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Rathmann was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Minnesota. She studied commercial art, fine art, and children's book creation in CHicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. Her first book, "Ruby the Copycat, earned Ms. Rathmann the 'Most Promising New Author' distinction in Publishers Weekly's 1991 annual Cuffie Awards." That book was followed by her illustrations of Barbara Bottner's Bootsie Barker Bites and by the self-illustrated Good Night, Gorilla, based on her experiences with gorillas. Officer Buckle and Gloria (1995) won the annual Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration. Since then she has written two more: Ten Minutes till Bedtime and The Day The Babies Crawled Away, which made the Horn Book Fanfare List of best books of 2003.
In 2014 Good Night, Gorilla was a runner-up (Honor Book) for the Phoenix Picture Book Award from the Children's Literature Association, which annually recognizes the best picture book that did not win a major award 20 years earlier. "Books are considered not only for the quality of their illustrations, but for the way pictures and text work together."
Rathmann has illustrated at least seven picture books, six of which she also wrote.
- Ruby the Copycat (Scholastic, 1991)
- Bootsie Barker Bites, written by Barbara Bottner (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1992)
- Good Night, Gorilla (Putnam, 1994)
- Officer Buckle and Gloria (Putnam, 1995)
- 10 Minutes till Bedtime (Putnam, 1998)
- The Day the Babies Crawled Away (Putnam, 2003)
- How Many Lambies on Grammy's Jammies? (Putnam, 2006)
Several translations have been published. Gute Nacht, Gorilla (2006) was named "Book of the Month" for September 2006 by the German Institut für Jugendliteratur (young people's literature).
- "Rathmann, Margaret Crosby". Anita Silvey. The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780547348896. Page 378 at Google Books. Retrieved 2015-03-21.
- "About Peggy Rathmann". Peggy Rathman (peggyrathmann.com). 2004. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
- "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present". Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association (ala.org/alsc).
- "Ten Minutes till Bedtime (review)". Retrieved 2010-06-21.[dead link]
- "The Horn Book Fanfare List". The Horn Book Magazine (Boston) LXXX (1): 9. January–February 2004. ISSN 0018-5078.
- "Phoenix Picture Book Award". Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2014-07-14.