• Banks,Kate bio

Children's Author/Illustrator Biographies


Banks, Kate

I was born and raised along with my two sisters and one brother in Maine, where we spent a lot of time outdoors. Wildlife, nature, and the rhythm of the seasons were a big part of my growing up and learning about life, and they have remained an important part of my creative work.

My parents were avid readers and shared that joy with us through bedtime stories, trips to the library, and visits to the bookstore. Our house was filled with books, and I guess you could say that reading began as a habit and became a pleasure. Later, books would become a refuge, somewhere to escape to after a disappointment, a place to meet new people or to have a laugh or a cry. I met a lot of people I liked in books and some I didn't like. I remember feeling very close to many of the characters and learning from them. And as I grew up, I found books helped me sort out life. They were a good place to become familiar with emotions - confusion, sadness, anger, grief, humiliation, and love. I especially liked picture books, and the way in which words and illustrations could create a whole new world in which sometimes real and other times magical and unexpected things could happen.

I like to think that all my picture books are different, some growing out of imagination - which, for me, was a way of coping with, transforming, and accepting life - and others out of simple words and rhythms that create an atmosphere or a special place for a child. Relationships are another important theme in my stories. This reflects my own experience and my belief that relationships, especially early ones, profoundly shape us.

People often ask where I get my ideas for books. I think all my experiences, big and small, somehow find their way into my writing. Peter and the Talking Shoes, for instance, recalls an old pair of shoes I had. They were split at the seams around the toe, and when I walked they flapped open and closed. I used to imagine them talking to me.

My most recent books have been inspired by my sons, Peter and Max. Very often a comment of Peter's or the way he sees something will speak to me of a story. Other times just watching him interact with the world will give me an idea. Baboon began like that. Peter was four months old. We were sitting together in his room, and he was staring at a photo on the wall of a mother baboon carrying her baby across the bush. The picture was a gift from my sister, who had taken it in Africa, and it was an image I'd always treasured - full of spontaneity, confidence, and love. That day, as I looked at the picture with Peter, a dialogue began in my head, and that dialogue became Baboon.

I've been asked to say what children would like to know about me. Children want to know funny things. I've gotten letters asking what color my car is! Well, it's light gray. I'm always asked how old I am (thirty-eight) and, because I lived in Italy, if I like spaghetti. I love spaghetti. But my favorite pasta is the small corkscrew shapes called fusilli. Other things to know about me are that I spill a lot, I have a lot of hats, and I like to make birthday cakes, but I don't like to clean up afterward. And I love children. I like watching them, listening to them, and just being with them. And, of course, I like writing for them.

Kate Banks attended Wellesley College near Boston. She earned a master's degree in history at Columbia University and worked at a publishing house in New York before moving to Europe, where she lived in Rome for eight years. She has recently moved to the South of France with her husband and two sons, Peter Anton and Maximilian.

Biography provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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