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Trina Schart Hyman Fairy and Folktale Illustrator

September 18, 2012

I first came across the work of Trina Schart Hyman through a Children’s novel from 1969 by Ruth Nichols called ‘The Walk Out Of The World’.

Here are some of her images from it.

Trina was born on April 8, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Margaret Doris Bruck and Albert H. Schart. She grew up in a rural area of Pennsylvania learning to read and draw at an early age. She credits her mother for instilling in her the joy of books by reading to her from the time she was an infant. She spent a whole year wearing a red cape that her mother had made for her because her favorite story was Little Red Riding Hood. In the book ‘Self Portrait’ she says ”  Little Red Riding Hood was so much a part of me that I actually became her. My mother sewed me a red satin cape with a hood that I wore almost every day, and on those days, she would make me a “basket of goodies” to take to my grandmother’s house. (My only grandmother lived in Rhode Island, three hundred miles away, but that didn’t matter.) I’d take the basket and carefully negotiate the backyard going to Grandmother’s house. My dog, Tippy, was the wolf. Whenever we met, which in a small backyard had to be fairly often, there was an intense confrontation. My father was the woodsman, and I greeted him when he came home each day with relief and joy.”


Trina’s father fueled her imagination by telling her magical tales about the origins of the universe. He also brought her to the Philadelphia Art Museum on days when they had to drive into the city to visit the orthodontist. About this time, her younger sister Karleen was born. When Karleen was old enough, they shared elaborate fairy adventures together, mostly concocted by Trina to amuse little Karleen. Although she skipped first grade, Trina never felt like she was a good student, preferring to doodle rather than do the assigned work. It wasn’t until she enrolled at the Philadelphia art school in 1956 that she blossomed. “It was there that I found out about the great book illustrators of the early 1900s: Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and the crazy Pre-Raphaelites in England; and Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, and the serious students of the Brandywine School here in American. Their romantic and magical storytelling pictures inspired me and gave me courage. I was determined to follow in the footsteps of these artists and to carry on their tradition.”

In 1959, she married mathematician and engineer, Harris Hyman, and they moved to Boston where he had gotten a job. She continued studying at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. After graduation in 1960, Trina and her husband moved to Stockholm, Sweden where he attended the university and worked for IBM part time. During the two years that they lived there, Trina studied at the Konstfackskolan (Swedish State Art School), and illustrated her first children’s book called Toffe och den lilla bilen (Toffe and the Little Car). Whilst Living in Sweden Trina received her big break when Astrid Lingren, author of Pippi Longstocking, offered her a job illustrating children’s books, primarily fairy tales.


The manuscript of Trina’s first children’s book was written in Swedish, which she had to translate before drawing the illustrations. Upon returning to Boston, Trina met Helen Jones, the children’s book editor of Little, Brown Publishing. Jones was instrumental in helping and guiding Trina’s career. The Hyman’s had a baby girl, Katrin, in 1963, who Trina describes as being the most “stubborn, aggressive, opinionated baby” that she had ever seen. After a brief move to New York in 1965, her and her husband divorced in 1968, and Trina and Katrin moved to Lyme, New Hampshire with friends. She would work late into the night while everyone slept, and her friend Nancie would get up early to get the children off to school. Soon, they bought an old farmhouse there. Distrustful of technology, Trina proudly admits to not owning a “mind-destroying, soul-sucking” television, or any other convenience remotely technological. Making a solemn vow at the time of her daughter’s birth, she chose instead to fill their home with hundreds of good books and took the time to read them. She credits this practice with teaching her daughter to read at the age of four.


By 1971, she was approached by the editors of a new children’s magazine called Cricket, and became their art director until 1979. She hired quality illustrators and was instrumental in forming the early style of the magazine, which, no doubt, contributed to its reputation as one of the finest children’s magazine on the market today. Trina received the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1984 for Little Red Riding Hood, which is still one of her favorite stories. The following year, she received the Caldecott Medal for Saint George and the Dragon, written by Margaret Hodges, and in 1990, again she received an Honor Medal for Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.  A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, was also voted a Caldecott Honor Book in 2000. It was not until her daughter’s marriage to a man from Cameroon, that Trina realized that all of her heroes and heroines were white. She began to see a need for multicultural children’s books. She was able to convince writer and friend Lloyd Alexander to change the setting of her book “For The Fortune Tellers” to Cameroon by changing only a few words in his manuscript. She had been to visit Katrin twice while she lived in Cameroon and had fallen for the beautiful countryside and its people.

Sadly Trina passed away in 2004. She illustrated over 150 books.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2012 12:50 pm

    She is one of my very favorite illustrators. What an inspiration! Even lucky enough to see some of her work in person at an art show, just exquisite the line work, color and details up close. I recently found a used copy of “Self-Portrait: Trina Schart Hyman” and have added it to my collection of her published works.

    • September 19, 2012 1:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Lisa, I was fairly new to her work before I read ‘ A Walk Out Of The Woods’ and the ‘self portrait’ book sounds very interesting too. She’s quite candid when it comes to her views and feelings, she doesn’t mince her words lol.

  2. September 20, 2012 3:34 am

    Great post on Trina Schart Hyman! She is one of my favorite female illustrators and I have done a few posts on her in my blog. You can see the influence of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac in her work.

    • September 20, 2012 6:49 am

      Thanks Jil. Yes a definite comparison to Rackham and Dulac, particularly in her use of detail and line.

  3. October 2, 2012 5:51 pm

    Hello, I loved the illustrations in The Fortune Tellers. We want to publish this as dual language books in English and many African languages. Would anyone be able to tell me who talk to in order to progress this.

    • October 2, 2012 6:10 pm

      Hi there.

      Thanks for your message. Sadly I have no connection to the Illustrator or publishers for Trina Schart Hymans’s work. It looks like The Fortune Tellers was published by Picture Puffin Books so they would be the best place to contact ( http://www.puffin.co.uk ). Best of luck

  4. June 8, 2014 2:01 pm

    I grew up with Trina and Karleen Schart. Karleen was my close friend in elementary school. They lived in suburban, not rural, Philadelphia in a little brick house. Trina’s star as an illustrator started to rise when she won a Seventeen Magazine competition while still in high school. Karleen was just as talented but somewhat overshadowed by her sister. As kids we used to sneak off the playground at recess and prowl around an old abandoned house behind the school, pretending we were princesses in a castle. Kay was tall and beautiful and died way too young (in 1986).

    • June 8, 2014 6:47 pm

      Hi Joan, Many thanks for the comments and additional insight into Trina’s childhood years. Great memories to have, thanks for sharing them with us.

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