Emberley was born in Malden, Massachusetts. He studied art at the Massachusetts School of Art in Boston (now Massachusetts College of Art and Design), from which he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and illustration. He also studied at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Emberley is best known for his children's book work - particularly instructional drawing books. Emberley believes that everyone can learn to draw. His drawing books for children feature clear step-by-step instructions employing numbers, letters, and shapes graded to the early elementary school level. For example, the book Ed Emberley's A.B.C. uses this style of instruction, presenting a single letter-based drawing for each letter of the alphabet.
Emberley has illustrated or contributed to over 50 books, many of which were first published between the 1960s and 1980s. Renewed interest in Emberley's work has come from adults who first encountered his books as children and now are purchasing them for their own children. His most recent book,The Red Hen, was released on October 26, 2010; like his preceding work, Chicken Little (2009) it is a collaboration with Rebecca Emberley.
Awards and honors
Emberley's first book, The Wing on a Flea (1961), was an ALA Notable Book and made the New York Times list of best-illustrated books for that year. He was sole runner-up for the 1967 Caldecott Medal, as illustrator of One Wide River to Cross, written by his wife Barbara Emberley. Next year he won the Medal for another collaboration with Barbara, Drummer Hoff. The award by children's librarians annually recognizes "the most distinguished American picture book or children". Drummer Hoff was also named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list.
- "Ed Emberley Papers". de Grummond Children's Literature Collection. University of Southern Mississippi. Retrieved 2013-06-22. With biographical sketch.
- BCCB profile
- "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA)
"The Randolph Caldecott Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-22.