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Tony Chen Papers

Identifier: DG0178

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence from Chen to the de Grummond Collection, photographs of Chen, and material for twenty-four books published between 1962 and 1983, two of which Chen both wrote and illustrated. Also included is a 1988 de Grummond Collection Christmas card designed by Chen. The material for the books is arranged alphabetically by title; within each title the organization of the material reflects the probable order in which it was created.

Chen spent his youth in Jamaica where he encountered many exotic animals and landscapes. As he grew older he began to draw, paint, and sculpt, using these early experiences as material for his art. The collection contains material from twenty years of Chen's career as an illustrator of children's books, and many of the illustrations are of the unusual creatures and settings for which he is recognized. For About Owls (1975), a book describing the habits and characteristics of various species of owls, the collection has one illustration and material relating to the dust jacket and an exhibit. After Dark (1975) explores the sights and sounds that night brings to a child's home. For this title, the collection includes a dummy, two illustrations, proofs, and paste-ups for the endpapers and dust jacket. For Breakfast With the Birds (1972), the tale of a Japanese boy and his fortune-telling mynah bird, the collection contains five double-page illustrations and seven color separations. The Cozy Book (1982) describes in verse a number of places, sounds, smells, activities and feelings that are "cozy." The collection has five double-page illustrations for this title. The collection has color separations for The Cucumber Stem (1980), an adaptation of an old Bengali folktale. There are 20 of Chen's illustrations for the Doubleday Illustrated Children's Bible (1983). For Do You Know A Cat? (1968), which tells of the unique accomplishments of seven special cats, the collection includes one illustration.

The Fisherman's Son (1979), adapted from a Georgian folk tale, is the story of a young man who enlists the help of different animals in accomplishing the tasks set him by the woman he wishes to marry. The collection has one double-page illustration for this title. There are two illustrations for Flying Fur, Fin and Scale (1977), a book about animals other than birds that can fly. For Follow a Fisher (1973), which describes the domain and habits of fishers or North American weasels, the collection contains a dummy and six illustrations. Hello, Small Sparrow (1971) is a collection of haiku by Hannah Lyons Johnson. Included in the Chen Collection are a dummy and four illustrations. For It's About Birds (1978), a book describing the characteristics and habits of birds found at the beach and in the city, country and zoo, the collection has a dummy and twelve illustrations. There are a dummy and an illustration with text paste-up for Little Koala (1979), a book about a baby koala from its birth to its first birthday when it must leave its mother. Similarly, Little Wild Lion Cubs (1980) follows the development of a lion from its birth until, at two years, it is no longer a cub. The collection has eleven illustrations for this title and the 1987 de Grummond Christmas card which featured an adapted illustration from this book.

Many Hands Cooking (1974) is an international cookbook for girls and boys. For this title the collection includes one illustration. For Once We Went On A Picnic (1975), a rhyming account of four children's adventures, the collection contains four illustrations. Pond Life: Watching Animals Find Food (1970) describes the feeding habits of animals living in and around a pond and how these habits affect the ecology of the area. The collection includes a dummy, three illustrations and two color separations. For The Princess and the Admiral (1974), the story of what happens to the Tiny Kingdom when a fleet of warships attacks, the collection has ten illustrations. The Riddle of the Drum (1979) by Verna Aardema is a tale from Tizapan, Mexico. Included in the collection for this title are nine of Chen's illustrations, one of which is for the dust jacket.

For The Rock Hound's Book (1973), a guide to collecting and identifying rocks and minerals, the collection has nine illustrations and six proofs. Run, Zebra, Run (1972), written and illustrated by Chen, is a collection of haiku describing the wonders of the animal world and their impending destruction as a result of man's technological advances. The collection has a dummy for this title. Too Many Crackers (1962) was the first children's book Chen illustrated. For this title the collection includes two illustrations. In The White Horse (1971), a boy finds a magic horse while visiting the zoo. The collection has three illustrations, one of which is for the cloth cover. For The Wonderful World of Seals and Whales (1984) the collection contains eight illustrations.


  • 1962-1987

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; Available for research

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical / Historical

Tony Chen was born of Chinese parents in Kingston, Jamaica on January 3, 1929. Arriving in the United States in 1949, he attended the Art Career School from 1949 to 1951 and received a B. F. A. with honors from Pratt Institute in 1955. He married Pura de Castro in 1957, and they had two sons. After several jobs as a graphic designer and illustrator, Chen served as Art Director for Newsweek from 1961 to 1972 and was Art Instructor at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York from 1972 to 1973. He illustrated his first children's book, Too Many Crackers, in 1962. In addition to his work as a writer and illustrator of children's books, Chen was a painter and sculptor who exhibited his work in various galleries in New York City. Chen also wrote poems, one of which, "A Question," was published in an anthology of American poetry called Timeless Voices opposite a poem by Carl Sandburg.

Chen's interest in drawing and painting began when he was six years old and his uncle gave him a set of water colors. This interest was kept alive by his next door neighbor, a handicapped boy, who was also an artist. As a Boy Scout, Chen was troop artist and began drawing animals and landscapes, subjects he continued to paint throughout his life.. Having illustrated more than twenty 20 books, he believed that the American people should discover art in order to develop self-discipline and to cultivate inner peace. He believed that one who appreciates art has reverence both for life and for the achievement of mankind, past and present.

Chen received numerous honors and awards including the Children's Book Showcase in 1972 for Honschi and in 1976 for About Owls. He won the Jane Addams Award for The Princess and the Admiral in 1975. He passed away in July of 1994.


Children's Literature Awards and Winners: A Directory of Prizes, Authors, and Illustrators, 2nd ed., 1988, p. 275.

Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, 1983, pp. 64-65.

Illustrators of Children's Books 1967-1976, 1978, p. 107

Something About The Author, vol. 6, pp. 44-46.


4.90 Cubic Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Material received from Tony Chen between 1968 and 1988.

Related Materials

The Verna Aardema Papers (DG0002) contains typescript and correspondence relating to Riddle of the Drum, which Aardema wrote and Chen illustrated.

The May Garelick Papers (DG0363); The Aileen Fisher Papers (DG0326); The Helen Buckley Papers (DG0131)

Tony Chen Papers
In Progress
Julia Marks Young and Sharon Miller
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
This finding aid is the product of a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001