Born in Buffalo, New York, Manson graduated in 1975 from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia, having specialized in printmaking. He also obtained a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz).
He returned to Buffalo, where he took a job at a local arts council in arts management, a position that required fundraising skills. "It wasn't for me," he later recalled. "I figured out that I was tired of helping others make their art."
After illustrating a friend's cookbook, he published the phenomenally popular children's book, MAZE: Solve the World's Most Challenging Puzzle (1985), issued by the major publishing house Henry Holt and Company. The book promised a $10,000 award to whoever solved the book's many visual puzzles, and even though the contest has long since ended, the book remains in print, and eventually was reissued in a CD-ROM format.
His other books include A Farmyard Song (1992), The Tree in the Wood (1993), Over the River and through the Wood (1998), Good King Wenceslas (1994). He has also illustrated books for other authors, including J. Patrick Lewis' Black Swan/White Crow (2007), W. Nikola-Lisa's Till Year's Good End (1997), and Delno C. West and Jean M. West's Uncle Sam and Old Glory (2000).
Manson summed up his approach to his authoring and illustrating children's books like so: "What I'm really after is the perfect book. The kind where you just can't imagine the words without the pictures, or the pictures without the words . . . like [Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A.] Milne. But there aren't that many out there to point to as perfect. I'm constantly working toward it." He added, "Even if I won the 40 million dollar lottery, I'd still do this — I'd have a fancier studio, but I'd still do this."
- Diana L. Winarski, An 'Enormous good time' with Christopher Manson," Teaching Pre K-8, March 1995, accessed 4 July 2008.
- Biographical sketch of Christopher Manson, book jacket, Delno C. West and Jean M. West, Uncle Sam and Old Glory (New York: Atheneum Books, 2000.)