Catrow, David J.

Born: 1962

Ohio connection: Resident


International cartoonist and children’s book illustrator, David J. Catrow was born in Richmond, Virginia. As a boy, his favorite subject in school was drawing… in math class!   Even though he intended to pursue a “sensible” profession, drawing silly pictures turned out to be Catrow’s destiny. He attended Kent State University, where he started out in pre-med. Although he didn’t go on to medical school, Catrow did work as a paramedic for 10 years. When he wasn’t wearing his stethoscope, Catrow explored work as a cartoonist by freelancing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon-Journal. Art finally emerged as his permanent – and highly acclaimed – career. His success as an illustrator came several years after Catrow took a job as editorial cartoonist with the Springfield News-Sun.  Catrow’s eccentric, darkly comedic cartoons were syndicated in 1988. His editorial cartoons have run in more than 1,000 newspapers across the United States and Canada.

National exposure opened new doors to Catrow. The cartoonist’s quirky style caught the attention of children’s book authors, and, in 1990, Catrow illustrated his first book, Attic Mice, by Ethel Pochocki. Since then, Catrow has become an award-winning illustrator of many books for children, including The Emperor’s Old Clothes (1999), by Kathryn Lasky, and Plantzilla (2002), by Jerdine Nolen. Several of his books have been named New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Books of the Year and were finalists for the Book Sense Book of the Year Award. Catrow’s work in She’s Wearing A Dead Bird On Her Head (1995) earned him widespread recognition when it was named the New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. In 2002 Catrow published a self-illustrated book in which the only text consisted of actual words from the Preamble to the Constitution. In We the Kids, Catrow makes understanding the Preamble to the Constitution accessible to children and even fun. In his signature off-the-wall style, Catrow depicts a backyard camping caper taken by a bumbling group of friends. The campers review the rules of camping (“establish justice”), and snuggle under a blanket (“secure the Blessings of Liberty”). Catrow wants kids to look at the Constitution the way he does – as “a kind of how-to book, showing us ways to have happiness, safety, and comfort.” In addition to having illustrated more than 70 books for children– including his Scholastic book series, Max Spaniel–Catrow has worked extensively in film and television, creating the visual development for films such as Horton Hears a Who!, Despicable Me, and others  David Catrow’s art is held in the permanent collections of the National Archives, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Museum of Cartoon Art in San Francisco, as well as many private holdings.

Best of Cox award, Cox Newspapers, 1989, 1995, for editorial cartooning, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, for community division’s illustration category, and 2000, 2003, for illustration; Book Sense Book-of-the-Year nominations, American Booksellers Association, 2002, for Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and Take Me Out of the Bathtub, and Other Silly Dilly Songs; Best Illustrated Book for the Year selection, New York Times, 1995, for She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!, and 1999, for The Emperor’s Old Clothes.