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Vlasta Van Kampen (1943-) Biography

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

Born 1943, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada; daughter of Frank (an engineer) and Myriel (Bowman) Rabel; Education: Ontario College of Art and Design, diploma (with honors), 1966; studied at Gerritt Rietveld Akademie (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1966-67.


Illustrator and author. McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, staff artist, 1968-70; freelance graphic artist, beginning 1970; National Film Board of Canada, storyboard artist, 1986. Guest teacher and lecturer, 1982—.


Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Canadian Children's Book Centre.

Honors Awards

Academic Award, Society of Illustrators, 1966; Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbon Award runner-up, 1979, for Great Canadian Animal Stories; Canada Council Award, 1982, for ABC, 123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book; Applied Arts magazine award, 1997, for Beetle Bedlam; Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award, 1999, for The Last Straw; Skipping Stones Award, 2001, for What's the Difference; Storytelling Award, Storytelling World, 2001, for Two Lazy Bears; International Orders of the Daughters of England Award, 2002, for A Drop of Gold; Toy Council of Canada Award, 2003, for Marigold's Wings.



ABC, 123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book, Hurtig (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1982.

Beetle Bedlam, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 1997.

(Reteller) Bear Tales: Three Treasured Stories, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

A Drop of Gold, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

It Couldn't Be Worse!, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

Marigold's Wings, Gareth Stevens Pub. (Milwaukee, WI), 2005.


Muriel Whitaker, editor, Great Canadian Animal Stories, Hurtig (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1978.

Muriel Whitaker, editor, Great Canadian Adventure Stories, Hurtig (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1979.

Muriel Whitaker, The Princess, the Hockey Player, Magic, and Ghosts: Canadian Stories for Children, Hurtig (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1980.

Muriel Whitaker, editor, Stories from the Canadian North, (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1980.

Kathy Corrigan, Emily Umily, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.

Patricia Quinlan, My Dad Takes Care of Me, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

Dorothy Joan Harris, Racing Stripes for William, Three Trees Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

Dorothy Joan Harris, Four Seasons for Toby, North Winds Press (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

Irene C. Eugen, Orchestranimals, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

Linda Manning, Animal Hours, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Irene C. Eugen, Rockanimals, North Winds Press (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

Arthur Johnson, King of Cats, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Linda Manning, Dinosaur Days, Bridge-Water Books (Mahwah, NJ), 1994.

Arnold Shapiro, God Loves You, Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, TN), 1996.

Laurel Dee Gugler, Muddle Cuddle, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.

Laurel Dee Gugler, reteller, Monkey Tales, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Fredrick Thury, The Last Straw, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 1999.

Judy Diehl and David Plumb, What's the Difference?: Ten Animal Look-alikes, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.


Canadian children's book illustrator, author, and artist Vlasta Van Kampen is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art who has illustrated dozens of books since beginning her career in the late 1970s. After spending several decades creating artwork to enhance the texts of picture-book authors, Van Kampen decided to add "author" to her resume, and Beetle Bedlam became one of her first self-illustrated books. This introduction to beetles of the world, which Resource Links reviewer Pam Mountain praised as "hilarious and highly informative," has been followed by such picture books as It Couldn't Be Worse! and A Drop of Gold.

It Couldn't Be Worse! is a "simple but hilarious retelling" of a familiar Yiddish folktale, according to Resource Links reviewer Denise Parrott. Calling Van Kampen "a gem in Canadian children's literature" Parrott added that in this book she spins "a compelling tale." In the story a farmer's wife complains to a fishmonger known for his wisdom that her family's house is too crowded. The thoughtful man responds by suggesting that the woman bring her goat inside. The next day, she returns with the same predicament, and the fishmonger dispenses similar advice, and with every passing day the house gets more and more crowed. Finally, with a house full of animals, the woman returns with the same complaint, and this time the fishmonger proves his wisdom by advising her to remove all the animals, whereupon the house seems far less crowded. In retelling the tale Van Kampen adds "a few twists," commented Susan Marie Pitard in School Library Journal, while Parrott noted that the book's "clean, large watercolour illustrations are charming." A Kirkus Reviews critic also had praise for the book, stating that the author/ illustrator's "beautiful illustrations complementing a very satisfying retelling" make It Couldn't Be Worse! "a winner" for readers of all ages.

In the porquoi tale A Drop of Gold Van Kampen paints a colorful tale in vivid watercolor. In her story Mother Natures sets to work painting the world, but leaves the birds until last. When all the paint is gone there is one bird left, the nightingale. When a monkey finds a drop of gold paint, Mother Nature gives the little bird a very special gift. "Vibrant colors and rich detail celebrate the variety of species," commented Gillian Engberg in Booklist, while School Library Journal reviewer Susan Marie Pitard noted that Van Kampen's artwork, as the book's strength, is "imaginative, full of color and action."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, July, 1994, Denia Hester, review of Dinosaur Days, p. 1951; June 1, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Bear Tales: Three Treasured Stories, p. 1899; February 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of ADropof Gold, p. 944; March 1, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of It Couldn't Be Worse!, p. 1202.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2003, review of It Couldn't Be Worse!, p. 241.

Publishers Weekly, February 23, 1990, review of Orchestr-animals, p. 217; June 23, 1997, review of Beetle Bedlam, p. 90; September 27, 1999, review of The Last Straw, p. 61.

Resource Links, August, 1997, review of Beetle Bedlam, p. 255; October, 2001, Stephanie Olson, review of A Drop of Gold, p. 6; April, 2003, Liz Abercrombie, review of Marigold's Wings, p. 10; April, 2003, Denise Parrott, review of It Couldn't Be Worse!, p. 9.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Denise E. Agosto, review of Bear Tales: Three Treasured Stories, p. 154; January, 2002, Susan Marie Pitard, review of ADrop of Gold, p. 111; April, 2003, Susan Marie Pitard, review of It Couldn't Be Worse!, p. 156.

Skipping Stones, October, 2001, Stephanie Olson, review of A Drop of Gold, p. 6.


Annick Press Web site, http://www.annickpress.com/ (July 6, 2005),"Vlasta Van Kampen."

Vlasta Van Kampen Home Page, http://www.vlasta.ca. (July 15, 2005).*

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - Personal