Robert Kraus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Robert Kraus
Born(1925-06-21)June 21, 1925
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
DiedAugust 7, 2001(2001-08-07) (aged 76)
Kent, Connecticut
Resting placeRidgefield, Connecticut
OccupationArtist, writer, cartoonist, publisher
EducationArt Students League of New York
GenreChildren's literature
SpousePamela Kraus, nee Evan-Wong
ChildrenBruce Kraus, Charles William Kraus

[1]Robert Kraus (June 21, 1925 – August 7, 2001) was an American children's author, cartoonist and publisher. Founder and publisher of Windmill Books, author and illustrator of award-winning children's books, Kraus began as a cartoonist and cover artist for The New Yorker.


Robert Kraus was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1925. At age 10, he won a cartoon contest from his local paper the Milwaukee Journal. By age 12, Kraus was hired to contribute a weekly cartoon to the Milwaukee Journal entitled "Public Nuisances." While still a student at the Art Students League in Manhattan, at age 16, he made his first cartoon sale to The New Yorker. Kraus also freelanced for other publications such as Collier's, the old Life and The Saturday Evening Post. [2]


He became a regular New Yorker contributor as both a cartoonist and cover artist beginning in the 1950s. Kraus contributed 50 cartoons in his first year at the "New Yorker." [2] Most of his cover art reflected his romantic idea of the City (artists' studios and supplies, a chess club, a gypsy fortune teller, the Chinese New Year parade, the Coney Island roller coaster, a grand cafe, St. Patrick's Cathedral, a fancy dress ball) and he recorded his rural surroundings in Danbury, Connecticut, with its farmer's markets and county fairs. Many of his cartoons embodied the stereotypes of their day: drunks, crooks, convicts, pirates, clowns, mythological characters, millionaires dating floozies, big businessmen, prizefighters, etc. An important part of his cartooning career was a multi-page spread on the New York World's Fair of 1963-64.

Children's Books[edit]

In 1954, Kraus also began writing and illustrating children's books, beginning with Junior the Spoiled Cat, The Littlest Rabbit, The Trouble with Spider (later expanded into the Spider, Fly and Ladybug series), I, Mouse, Mouse at Sea, The Bunny's Nutshell Library, Carla Stevens' Rabbit and Skunk series, and the haunting and critically acclaimed Amanda Remembers. Kraus could speak directly to children without a trace of artificiality or condescension, naturally embodying both them and himself in a variety of small but plucky animal protagonists. The book Leo the Late Bloomer, an encouraging story about making one's own pace, is a continuing legacy.[3]

Professor Paul Fry has used one of Kraus's lesser works, Tony the Tow Truck, tongue-in-cheek to teach a popular English course at Yale, Introduction to the Theory of Literature, using its hundred-word text to illustrate topics such as Hermaneutics, Semiotics, Structuralism, Deconstruction, Queer Theory and Gender Performativity.[4]

Publishing Company[edit]

Tapping his friendships with other New Yorker artists, Kraus launched a small publishing company, Windmill Books in 1965, publishing The Chas. Addams Mother Goose, and William Steig's[5] Roland the Minstrel Pig, followed by Steig's Caldecott Medal-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.[6] The prestige of Windmill even attracted renowned painter Jacob Lawrence, whose Harriet and the Promised Land (with verse by Kraus) became the first children's book reviewed in the Art section of the New York Times and was recently featured in the Lawrence retrospective at the Guggenheim. Kraus soon quit the New Yorker to run Windmill full-time, as publisher, and wrote and illustrated books for Windmill as well as for Scholastic and other publishers. Windmill artists included Fred Gwynne (the actor), Edna Eicke, Robert Byrd, Hans Kraus (no relation), VIP (Virgil Partch) and Mischa Richter. Windmill published a set of Norman Rockwell covers with original backstories (which Kraus wrote in consultation with Rockwell) as The Norman Rockwell Storybook and with filmmaker Robert Flaherty produced a children's book version of Flaherty's Nanook of the North. Windmill also pioneered "board" and "bathtub" books that doubled as toys for very small children, and dabbled in pop culture with its Elvis calendar and Encyclopedia Galactica.

In spite of its flirtations with the mass market, in the end Windmill Books proved to be more of a succes d'estime than anything else, and after affiliations with a number of major publishing houses, collapsed in bitter litigation with Simon & Schuster in the 1980s. Steig's best-known children's book, Shrek, was published elsewhere. Kraus and Windmill are probably best remembered as the author and publisher of Leo the Late Bloomer, Whose Mouse Are You, Milton the Early Riser and other books beautifully and imaginatively illustrated by Jose Aruego and Arianne Dewey, as well as the seasonal favorite The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, illustrated by VIP. Kraus wrote stories, but his passion was drawing and illustrating—He once said, "I love drawing...Giving my stories to somebody else was like giving a way a child."[2]

Kraus died in 2001 in Kent, Connecticut, and is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, the former Pamela Vivienne Evan-Wong, of Georgetown, British Guiana, a fellow student at the New York Art Students' League, and by their two sons, Bruce and Bill and four grandchildren Parker, Jack, Margaret and Vivienne.


  1. ^ Frye, Paul H. (2012). Theory of Literature. The Open Yale Course Series.
  2. ^ a b c Robert Kraus Obituary San Francisco Gate, Article Collections, 30 Aug 2001, Hearst Communications, Inc. 2011 Retrieved 6/2/2011
  3. ^ Jessica Lahey (2015-10-08). "Give Late Blooming Children the Time They Need". Motherlode (NYT Parenting Blog). The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
  4. ^ Fry, Paul H. (2012). Theory of Literature. The Open Yale Courses Series. ISBN 9780300180831.
  5. ^ "Steig, William 1907-2003 - Dictionary definition of Steig, William 1907-2003 | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  6. ^ "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present". American Library Association.

External links[edit]