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Deborah (Deborah Kogan Kogan Ray Deborah Ray) (1940–) Biography

Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1940, in Philadelphia, PA; name legally changed, 1981; Education: Attended Philadelphia College of Art, 1958–59, University of Pennsylvania, 1959–61, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1959–62, and Albert C. Barnes Foundation, 1962–64.


Artist and author. Exhibitions: Paintings exhibited in one-woman shows nationally and in group shows at Philadelphia Art Alliance; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Arts; Rutgers University; American Institute of Graphic Arts; Hibaya Library, Tokyo; Kikar Malkaei, Tel Aviv; and elsewhere. Work represented in collections of Chase Manhattan Bank (graphic mural), Free Library of Philadelphia, University of Minnesota, Library of Congress, Drexel University, Fidelity Bank, First Pennsylvania Bank, Ecolaire, Inc., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Philadelphia Electric Co., and Smith, Kline & French.


Artists Equity Association.

Honors Awards

Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation fellowship in painting, 1968; Mabel Rush Homer Award, 1968; Philadelphia Art Directors Award for design and book illustration, 1970; awards from American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1970, and Woodmere Art Gallery, 1973; Drexel Citation for Children's Literature, Drexel University, 1987; Carolyn W. Field Award, Pennsylvania Library Association, 1988; Pennbook Award for Children's Literature, Fre Library of Philadelphia, 1992; Silver Honor, Parent's Choice Award, 2001, for Hokusai; Ohio State Farm Bureau Award for Most Distinguished Book with an Agricultural Theme, 2004, for Lily's Garden; John Burroughs Association Award for Best Nature Book, and Selectors Choice, Outstanding Science Trade Book, NSTA/Children's Book Council, both 2005, both for The Flower Hunter.



(Adapter, under name Deborah Ray) The Fair at Sorochintsi: A Nikolai Gogol Story Retold, Macrae, 1969.

(Adapter, under name Deborah Ray) Abdul Abul-Bul Amir and Ivan Skavinsky Skavar, Macrae, 1969.

Sunday Morning We Went to the Zoo, Harper (New York, NY), 1981.

Fog Drift Morning, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.

The Cloud, Harper (New York, NY), 1984.

My Dog Trip, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1987.

(With Harriet Ziefert) New Boots for Spring, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.

My Daddy Was a Soldier: A World War II Story, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.

Stargazing Sky, Crown (New York, NY), 1991.

The Snowchild, Grosset (New York, NY), 1995.

Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2001.

Lily's Garden, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.

The Flower Hunter: William Bartram, America's First Naturalist, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.

To Go Singing through the World: The Childhood of Pablo Neruda, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.


Charlotte Zolotow, The White Marble, Crowell (New York, NY), 1982.

Donita Ross Haller, Not Just Any Ring, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.

Carol A. Marron, Last Look from the Mountain, Carnival Press, 1983.

Marron and Phyllis Root, Gretchen's Grandma, Carnival Press, 1983.

Esther Hautzig, translator and adapter, The Seven Good Years and Other Stories by I. L. Peretz, Jewish Publication Society of America (Philadelphia, PA), 1984.

Emily Herman, Hubknuckles, Crown (New York, NY), 1985.

Brett Harvey, My Prairie Year: Based on the Diary of Elenore Plaisted, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1986.

Crescent Dragonwagon, Diana, Maybe, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.

Brett Harvey, Immigrant Girl: Becky of Eldridge Street, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1987.

E. E. Cummings, Little Tree, Crown (New York, NY), 1987.

Brett Harvey, Cassie's Journey: Going West in the 1960s, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1988.

Eleanor Coerr, Chang's Paper Pony, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

Myra Cohn Livingston, compiler, Poems for Mothers, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1988.

Brett Harvey, Oregon Trail, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1988.

Steven Kroll, The Hokey Pokey Man, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1989.

Harriet Ziefert, With Love from Grandma, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.

E. E. Cummings, Hist Whist, Crown (New York, NY), 1989.

Alison Weir, Peter, Good Night, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Robert Cormier, Other Bells for Us to Ring, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1990.

Brett Harvey, My Prairie Christmas, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.

Lisa Westberg Peters, Good Morning, River!, Arcade (New York, NY), 1990.

Erica Silverman, On Grandma's Roof, Collier (New York, NY), 1990.

Ruth Yaffe Radin, All Joseph Wanted, Maxwell, 1991.

Bobbi Katz, editor, Ghosts and Goose Bumps: Poems to Chill Your Bones, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.

Melissa Madenski, Some of the Pieces, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.

Karen Ackerman, I Know a Place, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1992.

Sally Hobert Alexander, Maggie's Whopper, Maxwell, 1992.

Patricia Lee Gauch, Uncle Magic, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1992.

Carla Stevens, Lily and Miss Liberty, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Lady Borton, Fat Chance!, Philomel (New York, NY), 1993.

Nancy White Carlstrom, How Does the Wind Walk?, Maxwell, 1993.

Marilyn Singer, Sky Words, Maxwell, 1994.

Michele Benoit Slawson, Apple Picking Time, Crown (New York, NY), 1994.

Rosemary Breckler, Sweet Dried Apples: A Vietnamese Wartime Childhood, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1996.

Jonathan London, Jackrabbit, Crown (New York, NY), 1996.

Sydelle Kramer, Wagon Train, Grosset (New York, NY), 1997.

Deborah Heiligman, Too Perfect, Grosset (New York, NY), 1999.

Tony Johnston, The Barn Owls, Charlesbridge, 2000.


Robert Welber, The Winter Picnic, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1970.

Robert Welber, Frog, Frog, Frog, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1971.

Robert Welber, The Train, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1972.

Robert Welber, Song of the Seasons, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1973.

Robert Welber, The Winter Wedding, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1975.

Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson, I Have a Sister, My Sister Is Deaf, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.

Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson, That Is That, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.

Patricia MacLachlan, Through Grandpa's Eyes, Harper (New York, NY), 1980.


Artist Deborah Kogan Ray has written and illustrated a number of books for children. Among her most popular self-authored titles are the biographies Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain and The Flower Hunter: William Bartram, America's First Naturalist, as well as the fiction title Lily's Garden. During Kogan Ray's long career as an illustrator, she has contributed highly
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praised artwork to picture books by Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson, Nancy White Carlstrom, and Robert Cormier, among others.

Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain is the life story of a Japanese painter who lived in the eighteenth century. While Hosukai was born into poverty, and his father and mother died when he was young, he learned how to paint and eventually became one of the leading artists of his time. Best known for his painting Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, Hokusai created over 30,000 works and had an enormous influence on the art of his day. "The text supplies plenty of historical background without undue complexity," a critic for Publishers Weekly noted of Kogan Ray's book, while Gillian Engberg in Booklist called Hokusai "a beautifully illustrated introduction to an individual rarely covered in books for youth."

The Flower Hunter: William Bartram, America's First Naturalist is the story of the botanist who helped to find and study America's native plants. Bartram explored Florida in the eighteenth century, discovering hundreds of new species of plants and making friends with the native Seminole tribe. He was also a friend of Benjamin Franklin (for whom he named a new species of tree) and was a founder of the American Philosophical Society. Told as a series of journal entries written by Bartram, the book is, as Joanna Rudge Long wrote in Horn Book, "both an introduction to the basics of botany and a revealing window into the past." A critic for Kirkus Reviews called The Flower Hunter "required reading for young students of nature or American history." Writing in the School Library Journal, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan concluded: "This quiet book is a fitting tribute to a dedicated and talented naturalist."

In Lily's Garden Kogan Ray tells of a young girl who, in January, receives a box of oranges from grandparents who have recently moved from Maine to California. So begins a year's worth of memories for Lily, as each month brings her some new plant that reminds her of times she spent with her grandparents. February brings maple syrup, March, spring peas, and April, daffodils. Lily writes about these gifts in letters she sends to her grandmother. Finally, at Christmas, her grandparents come to visit. According to Carolyn Phelan in Booklist, Kogan Ray's "appealing illustrations" create "a series of warm, engaging scenes of Lily and her family." Also praising the book's artwork, a Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that each illustration is "expressive, informative, and filled with detail." A Publishers Weekly critic found Lily's Garden to be "an accessible guide to gardening and a constructive way to cope with an absent loved one."

Kogan Ray once commented: "I grew up in the city. I moved four times to different houses on the same block. People stayed to their own streets in my neighborhood. Children played on the front steps and in the alleys behind the long rows of houses. In summer, when adults washed cars and gossiped in the back alley and teenagers gathered on the front steps, we children moved out into the street to play.

"Our favorite game was stick ball. It required no expensive equipment. A halved pimpleball or a cut section of garden hose and a broom stick were all that were
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needed. The girls played hopscotch. Games could last for hours. No one was allowed to touch the chalk-lined games once they were drawn. Taking over an unoccupied game was forbidden, too. A new one was drawn, instead. Once a week the games were washed away by the streetcleaner's sprinkler truck. They were replaced as soon as the street was dry.

"I was a very small, shy, bookish child. I pushed myself to mastery of the street games and I did very well in school, but I was an outsider.

"At age eight, I discovered the park a couple of blocks away. The park became my refuge. There were tall trees. High hills descended to a creek. I sat by the creek for hours. I followed its path beyond the park to where the city ended. Old farmhouses stood in overgrown meadows. When I was older, I rode my bike up the back roads into the marshlands, where egrets and herons lived in the reedy grass. In that city park, I first learned to love the natural world. Things of nature have remained a focus of my work.

"Since I loved to draw, when I was twelve I decided I would be an artist. It filled the need of a lonely child to know that she was choosing to be different. When I graduated from high school, I was awarded an art scholarship. I enrolled in a commercial art school because I had vague thoughts of studying fabric design. I knew I had to earn a living. Within a few months, I knew this was not what I wanted to do. The next year, I transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study painting. I supported myself waiting on tables in a coffee house, modeling for art classes, and fitting corsets in a lingerie store. I finished art school with my infant daughter attending classes with me. She was, without doubt, the youngest class member in the long history of the Academy.

"I have painted and exhibited my work in galleries since leaving art school. My paintings are of moving water, leaves and plants. They tell of the seasons and of growth and change. I paint in watercolor and acrylics. I draw and make prints.

"In 1969, I adapted and illustrated a story by Nikolai Gogol. It was published. This led to illustrating many other books. In illustrating children's books I found another audience for my work. My aim is to create good art for children in books. My belief is that children respond to the nuance and look beyond what many adults miss.

"For my first books, I used folk tales for sources. They were bright and colorful. I painted imagined places. My later books are about the world children know in their day-to-day lives. Some of my recent books have historical settings. Whether the stories are about times past or now, the stories are about people and how they live. Over the years my illustration has become more and more involved in presenting the real world of children. I often use pencil as my medium; it allows an intimacy and closeness of detail.

"My transition to writing as well as illustrating was slow. My own first story was published in 1981. I write about people. What I write is taken from experience. My stories are about what happens inside us. These are the things that are important to me."

As the seasons change, a budding horticulturalist and her far-off grandparents share a wealth of plants, edibles, and knowledge of growing things despite the many miles between them. (From Lily's Garden, written and illustrated by Kogan Ray.)

Biographical and Critical Sources


Holtze, Sally Holmes, Sixth Book of Junior Authors, H. W. Wilson (Bronx, NY), 1989.

MacCann, Donnarae, and Olga Richard, The Child's First Books, H. W. Wilson (Bronx, NY), 1973.


Booklist, November 1, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Hokusai, p. 473; October 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Lily's Garden, p. 338; April 15, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Flower Hunter, p. 1442.

Horn Book, March-April, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Flower Hunter, p. 197.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2001, review of Hokusai, p. 1299; August 1, 2002, review of Lily's Garden, p. 1140; March 15, 2004, review of The Flower Hunter, p. 276.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1993, review of Sky Words, p. 72; October 15, 2001, review of Hokusai, p. 72; July 1, 2002, review of Lily's Garden, p. 79.

School Arts, May, 2002, Ken Marantz, review of Hokusai, p. 60.

School Library Journal, December, 2001, Ilene Abramson, review of Hokusai, p. 170; November, 2002, Bina Williams, review of Lily's Garden, p. 145; May, 2004, Kathleen Kelly Macmillan, review of The Flower Hunter, p. 136.


Deborah Kogan Ray Web site, http://www.dkray.com (June 23, 2005).

Embracing the Child Web site, http://www.embracingthechild.org/ (May 6, 2005), "Deborah Kogan Ray."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: C(hristopher) J(ohn) Koch Biography - C.J. Koch comments: to Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard Lovell (1913– ) Biography