Born in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 16th, Robert Casilla enjoyed school, but especially drawing and painting. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, from which he received a bachelor of fine arts. In his first year there, he decided to major in illustration, even though one of his teachers tried to persuade him otherwise. She felt he should become a “fine artist,” but we are glad that he chose to illustrate children’s books.
He has illustrated many books with stories from diverse cultures, including biographies of Jesse Owens, Simon Bolivar, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and John F. Kennedy. His illustrations for Jalapeno Bagels
reflect the warm, food-rich cultures of a boy’s Mexican and Jewish heritage. In The Legend of Mexicatl
, Casilla illustrates Jo Harper’s story of the man who led his people on a difficult journey to Tenochititlán, the site of present-day Mexico City.
Robert Casilla was honored with the 2004 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for First Day in Grapes, the story of a young migrant boy who uses his math skills to stand up to bullies on one of many first days in school.
A sports fan, particularly of the Yankees and baseball, his illustrations for Jackie Robinson: He Was the First and his sports biographies show how an illustrator can enhance an information book through careful research and attention to detail.
Mr. Casilla and his family live in Connecticut.