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Barbara Lavallee (1941–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Illustrator, Sidelights

Born 1941, in Davenport, IA; Education: Illinois Wesleyan University, B.F.A., 1964. Hobbies and other interests: "Travel: anytime, anywhere."


Office—1026 W. 4th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Chronicle Books, 86 2nd St., 6th Fl., San Francisco, CA 94105.


U.S. Army Service Club, Lenggries, Germany, recreational specialist, 1964–65; social worker in hospital for the mentally handicapped, 1965–66, and for an adoption agency, Portland, ME, 1966–67; Job Corps Center for Women, Poland Spring, ME, counselor, 1967–69; art teacher for Bureau of Indian Affairs, on Navajo Reservation, 1969–70, and at Mount Edgecumbe native school, Sitka, AK, 1970–75; self-employed artist in Anchorage, AK, 1975–. Vice president of Girdwood Parent Teacher Association (PTA), 1983–84. Exhibitions: Work exhibited in galleries in Alaska, including Annie Kaill's Gallery, Juneau, AJm and Artique, Ltd., Anchorage.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Honors Awards

Tomas Rivera Mexican-American Children's Book Award nomination, 1996, for Uno, Dos, Tres = One, Two, Three, by Pat Mora; Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and National Association of Parenting Publications Award, both 1991, and ABC Children's Booksellers Choice Award, 1992, all for Mama, Do You Love Me?, by Barbara M. Joosse; Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended designation, 2003, for All You Need Is a Snowman by Alice Schertle.



Freya Littledale, The Snow Child, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

Barbara M. Joosse, Mama, Do You Love Me?, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1991, tenth anniversary edition, 2000.

Pat Mora, Uno, Dos, Tres = One, Two, Three, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Kristine L. Franklin, The Gift, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

Alice Schertle, All You Need for a Snowman, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.

Tricia Brown, Groucho's Eyebrow, Alaska Northwest Books (Anchorage, AK), 2003.

Alice Schertle, All You Need for a Beach, Silver Whistle (Orlando, FL), 2004.

Barbara M. Joosse, Papa, Do You Love Me?, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.


Vicki Cobb, This Place Is Cold: Alaska, Walker (New York, NY), 1989.

Vicki Cobb, This Place Is Dry: Arizona's Sonoran Desert, Walker (New York, NY), 1989.

Vicki Cobb, This Place Is Wet: The Brazilian Rain Forest, Walker (New York, NY), 1990.

Vicki Cobb, This Place Is High: The Andes Mountains of South America, Walker (New York, NY), 1990.

Vicki Cobb, This Place Is Lonely: Australia, Walker (New York, NY), 1991.

Vicki Cobb, This Place Is Crowded: Japan, Walker (New York, NY), 1992.

Vicki Cobb, This Place Is Wild: East Africa, Walker (New York, NY), 1998.


Cecilia Nibeck, Salmon Recipes from Alaska (cookbook), AK Enterprises, 1987.

Cecilia Nibeck, Alaskan Halibut Recipes (cookbook), AK Enterprises, 1989.

(With B.G. Olson) Barbara Lavallee's Painted Ladies: And Other Celebrations, Epicenter Press (Fairbanks, AK), 1995.


Barbara Lavallee is an award-winning illustrator who has received praise for her artistic collaborations with several picture-book authors. Together with Barbara M. Joosse, she produced Mama, Do You Love Me?, Joosse's story in which a young Inuit girl presents her mother with mischievous situations. The little girl is curious as to whether her mother would still love her if she were to carry out any of these troublemaking propositions. As Lavalle once told SATA, Mama, Do You Love Me? "was an illustrator's dream: a universal concept couched in the trappings of a culture and people that continue to fascinate me after over twenty years of living in Alaska." Noted for including the fine details of Inuit life in her illustrations, Lavallee's watercolor illustrations contribute to the book's sensitive portrait of a loving relationship between mother and daughter, and they won the Golden Kite Award in 1991.

In addition to working with Joosse on a follow-up work, Papa, Do You Love Me,? Lavallee has also teamed with friend and author Vicki Cobb for the "Imagine Living Here" series of books. Including titles such as This Place Is Lonely: Australia, This Place Is Cold: Alaska, This Place Is Wet: The Brazilian Rain Forest, these books relate what life is like in various countries and climates around the world.

"I am undeniably the product of my life's experiences," Lavallee once explained to SATA: "a 1950s Midwest childhood with three sisters and a strong, courageous mother who put our lives back together after the death of my father; an adventurous husband who encouraged me to sometimes go beyond the limits of comfort; my beloved sons, who shared their childhood with a single parent; and the roller coaster ride of making a living as a freelance artist. My family remains a strong influence on my life and work."

In describing how she came to her chosen profession, the artist recalled: "I have always known I wanted to 'do' art, but it was only after I moved to Alaska, fell in love with the land, its people, and fascinating native
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cultures, that I knew I wanted to be an artist. I majored in art in college and had experience teaching art. When it became time to do my first book, I read Uri Schulevitz's book Writing with Pictures to get an idea of how to go about illustrating a book. I found it to be a wonderful resource, a worthy recommendation to anyone who is interested in illustrating."

Lavallee's first illustration projects were cookbooks, but she moved to children's books after teaming with Cobb to create the "Imagine Living Here" series. In fact, she credits Cobb as being a mentor of sorts: "I have worked closely with her throughout the "Imagine Living Here" series, and we have developed a working relationship in which we discuss the kinds of things each of us would like to include in our books. I love to travel and have had the opportunity to experience bits of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Australia, and Japan while researching books with Vicki."

Other books featuring Lavallee's artwork include Groucho's Eyebrows, a picture book by Tricia Brown that focuses on a beloved kitten who becomes lost in the snow while playing outside with her human companion, a young girl named Kristie. Reviewing the book, ChildrensLit.com contributor Laura Hummmel wrote that Lavallee's "soft, breezy watercolors … capture the loving emotions and wintry scenes." Collaborating with Alice Shertle, she has illustrated both All You Need for a Snowman and All You Need for a Beach, both of which find young children engaged in outdoor play that involves teamwork. Horn Book writer Joanna Rudge Long noted of the first book that, through her "ebullient" art, Lavallee "clearly understands the serious joys of making snowmen in superabundant snow," while Gillian Engberg commented in Booklist that Shertle's rhyming text in All You Need for a Beach is "nicely matched by [Lavallee's] sun-baked watercolors."

"Painting is so much a part of my life that it is impossible to separate art from lifestyle," Lavallee once explained, describing the steps necessary to complete each piece of art. "I find a book requires total concentration, so I clear my decks of any other work before starting on a new book. The first piece of work I do on a manuscript is research, so that authentic details can become part of the characters and story. Then a storyboard needs to be done. The storyboard breaks the text down into Lavallee's graphic, eye-catching illustrations for Pat Mora's Uno, Dos, Tres = One, Two, Three introduce young readers to the Spanish language.pages and action concepts that will occur on each page. I never work on pages in sequence—I always do the one with the strongest, most well developed image (consequently, the easiest one) first. One of the aspects of illustrating I like most is the freedom I'm given by both the author and the editor to create the initial sketches without influence to do it the way either of them sees it."

"Alaska is a huge place, with a diverse and exotic history," Lavallee once noted, describing her rather unusual adopted home. "I have lived here for twenty-three years, and I am still overwhelmed by its staggering beauty. Visual overload is commonplace but never boring or plagued with sameness. The Alaskan native cultures are also extremely diverse, with many differences due to geographic placement within the state. The extraordinary arts practiced by each of these native groups symbolize universal concepts as well as the basic hu-man need to decorate those things that surround one's life. Most of all, the idea that a group of people have managed for generations to exist—and flourish—in a harsh and unforgiving environment, speaks of a culture that has conceptualized working together for the survival of the group. Because of modern life, much of these traditional concepts are changing and the dilemma of adapting to these changes is the greatest challenge to Alaska's natives. I believe that although a way of life may be lost, the art forms of these cultures will survive and continue to be practiced."

Lavallee enjoys the challenge of illustrating books that feature cultures that area unfamiliar to her, "because," as she once explained to SATA, "they frequently require travel and research, which in turn enriches my life and experiences." Her illustrations for one such work, Pat Mora's Uno, Dos, Tres = One, Two, Three, bring to life a Mexican marketplace in what Booklist writer Annie Ayers described as "luminous watercolors" that "vibrantly dance with the text." "My work has always reflected my interest in people," Lavallee added: "how they live, what they do. I prefer to portray the magnificence of man, his joy and humor, his tenacity, and his ability to overcome. I want my work to illustrate with-out being illustrative, something a viewer can 'get lost in' as well as relate to…. I feel it is the role of the illustration to enhance and enrich the text."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, June 1, 1996, Annie Ayers, review of Uno Dos, Tres = One, Two, Three, p. 1736; November 15, 1998, Isabel Schon, review of Mama, Do You Love Me?, p. 599; July, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of All You Need for a Beach, p. 1848.

Horn Book, May-June, 1996, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of Uno, Dos, Tres = One, Two, Three, p. 327; November-December, 2002, Joanna Rudge Long, review of All You Need for a Snowman, p. 739.

Publishers Weekly, November 15, 1999, review of The Gift, p. 65; October 21, 2002, review of All You Need for a Snowman, p. 73.


ChildrensLit.com, http://www.childrenslit.com/ (April 28, 2005), Marilyn Courtot, "Barbara Lavallee."

Additional topics

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