Adkins, Jan

Born: November 7, 1944

Ohio connection: Birth


Born in Gallipolis, OH, and raised across the river in Wheeling, West Virginia, author and illustrator Jan Adkins has said that he is “an explainer, a storyteller with words and images, an advocate for young minds, a resource for images, and a dinosaur holdout for simplicity and grace in illustration, design and typography.”  Adkins first studied architecture at The Ohio State University but switched to English literature and creative writing, receiving a B.A. in English in 1969. He has worked as an architectural designer for a firm in Columbus, OH, an associate art director for National Geographic magazine in Washington, D.C., and an instructor of editorial illustration and graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design, and the Maryland Institute College of Art.  He has been a consultant to art museums, zoos, and natural history and science museums, and has won many design awards from professional organizations for his work.

Adkins has written more than 40 books, numerous magazine articles, and scripts and treatments for the Discovery Channel, NOVA, and the BBC. As a writer and illustrator, Adkins is inspired by his own curiosity and desire to learn about various subjects and his enthusiasm for sharing that knowledge with others. From his first book, The Art and Industry of Sandcastles: Being an Illustrated Guide to Basic Constructions along with Divers Information (1971) to String: Tying it Up, Tying it Down (1992), Adkins brings a combination of detailed drawing, clear explanation, and novelty to his wide range of topics and is consistently praised by reviewers. His fiction titles include: Luther Tarbox (1977) for children; A Storm Without Rain (1983), a young adult novel; Deadline for Final Art (1990) an adult mystery.  Jan Adkins, who has been called the “Explainer General,” has a daughter, a son, and a stepson and lives in Florida.


Brooklyn Museum Art citations, 1972, 1973, and 1974; Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, University of Wisconsin, and National Book Award nomination, both 1972, for The Art and Industry of Sand Castles; Children’s Book Showcase awards, Children’s Book Council, 1974, for Toolchest, and 1976, for Inside: Seeing Beneath the Surface; Children’s Science Book Award, New York Academy of Sciences, 1981, for Moving Heavy Things. Elementary and Early Childhood Award, Bridgewater State College, 2001, for contributions to literacy in young readers; Gold Medal for Best Editorial Illustration, San Francisco Society of Illustrators, 2001; Author of the Year designation, Naval Institute, 2002, for contributions to young people’s naval history; Nonfiction Honor List selection, Voice of Youth Advocates, 2003, for Bridges: from My Side to Yours; Best Illustration Series of the Year, numerous design and illustration awards from Society of Illustrators, Art Directors Clubs of Metropolitan Washington and New York, Communication Arts, and many others.