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Mary Engelbreit (1952–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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Born 1952 in St. Louis, MO; children: Evan, Will.

Addresses

Office—Mary Engelbreit Studios, 1001 Highlands Plaza Drive W., Ste. 450, St. Louis, MO 63110.

Career

Artist, entrepreneur, and author. Designer for advertising agency, c. 1972–73; staff artist for newspaper; freelance illustrator, mostly for greeting cards; Mary Engelbreit Card Company (now Mary Engelbreit Studios), St. Louis, MO, founder, c. 1983, publisher of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, 1996; licensor with Sunrise Publications, 1986.

Honors Awards

Given Star on St. Louis Walk of Fame, 2001; Best Art License of the Year, International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association, 2002, for Mary Engelbreit Studios.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED; FOR CHILDREN

Hey Kids! Come Craft with Me, edited by Carol Field Dahlstrom, Meredith Press (Des Moines, IA), 1999.

Booky, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2003.

Lovey Dovey, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2003.

Queen of Christmas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Honey Bunny, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2004.

One, Two, Peek-a-Boo!, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2004.

Queen of the Class (with paper doll), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Baby Booky: Sweet Heart, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2005.

Queen of Hearts, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Queen of Easter, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

(With Patrick Regan) Mary Engelbreit: The Art and the Artist, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Crafts to Decorate Your Home, edited by Carol Field Dahlstrom, Meredith Press (Des Moines, IA), 1999.

Crafts to Celebrate the Seasons, Meredith Press (Des Moines, IA), 1999.

Wrap It Up!: Gifts to Make, Wrap, and Give, Meredith Press (Des Moines, IA), 1999.

Decorating Ideas: Projects to Make for Indoors and Out, edited by Carol Field Dahlstrom, Meredith Press (Des Moines, IA), 2001.

Mary Engelbreit Christmas Ideas: Make Good Cheer!, Meredith Press (Des Moines, IA), 2001.

(With Patrick Regan) Tiny Teeny Halloweeny Treasury, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

(Compiler) The Blessings of Friendship: A Friendship Treasury, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

Marh Engelbreit's Home Sweet Home: A Journey through Mary's Dream Home, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2004.

Mary Engelbreit's A Merry Little Christmas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

ILLUSTRATOR; FOR CHILDREN

Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen, Workman Publishing, 1993.

Vitta Poplar, Christmas with Mary Engelbreit: Here Comes Santa Claus, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

Clement C. Moore, The Night before Christmas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

What Kids Do, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2003.

Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

ILLUSTRATOR

The Baby Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1992.

A Good Marriage, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1992.

Life Is Just a Chair of Bowlies, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1992.

Pals, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1992.

There Is No Friend like a Sister, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Mother o' Mine, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Don't Waste the Miracle, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

She Who Loves a Garden, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Take Good Care, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Thank You, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Don't Look Back, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Growing Up, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.

Mary Engelbreit's Sweetie Pie, edited by Jill Wolf, Antioch (Wellow Springs, OH), 1993.

Mary Engelbreit's Bountiful Harvest, edited by Jill Wolf, Antioch (Yellow Springs, OH), 1994.

Over the River and through the Woods, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1994.

'Tis the Season, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1994.

Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion: The Mary Engelbreit Look and How to Get It, text by Charlotte Lyons, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.

Home Sweet Home: A Homeowner's Journal and Project Planner, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.

All You Need Is a Friend, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.

Everyone Needs Their Own Spot: A Changing Picture Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.

It Never Hurts to Ask: A Changing Picture Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.

Christmas Companion: The Mary Engelbreit Look and How to Get It, text by Charlotte Lyons, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.

Something Tells Me It's Your Birthday …: A Changing Picture Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Jan Miller Girando, Home Is Where the Heart Is, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Charlotte Lyons, Mary Engelbreit's Autumn Craft Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Charlotte Lyons, Mary Engelbreit's Outdoor Companion: The Mary Engelbreit Look and How to Get It, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Charlotte Lyons, Mary Engelbreit's Winter Craft Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Teaching Is Touching Tomorrow: A Changing Picture Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Jan Miller Girando, Lives … Get One, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

Charlotte Lyons, Mary Engelbreit's Children's Companion: The Mary Engelbreit Look and How to Get It, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

Charlotte Lyons, Mary Engelbreit's Spring Craft Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

Charlotte Lyons, Mary Engelbreit's Summer Craft Book, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

Time for Tea with Mary Engelbreit!, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

The Wit of Whimsy of Mary Engelbreit, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

William Henry Channing, My Symphony, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.

Mary Engelbreit's Queen of the Kitchen Cookbook, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.

Terry Lee Bilsky, This Woman Deserves a Party, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.

Believe: A Christmas Treasury, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.

Crafts to Decorate Your Home, Better Homes &Gardens, 1999.

Words to Live By, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1999.

Mary Engelbreit's Sweet Treats: Dessert Cookbook, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1999.

A Very Mary Christmas: A Collection of Holiday Art, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1999.

Jan Miller Girando, When a Child Is Born, So Is a Grandmother, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1999.

Words for Mothers to Live By, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2000.

Mary Engelbreit's 'Tis the Season Holiday Cookbook, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2000.

Terry Lee Bilsky, Sweetest Heart: A Book about Love, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2000.

Words for Friends to Live By, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

Virginia Carey, Christmas with Mary Engelbreit: Let the Merrymaking Begin, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

Patrick Regan, Happy to You: It's Your Birthday!, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

Mary Engelbreit Poster Book: Classic Collection, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

Mary Engelbreit's Dining out Cookbook, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

Mary Engelbreit's Let's Party Cookbook, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.

Words for Teachers to Live By, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

Patrick Regan, All Hail the Birthday Queen, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

Be It Ever So Humble, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

Patrick Regan, A Friend Indeed, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.

The Best Christmas Ever with Mary Engelbreit, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2003.

Mary Engelbreit's You're Invited: A Cookbook for Special Occasions, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2003.

Words for Gardeners, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2003.

Such Devoted Sisters: A Sister's Treasury, Andrew McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2005.

Adaptations

Artwork has been adapted as cross-stitch and other craft patterns. Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose was adapted as an audiobook, read by Lynn Redgrave, HarperChildren's Audio, 2005.

Sidelights

Known for creating brightly colored artwork that combines gingham borders, cozy cottage interiors, Scotty dogs, and round-faced children with a nostalgic air, Mary Engelbreit is also a book illustrator and author who has produced everything from inspirational gift books and home-decorating guides to children's picture books. Inspired by the storybook illustrations recalled from childhood and favoring holidays and seasonal traditions, she is particularly notable for her holiday books such as Believe: A Christmas Treasury, a 1998 anthology of poems, carols, and holiday lore that Toni Hyde described in Booklist as an "imaginative and utterly enthralling collection" that is "literally overflowing with vibrant illustrations." A prolific artist who has created thousands of designs, she has also adapted one of her most popular characters, a blonde, bobbed-haired girl with large glasses named Ann Estelle, as the main character in a series of picture books that include Queen of the Class, Queen of Christmas, and Queen of Hearts.

Engelbreit's success has caused her to be compared with such creative talents as American painter Norman Rockwell, while her savvy as a businesswoman has made her as well known to home-style-watchers as Martha Stewart and Laura Ashley. People contributor Paula Chin described the artist's trademark style as "a cute and cluttered version of American homeyness"; Engelbreit's many greeting cards, mugs, posters, textiles, clothing, wallpapers, and other decorative creations feature "round-faced, impish kids, benign animals, flowered and checkered borders," according to Chin. Appraising Mary Engelbreit: The Art and the Artist, which profiles the artist's career and philosophy, a Publishers Weekly contributor described Engelbreit's art as "whimsical, nostalgic, and often veering to the cute or sentimental," yet also reflecting the artist's "celebration of love, faith, decency and the vicissitudes of everyday life."

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1952, Engelbreit demonstrated enough enthusiasm and talent for drawing that her parents allowed her the use of an empty linen closet as a "studio" when she was age eleven. In addition to art, she exhibited an early talent for commerce, and with the encouragement of friends, was selling her original artwork while still in high school. Rather than go to college, she found a job at a St. Louis art-supply store, then moved to a local advertising agency. Meanwhile, in 1977 she married Phil Delano, with whom she would have two sons. Hoping to work from her own imagination, she took a portfolio of her works to New York City, but found that her dream of illustrating children's books was not a possibility. Undaunted by her rejections from book publishers, Engelbreit decided to pursue greeting-card sales, and by the mid-1980s was successfully licensing several of her designs. "I have always appreciated the little things that happen every day: laughing with friends, a hug, a beautiful sunset," she explained to Hopscotch interviewer Patricia Nikolina Clark. "From the time I was little, I collected those little moments in my head. That's what I illustrate … [on my cards]—those little moments."

Encouraged by her husband, Engelbreit decided to follow her dream to establish her own company. From its base of operations in the couple's basement, in 1983 the Mary Engelbreit Greeting Card Company marketed twelve of Engelbreit's designs at the annual National Stationery Show in New York City. On the back of each of her cards, she printed "This illustration is by Mary Engelbreit, who thanks you from the bottom of her heart for buying this card," a sentiment that has become something of a trademark. Within two years the company was producing a hundred designs and was licensing art for use in cards, calendars, and other objects. Delano left his job as a social worker to become Engelbreit's business manager, and the business prospered further as a result.

By the mid-1986 the Mary Engelbreit Card Company was involved in the design of thousands of cards and other objects, and the artist had begun cultivating a talented and creative staff to help her. More recently, the company has expanded into the Mary Engelbreit Studios, located in the author/artist's hometown of St. Louis. In addition to illustrations and licensed designs, Engelbreit has also established the Mary Engelbreit Store to retail her many products, and her company publishes Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, a lifestyle magazine that provides readers with creative ways to bring the Engelbreit style home in each bi-monthly issue.

In 1992 Engelbreit's success in business was such that she was able to take some time to revisit her first love: children's book illustration. For three months she created illustrations for The Snow Queen, a version of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale that became a bestseller. "I picked this story because it's one of the only fairy tales in which a little girl is the hero," Engelbreit explained on her company's Web site. After illustrating another classic work, William Henry Channing's poem "My Symphony," in 1998, she began a relationship with HarperCollins publisher and produced an illustrated version of The Night before Christmas which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for over ten weeks in 2002.

Engelbreit has continued her relationship with HarperCollins with her "Ann Estelle" books, beginning with 2003's Queen of Christmas. In this story, the young overachiever creates a comprehensive list for Santa that includes absolutely everything she has ever desired. As the holidays unfold, the girl becomes involved in fam-ily activities such as cookie-baking, holiday decorating, and ice-skating and sledding, and the objects on the list fade in importance. The role of the queen in the school play is the subject of Queen of the Class, as Ann Estelle is appointed as stage manager rather than star and learns that the most important roles are not always the ones performed on stage. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer noted that Engelbreit's story in Queen of Christmas "authentically captures a child's anticipation" and contains "lots of heart," while in Queen of the Class "disappointment is majestically turned into exuberance," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. Praising the "nostalgic artwork" created for Queen of Hearts, a Kirkus Reviews writer also noted that Engelbreit's Valentine's Day story presents young fans of Ann Estelle with "a sincere message amid the furbelows and frivolity" of the holiday's tradition.

"I have always believed that, if you chose a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life," Engelbreit noted on her company Web site. Describing her busy life as "a day-to-day adventure," she added: "I always adhere to this advice: Remain true to what you love doing most and believe in yourself."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Engelbreit, Mary, and Patrick Regan, Mary Engelbreit: The Art and the Artist, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Newsmakers 1994, issue 4, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Mary Engelbreit, p. 472; October 15, 1998, Toni Hyde, review of Believe: A Christmas Treasury, p. 374.

Hopscotch, April-May, 2005, Patricia Nikolina Clark, "The Queen of Everything" (interview), p. 10.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of The Night before Christmas, p. 1623; June 1, 2004, review of Queen of the Class, p. 536; December 15, 2004, review of Queen of Hearts, p. 1201.

People, January 10, 1994, Paula Chin, interview with Engelbreit.

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 1995, review of Christmas Companion: The Mary Engelbreit Look and How to Get It, p. 82; August 26, 1996, review of Mary Engelbreit, p. 87; September 22, 2003, review of Queen of Christmas, p. 69; November 14, 2005, review of Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose, p. 72.

School Library Journal, March, 1994, Karen K. Radkte, review of The Show Queen, p. 220; October, 2003, Eva Mitnick, review of Queen of Christmas, p. 62; July, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of Queen of the Class, p. 69; December, 2004, Julie Roach, review of Queen of Hearts, p. 106.

ONLINE

Mary Engelbreit Studios Web site, http://www.maryengelbreit.com (March 27, 2006).

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