5 minute read

Wallace ?)– Edwards (1957() Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Working in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1957, in Canada. Education: Ontario College of Art (now Ontario College of Art and Design), degree (illustration), 1980.


Agent—c/o Don Sedgwick, 1603 Italy Cross Rd., Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia B0J 2P0, Canada.


Illustrator, author, and artist. Commercial artist, beginning mid-1980s. Exhibitions: Paintings exhibited throughout Canada and the United States.

Honors Awards

Governor General's Award for Children's Literature—Illustration, and ForeWord magazine Book-of-the-Year Gold Award, both 2002, and Children's Choice Award for Beginning and Young Readers, International Reading Association, and Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award for Best Picture Book shortlist, both 2003, all for Alphabeasts; Great Book Award, Canadian Toy Testing Council, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award for Best Picture Book, and Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustration Award, Canadian Library Association, all 2005, all for Monkey Business; Governor General's Award for Children's Literature finalist, 2005, for Mixed Beasts.



Chez Zoo, Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Alphabeasts, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2002.

Monkey Business, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2004.


(Illustrator) Kenyon Cox, Mixed Beasts; or, A Miscellany of Rare and Fantastic Creatures, compiled by Professor Julius Duckworth O'Hare, Esq, revised edition, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2005.

Working in Progress

The X-Tinct Files and Under the Big Top, both for Kids Can Press.


As a teenager, Canadian artist and writer Wallace Edwards covered pages of his school notebooks with cartoon drawings rather than notes. While it did not win him a spot on the high-school honor roll, that same tendency earned Edwards respect from his instructors after he became a student at the Ontario College of Art. Moving from cartoons to still life, he became interested in animal studies after viewing the wildlife drawings by one of his teachers, Paul Young. Edwards's obsessive nature was soon channeled into similar work, and hundreds of drawings for clients ranging from the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo to Canadian environmental agencies have been the result. Edwards' highly acclaimed books for children also share this inspiration: Alphabeasts and Monkey Business are noted for the author/ artist's incredibly detailed drawings of animals, each creature set within an incongruous setting that allows readers to use their own imaginations to connect the images into a narrative. In addition, his illustrations for a new edition of Kenyon Cox's lyrical 1904 work Mixed Beasts; or, A Miscellany of Rare and Fantastic Creatures allows Edwards to conjure up such creatures as the Camelephant, Bumbleweaver, and Creampuffin. "I don't want there to be a story," the author/artist noted in describing his books to Quill & Quire interviewer Josh Knelman. "Kids make up their own stories."

Canadian author/illustrator Wallace Edwards creates fascinating images, each of which tell a unique story, in his 2002 project Alphabeasts. (Text and illustrations © 2002 by Wallace Edwards. Used by permission of Kids Can Press Ltd., Toronto.)

Alphabeasts collects the watercolor paintings Edwards completed while weaning himself off a cable-television addiction that was taking up far too much of his free time. Completed over a year and a half, the book allowed the artist to indulge his imagination and playfully juxtapose images to create a thought-provoking whole. In each picture, animals with names from A to Z appear amid colorful surroundings that reveal surprises, puzzles, and a hidden key. Noting Edwards' "sense of wit," a Publishers Weekly contributor characterized the illustrations as providing "an explosion of color and pattern," while Booklist critic Michael Cart deemed the work "faintly surreal" and compared the work to Animalia by Australian author/illustrator Graeme Base. "Imagine a slightly dilapidated Victorian house occupied solely by animals and you have the premise," explained Cart, although Carol Schene wrote in School Library Journal that "there is an art deco tone in the rich and varied patterns" that appear throughout the book's pages. Praising the award-winning work as "well done and full of surprises," Denise Parrott noted in Resource Links that Edwards "demonstrates a good knowledge of how to present art to kids in a vibrant, fun manner."

While Alphabeasts collects letters, Monkey Business collects twenty-six idioms: expressions, such as "sweet tooth" and "can of worms," that cannot be translated into another language literally. In each watercolor illustration, Edwards creates a literal depiction of the idiom in question: for example, the titular "monkey business" is illustrated by a monkey engaged in a business accounting operation. Monkeys are also concealed within other illustrations, providing observant readers with a challenge. In a Canadian Review of Materials appraisal, Dave Jenkinson noted that "Edwards' illustrations are full of detail and merit many viewings in order to 'see' how much is actually there," while in Publishers Weekly a critic noted that Edwards' "deadpan text" humorously contrasts against "multilayered illustrations that are at once humorous and absurd." Noting the usefulness of the book for teachers, Ilene Cooper added in a Booklist review that Monkey Business can be savored for "the richness of both the art and our language," and is useful for English classes as well as "creative writing and art studies."

Regarding the praise that has been heaped on his work during his short career as a book illustrator, Edwards remains pragmatic. "I just tried to draw the book I wish I'd had as a kid," he told Knelman. "I still have a very kid mentality. Strangely, it's also what pleases the adult in me." He has found creating illustrations with children in mind to be a perfect fit; as Edward explained on the Ontario College of Art and Design Web site, "I like the idea that children look carefully at pictures, and in many ways I think that children are the best audience to create for. I am always amazed at their creativity, which inspires and delights me."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, November 1, 2002, Michael Cart, review of Alphabeasts, p. 500; November 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Monkey Business, p. 477.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Monkey Business, p. 863.

Quill & Quire, August, 2002, Gwyneth Evans, review of Alphabeasts; February, 2003, Josh Knelman, "Call of the Wild: Animals Cast a Spell on Illustrator Wallace Edwards."

Publishers Weekly, September 2, 2002, review of Alphabeasts, p. 74; October 4, 2004, review of Monkey Business, p. 86.

Resource Links, December, 2002, Denise Parrott, review of Alphabeasts, p. 5.

School Library Journal, December, 2002, Carol Schene, review of Alphabeasts, p. 121; September, 2004, Steven Engelfried, review of Monkey Business, p. 186.


Canadian Review of Materials Online, http://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/ (January 31, 2003), Wayne Serebrin, review of Alphabeasts; (October 1, 2004) Dave Jenkinson, review of Monkey Business; (October 28, 2005) Valerie Neilsen, review of Mixed Beasts.

Ontario College of Art and Design Web site, http://www.ocad/on.ca/ (April 27, 2006), "Wallace Edwards."

Suite 101 Web site, http://www.suite101.com/ (April 25, 2006), Irene Tanner-Yuen, "Improbabilities in Wallace Edwards' Monkey Business" and "A Pen and Pencil Menagerie: Wallace Edwards' Alphabeasts."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Craig David Biography - Became Teenage MC to Herman Edwards Biography