Rachel Isadora

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Rachel Isadora (born 1953) is an award-winning children's literature author and illustrator. She is most famous for Ben's Trumpet (1980 Caldecott Honor Award book), which has been adapted to video and was also translated into a ballet by the Boston ballet company BalletRox in 2009. The more than 150 children's books Isadora has written and illustrated span a wide variety of topics, including ballet and dance, American urban culture and family life, life in Africa, and traditional fairy tales. Isadora was a professional ballet dancer before an injury led to a change of careers.[1] In addition to freelance writing and illustration, Isadora shows and sells oil paintings, many of which reflect her love of dance, as well as her experiences living in Africa and New York City.[2]


Isadora started dancing as a toddler and went on to study at the School of American Ballet on a scholarship from the Ford Foundation. She briefly danced with the Boston Ballet Company, until a foot injury caused her to seek work as a visual artist instead.[1] Her first book, Max, is about a boy who realizes that taking ballet can help him be a better baseball player. Many of her other works incorporate ballet and dance, most notably the series, Lili at Ballet, Lili on Stage, Lili Backstage, and the Caldecott Honor award-winning Ben's Trumpet, which combines music and dance.[1]

She lived in Africa for almost ten years,[2] and has adapted a number of well-known stories and fairy tales to African settings, including Rapunzel, The Princess and the Pea, Hanzel and Gretel, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Night before Christmas, and The Twelve Days of Christmas.


Writer and illustrator[edit]

  • Max, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1976
  • The Potters' Kitchen, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1977
  • Willaby, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1977
  • Backstage, with Robert Maiorano, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1978
  • Ben's Trumpet, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1979
  • My Ballet Class, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1980
  • No, Agatha!, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1980
  • Jesse and Abe, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1981
  • The Nutcracker, (Retold) Macmillan (New York, NY), 1981
  • City Seen from A to Z, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1983
  • Opening Night, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1984
  • I Hear, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1985
  • I See, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1985
  • I Touch, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1985
  • The Pirates of Bedford Street, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1988
  • The Princess and the Frog (based on The Frog King and Iron Heinrich by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm), Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1989
  • Swan Lake: A Ballet Story (based on the ballet Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky), Putnam (New York, NY), 1989
  • Friends, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1990
  • Babies, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1990
  • At the Crossroads, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1991
  • Over the Green Hills, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1992
  • Lili at Ballet, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1993
  • Firebird (based on the ballet by Stravinsky), Putnam (New York, NY), 1994
  • My Ballet Diary, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1995
  • Lili on Stage, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1995
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier (based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen), Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1996
  • The Little Match Girl (based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen), Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1996
  • Lili Backstage, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1997
  • Young Mozart, Penguin (New York, NY), 1997.
  • The Little Mermaid (based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen), Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
  • Isadora Dances, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1998
  • A South African Night, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998
  • Caribbean Dreams, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998
  • Listen to the City, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999
  • ABC Pop!, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1999
  • Sophie Skates, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 1999
  • 123 Pop!, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2000
  • Nick Plays Baseball, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2001
  • Bring on That Beat, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2002
  • Peekaboo Morning, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2002
  • Mr. Moon, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2002
  • On Your Toes: A Ballet ABC, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2003
  • Not Just Tutus, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003
  • In the Beginning, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003
  • What a Family, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005
  • Luke Goes to Bat, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005
  • Yo, Jo!, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007
  • The Princess and the Pea (based on the story by the Brothers Grimm), Putnam Juvenile (2007)
  • Rapunzel, (based on the story by the Brothers Grimm), Putnam Juvenile (2008)
  • The Fisherman and His Wife, (based on the story by the Brothers Grimm), Putnam Juvenile (2008)
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses (based on the story by the Brothers Grimm), Putnam Juvenile (2008)
  • Hanzel and Gretel (based on the story by the Brothers Grimm), Putnam Juvenile (2009)
  • The Night before Christmas, Putnam Juvenile (2009)
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas, Putnam Juvenile (2010)
  • There Was a Tree (adapted from the folk song "And the Green Grass Grew All Around"), Nancy Paulsen Books (2012)
  • Bea at the Ballet, Nancy Paulsen Books (2012)


  • Robert Maiorano, Francisco, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1978
  • Elizabeth Shub, Seeing Is Believing, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1979
  • Robert Maiorano, A Little Interlude, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (New York, NY), 1980
  • Elizabeth Shub, The White Stallion, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1982
  • Elizabeth Shub, Cutlass in the Snow, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1986
  • Patricia C. McKissack, Flossie and the Fox, Dial (New York, NY), 1986
  • Ruth Young, Golden Bear, Viking (New York, NY), 1990
  • Sandol Stoddard, editor, Prayers, Praises, and Thanksgivings, Dial (New York, NY), 1992
  • Reeve Lindbergh, Grandfather's Lovesong, Viking (New York, NY), 1993
  • Jane Kurtz, In the Small, Small Night, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2005
  • Deborah Hopkinson, Saving Strawberry Farm, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2005

Awards and Honors[edit]

  • Max received the 1976 Child Study Association Children's Book of the Year award; Children's Choice award, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council (CBC), 1976; Children's Book Showcase award, CBC, 1977; American Library Association (ALA) notable book citation, and was designated a Reading Rainbow selection
  • 1979 ALA notable book citation, for Seeing Is Believing, written by Elizabeth Shub
  • Ben's Trumpet received a Boston Globe/Horn Book honor book for illustration citation in 1979; Best Book for Spring designation, School Library Journal, 1979; and the Caldecott Honor Book award, 1980
  • 1982 Best Book award, School Library Journal, and ALA notable book citation for The White Stallion, by Elizabeth Shub
  • 1982 Children's Book award, New York Public Library, for City Seen from A to Z
  • 1985 Child Study Association Children's Book of the Year award for I Hear and I See
  • 1986 Child Study Association Children's Book of the Year awards for Flossie and the Fox, by Patricia C. McKissack (which also received a 1987 Horn Book honor list citation) and Cutlass in the Snow, by Elizabeth Shub
  • 1991 ALA notable book citation for At the Crossroads


Ben's Trumpet was adapted into a jazz ballet choreographed by Tony Williams and debuted by BalletRox in 2009.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Gale Children's Author Biography: Rachel Isadora. Accessed 11-14-2013
  2. ^ a b Rachel Isadora. Accessed 11-14-2013
  3. ^ Ben's Trumpet BalletRox & WFT Arts Report Issue 72, by Kay Bourne. Accessed 11-14-2013

External links[edit]