Arnold Lobel

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Arnold Lobel
Arnold Lobel.jpg
BornArnold Stark Lobel
(1933-05-22)May 22, 1933
Los Angeles, California
DiedDecember 4, 1987(1987-12-04) (aged 54)
New York City, U.S.
OccupationWriter, illustrator
GenreChildren's picture books
Notable works
Notable awardsCaldecott Medal
(m. 1955)
Children2, including Adrianne

Arnold Stark Lobel (May 22, 1933 – December 4, 1987) was an American author of children's books, including the Frog and Toad series and Mouse Soup. He wrote and illustrated these picture books as well as Fables, a 1981 Caldecott Medal winner for best-illustrated U.S. picture book. Lobel also illustrated books by other writers, including Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley published in 1969.


Lobel was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucille Stark and Joseph Lobel, but was raised in Schenectady, New York, the hometown of his parents.[1] Lobel's childhood was not a happy one, as he was frequently bullied,[2] but he did love reading picture books at his local library.[3] He attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In 1955, after he graduated, he married Anita Kempler, also a children's writer and illustrator whom he'd met while in art school. The two worked in the same studio[4] and collaborated on several books together.[5] They had two children: daughter Adrianne and son Adam Lobel, and three grandchildren.

Following college, Lobel was unable to support himself as a children's book author or illustrator and so he worked in advertising and trade magazines, which he did not like.[6]

In 1974, he told his family that he was gay.[7][8] In the early 1980s, he and Anita separated, and he moved to Greenwich Village.[9] He died of cardiac arrest on December 4, 1987, at Doctors Hospital in New York, after suffering from AIDS for some time.[10][11][12][13]

Writing and illustrating[edit]

Lobel loved his work, saying "I cannot think of any work that could be more agreeable and fun than making books for children" and described his job as a daydreamer.[4]

Lobel began drawing during a period of extended illness as a second grader.[4] On the October 25, 1950 episode of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie", Oliver J. Dragon presented "poems by Thomas Smith and drawings by Arnold Lobel from Schenectady."[14] His professional career began during the 1960s, writing and illustrating "conventional" easy readers and fables. His style could be described as minimalist[6] and frequently had animals as the subject matter.[4] Lobel used animals as characters because he felt it helped with the suspension of disbelief.[15] Joseph Stanton, writing in The Journal of American Culture, argues that Lobel's style was "timid" before Lobel started writing easy readers.[16]

His second book, A Holiday for Mister Muster,[4] and perhaps others were inspired by the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, across from which the Lobels lived.[3] Cartoons his children watched were also an inspiration,[17] as were popular television shows like Bewitched and The Carol Burnett Show.[7]

Lobel's writing and illustrations went through several phases in his career. His early works had a broad humor often in verse, a style that he would return to at other points in his career. In 1977 interview for The Lion and the Unicorn, Lobel explained that he wrote these books by imagining what children would want to read. However, as he continued to write, he realized the books he was writing didn't have the "weight" to them he wished and that he was going to have to use tap into himself in order to create better writing.[18] Following that epiphany, he began taking inspiration from his own experiences and emotions, and acknowledged that he was writing "... adult stories, slightly disguised as children's stories."[18] In the 1970s Lobel's illustrations shifted from primary colors to a broader spectrum of pastel colors.[19] The solitary individual, whether played seriously or for comic relief, was common in Lobel's work, as were two people who were complementary.[16] Lobel's illustrations served to visualize the rhythm and emotions of the text in a way that could be "cinematic."[20]

Lobel's chosen vocabulary, subject matter, and writing style helped to re-conceive what an easy reader book could be.[21] Lobel identified the exploration of his own feelings as a reason that he improved as a writer. In his 1977 The Lion and the Unicorn interview, Lobel discussed the ways he would work through his emotions while still maintaining his children's audience.[18] This was part of Lobel's belief that adult and children emotions were more similar than different.[16] His work was described as "sunny, warm, even cosy."[6] Despite this, the process of writing was "painful" for Lobel, who was far more inclined to want to illustrate than write[2] and only started writing because of the increased royalties.[18] As late as 1983, Lobel felt he was beginning to trust his instincts as a writer.[15] In fact, he never felt comfortable enough with his technical writing skill to consider writing a novel for adults, or a longer book for children.[18]

Lobel illustrated close to 100 books during his career [6] which were translated into dozens of languages.[2] Despite the awards he won, Lobel wasn't always recognized during his lifetime.[6]

Frog and Toad series[edit]

Comprising four books, the Frog and Toad series tells tales of the two eponymous friends. Lobel felt his personality was reflected in the two characters, saying "Frog and Toad are really two aspects of myself."[4] The marked contrast between the "adventurous" Frog and the "bumbling" Toad is part of what made their relationship believable and endearing.[22][16] His daughter Adrianne has suggested that the friendship between the two characters was really a beginning of Lobel's own coming out, though this connection is not something Lobel publicly discussed.[7] The strong friendship between Frog and Toad has been identified as an important reason for their success with children,[6] along with their "vaudevillian" relationship.[23]


The book Fables is composed of approximately 20 fables featuring animal protagonists. The book was praised for its ability to combine a cheerful (rather than moralistic) tone with an actual moral at the end of each story. It received the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations in 1981, Lobel's first win and third overall recognition.[24][25]


Lobel is among a small group of people who have been honored as both an author and illustrator for the Newbery and Caldecott medals.[6] Lobel won the 1981 Caldecott from the American Library Association, recognizing Fables as the year's best-illustrated U.S. children's picture book. His work won the Caldecott Honor in 1971 and 1972 for Frog and Toad are Friends and Hildilid's Night.[26] He won a Newbery Honor Award in 1973 for Frog and Toad Together (1972).[27] He won the Garden State Children's Book Award from the New Jersey Library Association for Mouse Soup (1977). He was also recognized by the National Education Association, the American Library Association, the Boys’ Club, the Society of Children's Book Writers, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Foundation.[19]


The musical A Year with Frog and Toad (workshopped 2000, premiered 2002), by Adrianne Lobel and others, played on Broadway in 2003 and has toured nationally since.


  • The Ice Cream Cone Coot and Other Rare Birds (Parents Magazine Press, New York, 1971)
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970)
  • Hildilid's Night (1971)
  • Frog and Toad Together (1972)
  • Owl at Home (1975)
  • Mouse Soup (1977)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arnold (Stark) Lobel Biography from Dictionary of Literary Biography on Arnold (Stark) Lobel. Bookrags. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Stout, Hilary (6 December 1987). "Arnold Lobel, Author-Illustrator". New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b Silvers, Emma (22 November 2013). "Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel". Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Arnold Lobel". Parent's Choice. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  5. ^ Serafin, Steven R. "LOBEL, Arnold". Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, Letter L. pp. 494–496.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hearn, Michael Patrick (10 January 1988). "ARNOLD LOBEL AN APPRECIATION". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Stokes, Colin. ""Frog and Toad": An Amphibious Celebration of Same-Sex Love". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  8. ^ Shannon, George. Arnold Lobel. Boston: Twayne, 1989, p. 11.
  9. ^ Shannon, George. Arnold Lobel. Boston: Twayne, 1989, p. 8.
  10. ^ "Arnold Lobel, 54, author, illustrator" (Google News Archive), Ocala Star-Banner, p. 5B, December 8, 1987, retrieved January 15, 2012
  11. ^ "It has name: AIDS" (Google News Archive), Rome News-Tribune, Associated Press, January 7, 1990, retrieved January 15, 2012
  12. ^ Stout, Hilary (December 6, 1987), "Arnold Lobel, Author-Illustrator", The New York Times
  13. ^ Shannon, George. Arnold Lobel. Boston: Twayne, 1989, p. 18.
  14. ^ Kukla, Fran and Ollie - Ollie's Would-be Biography - October 25, 1950, retrieved 2022-04-25
  15. ^ a b Rollin, L. Child Lit Educ (1984) 15: 191.
  16. ^ a b c d Stanton, Joseph (1994). "Straight Man and Clown in the Picture Books of Arnold Lobel". Journal of American Culture. 17 (2): 75–84. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1994.00075.x. ProQuest 200643733.
  17. ^ "Meet the Author/Illustrator Arnold Lobel". Reading Corner. Houghton Mifflin. Archived from the original on 29 March 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  18. ^ a b c d e Natov, Roni; Deluca, Geraldine (1977). "An Interview with Arnold Lobel". The Lion and the Unicorn. 1 (1): 72–96. doi:10.1353/uni.0.0119. S2CID 144959491. Project MUSE 243724 ProQuest 1307995521.
  19. ^ a b Williams, Tyrone (Jan 2007). "Arnold Lobel". No. 1. Guide to Literary Masters & Their Works.
  20. ^ Shannon, George (1991). "Writing the Empty Cup: Rhythm and Sound as Content". Children's Literature. 19 (1): 138–147. doi:10.1353/chl.0.0452. Project MUSE 246230.
  21. ^ "Arnold Lobel". Groiler Multimedia Encyclopedia.
  22. ^ Bader, Barbara (2015). "Five Gay Picture–Book Prodigies and the Difference They've Made". Horn Book Magazine. 91 (2): 24–32.
  23. ^ Russell, David L. (2006). "The Important Books: Children's Picture Books as Art and Literature (review)". The Lion and the Unicorn. 30 (2): 280–283. doi:10.1353/uni.2006.0025. S2CID 144058348. ProQuest 196693.
  24. ^ admin (1999-11-30). "Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  25. ^ "Horn Book reviews of Caldecott Medal winners, 1980-1989 — The Horn Book". Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  26. ^ "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present | Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)". Retrieved 2016-01-19.

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