwillow. But the editor wasn’t convinced; kids wouldn’t appreciate the quilts and the task would be a monumental undertaking for a poetry book that might sell only 6,000 copies. Undeterred, Hines made five more finished quilts and convinced the editor to give it a try. Today, Pieces is the winner of several awards including the 2001 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children’s Poetry!
After Pieces, Hines was ready to take on another quilting project. Her friend, Elizabeth Partridge, had been working on a story called Whistling for several years and showed it to Hines for her opinion. “I read it and could see it in fabric,” says Hines. She works instinctively, piecing colors and shapes together by trial and error looking for strong contrasts until something clicks. In Whistling, she employed inset boxes to focus on the intimacy of father and son in the woods against a larger backdrop of the forest and sky.
Winter Lights: A Celebration in Poems and Quilts (Greenwillow, 2005) describes the everyday kinds of light in winter: fireplaces, candles, the sun on an icicle, holiday lights, a flashlight under the covers. One of the quilts in Winter Lights contains 8,450 fabric triangles!
Hines works from her studio on the top floor of her home in the redwoods of coastal California. When a deadline looms, she works hard, but because she loves her work she never feels she has to drag herself to her studio—even when she’s crafting a quilt with over 8,000 triangles! She’s fascinated by how children think and learn, and her books are her way of expressing that fascination.