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Betsy Lewin Books & Biography

Biography

Betsy Lewin grew up in Clearfield,Pennsylvania. She always loved to draw and can’t remember ever wanting to be anything but an artist. Her mother (a kindergarten teacher) is responsible for her love of children’s books. She read to Betsy and her brother every night: Winnie the Pooh, The Adventures of Babar, Uncle Remus, and all the fairy-tale books. The illustrators Ernest Shepard and A. B. Frost were among her earliest heroes. Later on, when she started illustrating for children, Betsy realized how strongly she’d been influenced by the gentle watercolors of Beatrix Potter and the energetic line and humor of James Stevenson and Quentin Blake.

After graduating from Pratt Institute, where she studied illustration, Betsy took a job as an assistant art director at a greeting-card company in New York, which led to freelance work for several other card companies. Then she began to write and illustrate stories for children’s magazines. When an editor at Dodd, Mead & Company asked her to expand one of those stories into a picture book, Betsy says, “I jumped at the chance. I’ve been doing picture books ever since and loving every moment.”

Betsy’s art is usually humorous, drawn in pen with watercolor washes, as in Is It Far to Zanzibar? But she also paints in a naturalistic style, as in Walk a Green Path, in which she expresses her love for the natural world through paintings and poetry. Gorilla Walk is her first collaboration with her husband, Ted, and is about their trek to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda. They’ve just completed their second collaboration, Elephant Quest, set in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.

When not at work on their books, Ted and Betsy love to travel to exotic places around the world gathering material for new books. At home each of them has a studio in their brownstone house in Brooklyn. Besides the usual clutter of pencils and pens, paint tubes and brushes, drawing paper, and, of course, books, they surround themselves with mementos of their travels: peacock feathers from India, Herero dolls from Botswana, galimoto toys from Namibia and Brazil, brass pots from Egypt, postcards and snapshots.