Illustrator Arthur Howard: Biography & Books

Instructor: Krista Langlois

Krista has taught language arts for 14 years. She has a master's degree in teaching and loves researching, reading, and introducing others to the wonders of literature and language.

Beloved by children around the world, Arthur Howard's books and pictures speak to kids in a way they understand. In this lesson on the illustrator and author, you will find a smattering of biographical information as well as a deeper look into the books he has illustrated, written, and both illustrated and written!

Finding Arthur

Arthur Howard seems a recluse when it comes to his personal life. There is very little out there in the way of biography or interviews. Though he may keep his personal life close to the vest, his illustrations and stories are too intriguing, eye catching, and well told to be hidden away.

Who Is Arthur Howard?

Born in 1948 in New York City, Arthur Howard grew to be author and illustrator of many beloved children's books. Howard didn't start at as a writer or even an artist, though. For the first 20 years of his working life, he was an actor. He dipped his toes into theater, both on and off Broadway, PBS, TV commercials, as well as regional theater productions. As an actor, he is best known for his seven years on Square One Television, a PBS children's show that took a humorous approach to teaching math. He graduated from Reed College with a BA in 1970.

Illustrating Career

Howard's first foray into illustrating children's books was his work on Cynthia Rylant's first book in the Mr. Putter and Tabby series of short chapter books. The books, recognizable by kids around the world, tell the stories of a lonely old man who decides that he needs a cat. He finds Tabby, and their adventures together keep them both happy. So far, there are 24 books in the series, all illustrated by Howard. The themes found in the Mr. Putter books, the importance of friendship and helping one another would find their way into Howard's own writing. He also illustrated Rylant's Gooseberry Park.

Howard has also illustrated another popular series by Kathi Appelt. The Bubba and Beau series, like the Mr. Putter stories, deal with themes of friendship, helping one another, and other themes around friendship. Comparing the artwork from both series, one can easily see the watercolor and colored pencil styling of Howard's artwork that he still uses today.

Margery Cuyler also used Howard as an illustrator in three of her books, The Battlefield Ghost, 100th Day Worries, and Stop, Drop, and Roll.

Writing Career

In 1996, Howard turned his heart to writing and illustrating his own stories. As seen in both of the series he worked on, his books include themes of the importance of friendship, being a good helper, not judging others by their looks, and the general woes of being a young child and growing up. His words are great, and his drawings lend humor, wit, character, and a cozy, curl-up-and-read atmosphere. His artwork is an example of how a picture can be worth a thousand words as it helps weave a perfect tapestry of storytelling by expounding on text. Ranging from preposterous to cute, Howard's pictures are a perfect companion to his words.

Howard's Books

While Howard has written a few books for adults - one, The World According to He/She, written with Julie Logan, was an extension of a Glamour magazine humor column - he is mainly known for his work on children's books. Below you will find a description of five of his most popular!

When I Was Five

When I Was Five was written about a young boy turning six and reflecting on his year while 5. It's short but keeps the perspective of a 6 year old throughout the book. Critics have praised the work for it's ability to speak truth to the 6 year old experience.

Cosmo Zooms

Six dogs and one lone Siamese cat pop off the pages of Cosmo Zooms. Cosmo, a Schnauzer, is surrounded by friends with talent but doesn't believe he has any. Ultimately, with the help of a nap and a skateboard, Cosmo learns that he is just as talented as his friends! Children really identify with Cosmo through his insecurities and, ultimately, his new found success.


Hoodwinked is a story that started out when Howard was telling his granddaughters a story and noticed all the Barbie Dolls they had. It occurred to him to create a story in which Barbie was the farthest thing from the truth. The protagonist, young Mitzi, is creepy and likes creepy things. Kids follow her quest for the perfect creepy pet and learn tolerance, acceptance, and, ultimately, that things are not always as they seem.

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