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December 30, 1943|
Little Rock, Arkansas
|Occupation||Artist, illustrator, writer|
Mercer Mayer (born December 30, 1943) is an American children's book writer and illustrator. He has published over 300 books using a wide range of illustrative styles. Mayer is best known for his Little Critter and Little Monster series of books.
Life and career
Mayer was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father was in the United States Navy, so the family moved many times during his childhood before settling in Honolulu, Hawaii. There, Mayer graduated from high school in 1961. While attending school at the Honolulu Museum of Art, Mayer decided to enter the field of children's book illustration. To that end, he created a portfolio of sketches and peddled them wherever he could. Though his professors feared the young artist would never be good enough to make a living as an illustrator, Mayer was not dissuaded.
Mayer moved from Hawaii to New York City in 1964, pursuing further instruction at the Art Students League of New York, where he met an artist named Marianna who became his first wife. He also met an art director who told Mayer that his portfolio was so bad that he needed to throw it away. Though offended, Mayer did. During his spare time from his job at an advertising agency, the artist created a completely new portfolio. These new sketches persuaded editors at Dial Press and Harper & Row to give him some illustration work.
Mayer published his first book, A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, at Dial Press in 1967. It was notable for being a completely wordless picture book—one that tells its story entirely through the use of pictures. Mayer was one of the first illustrators to be credited for using this format. Five more books in this series were to follow. He also produced If I Had a Gorilla about the advantages of ape ownership.
The book There's a Nightmare in My Closet drew on Mayer's childhood fears of monsters in his room at night. Critics (including James Woods) compared the book, unfavorably, to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, but children and their parents loved the story and it became very popular, with at least 14 editions being released since its publication in 1968, and was featured on Reading Rainbow. The titular nightmare monster also starred in a music video of Alice Cooper's "Welcome to my Nightmare".
Mayer joined Golden Publishing, creators of Little Golden Books, in 1976. Through them he has sold his "Little Critter" and "Little Monster" series, which are popular with beginning readers.
In 1978, Mayer divorced Marianna. The following year, he married his second wife, Jo. The couple had three children: two sons, Len and Arden as well as a daughter named Jessie. Jessie died in a fatal car accident. Mayer and his third wife Gina, with whom he had two more sons (Ben and Zebulon) currently live in Roxbury, Connecticut. Gina has been collaborating with him on many of his books since the early 1990s. Gina also passed away at age 51 due to sickness.
In addition to writing and illustrating his own books, Mayer has collaborated on many projects with other children's authors. He has illustrated books for John Bellairs, Jane Yolen, Jan Wahl, Jay Williams, John D. Fitzgerald, among others.
An extensive list of Mercer Mayer's work is on the Mercer Mayer bibliography page.
- "FastPencil Premiere Signs Mercer Mayer". Publishers Weekly. Jan 25, 2011.
- "A BOY, A DOG AND A FROG". Kirkus Reviews. 1967. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "One Monster About Another". Publishers Weekly. 1 May 2002.
- Streetman, Burgin. "Meet Mercer Mayer: Part One". Vintage Kids Books My Kids Love. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- "Editions list". Goodreads. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.