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Jane Ray (1960-) Biography

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

Born 1960, in London, England; Education: Middlesex Polytechnic, B.A. (with honors), 1982. Politics: "Left/green/feminist." Hobbies and other interests: Music, gardening, green politics, reading writing.


Illustrator. Formerly teacher of art to students with learning difficulties.


Association of Illustrators.

Honors Awards

Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist, 1992, for The Story of Christmas.



(Reteller) The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.

Let There Be Light: Bible Stories, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

(Reteller) Hansel and Gretel, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.


Angela Huth, compiler, Island of the Children, Orchard (London, England), 1988.

Nigel Gray, A Balloon for Grandad, Orchard (London, England), 1988.

Suzanna Steele and Morag Styles, compilers, Mother Gave a Shout, A. & C. Black, 1989.

Noah's Ar: Words from the Book of Genesis, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.

Angela Huth, compiler, Casting a Spell, Orchard (London, England), 1991.

The Story of Christmas (based on text from King James Bible), Orchard (London, England), 1991.

The Creation (based on text from King James Bible), Orchard (London, England), 1992, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.

Margaret Mayo, Magical Tales from Many Lands, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993, published as The Orchard Book of Magical Tales, Orchard (London, England), 1993.

Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince, Orchard (London, England), 1994, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

Nancy Spiegelberg, I'd Like to Ask God, Harvest House (Eugene, OR), 1995.

Vikram Seth, Arion and the Dolphin (based on the libretto by Seth), Orion (London, England), 1994, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

Mary Hoffman, Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

Margaret Mayo, The Orchard Book of Mythical Birds and Beasts, Orchard (London, England), 1996, published as Mythical Birds and Beasts from Many Lands, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

Mary Hoffman, Sun, Moon, and Stars, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

Julie Gold, From a Distance (song lyrics), Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

Berlie Doherty, reteller, Fairy Tales, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Malachy Doyle, The Bold Boy, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Jeanette Winterson, The King of Capri, Bloomsbury Children's Book (New York, NY), 2003.

Michael Rosen, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.


Compared by knowledgeable critics to nineteenth-century children's book illustrator Arthur Rackham and praised as "one of the most luminous illustrators at work today" by an Economist reviewer describing her work for Vikram Seth's Arion and the Dolphin, Jane Ray has contributed illustrations to the work of authors such as Oscar Wilde, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Mayo, and Berlie Doherty, while also producing detailed illustrations for her own renditions of classic fairy tales and favorite Biblical passages. Commenting on Ray's contributions to Winterson's whimsical tale about a gluttonous king in The King of Capri, a Publishers Weekly reviewer maintained that Ray's "by turns magical and exotic" collage paintings mesh perfectly with "the story's overall distinctive tone," and that "the Isle of Capri and bay of Naples have rarely looked so inviting."

The tables are turned on a rich, greedy king when his precious possessions are blown across the sea into the backyard of a poor, generous washerwoman in The King of Capri, written by Jeanette Winterson and illustrated by Jane Ray.

In enhancing Mary Hoffman's 1995 picture book Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Ray creates folk-art-inspired paintings to enhance Hoffman's text about the way cultures identify people based on similarities with the four natural elements. "Ray's paintings magnificently enhance Hoffman's message with delicate details" and "intense colors," noted Booklist contributor Susan Dove Lempke, adding that the illustrator's use of metallic gold adds drama to her work. Ray and Hoffman also teamed up for a companion volume, Sun, Moon, and Stars, in which the illustrator "offers a varied tapestry of dreamlike images that combine elements of fantasy with intricate folk art borders and motifs," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Ilene Cooper cited Sun, Moon, and Stars in Booklist as "a particularly handsome piece of bookmaking that will spark imaginations." Also reflecting a variety of cultural origins, Ray's work for Margaret Mayo's Mythical Birds and Beasts from Many Lands consists of "imaginative full-page paintings" that "glow with rich colors and gold highlights," contributing to a book that Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan praised as "lively and well crafted."

In a more fanciful vein, Ray retells the classic story The Twelve Dancing Princesses first collected by the Brothers Grimm in the nineteenth century. Praising the author/illustrator's "lavish, richly hued" paintings as "the grand stuff of fairy tale fantasy," a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that Ray's unique take on the traditional tale "reads well as a timeless story of children's rebellion against strict parental rule." Also appreciative of Ray's "excellent retelling," Phelan added in Booklist that The Twelve Dancing Princesses is "a radiant edition of an old favorite."

"Drawing and painting have always been my lifeblood," Ray once told SATA. Believing that the role of a picture book is to "be worthwhile" and "add something to the 'sum of human knowledge,'" Ray works to create volumes that "make you want to go back and look again, to keep seeing something different and new every time you look. I want them to inspire, to be remembered in adult life," she explained. Creating several of her picture books while her own children were young was helpful to Ray; as she noted, "In the end, what appeals to the imagination, memory, fears, and pleasures of one child will leave another totally unmoved." Acknowledging the influence books can have on young, impressionable minds, she added: "I'm just very, very glad to be in the privileged position of being able to earn my living at the thing I love most of all!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, January 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Earth, Fire, Water, Air, p. 829; October 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, p. 351; May 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Mythical Birds and Beasts from Many Lands, p. 1496; November 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Sun, Moon, and Stars, p. 486; November 15, 1999, Marta Segal, review of From a Distance, p. 630.

Economist, November 26, 1994, review of Arion and the Dolphin, p. 101.

Horn Book, September, 2001, review of The Bold Boy, p. 572.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1995, review of Arion and the Dolphin, p. 106; December 18, 1995, review of Earth, Fire, Water, Air, p. 54; September 23, 1996, review of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, p. 75; April 14, 1997, review of Mythical Birds and Beasts from Many Lands, p. 73; November 16, 1998, review of Sun, Moon, Stars, p. 73; November 1, 1999, review of From a Distance, p. 82; October 22, 2001, review of The Bold Boy, p. 75; August 11, 2003, review of The King of Capri, p. 279.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Nina Lindsay, review of Fairy Tales, p. 182; January, 2002, Debbie Stewart, review of The Bold Boy, p. 97.*

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