Ohio connection: Birth
Will Hillenbrand was born in Cincinnati to Earl (a barber) and Alice (Zins) Hillenbrand and has lived almost all his life in Cincinnati where he grew up surrounded by stories. The youngest of four boys with diverse personalities and talents, Hillenbrand found himself interested in drawing. His older brother sketched cartoons and he began by copying him. He drew mostly on paper at the kitchen table, but also used crayons on the stairwell walls to the basement, not always to his mother’s delight. He later found he had a good eye for composition and was comfortable with graphic design and chose art as his vocation. Hillenbrand attended Art Academy of Cincinnati earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design. Hillenbrand worked as an artist in commercial advertising. With a class in picture book art at Ohio State University, Hillenbrand the graphic designer and Hillenbrand the storyteller merged. Class projects led to his first picture book portfolio and he eventually left advertising art to pursue a career in picture book illustration. Hillenbrand’s artwork debuted in a 1990 juvenile novel entitled Awfully Short for the Fourth Grade by Elvira Woodruff. His second title, Traveling to Tondo: A Tale of the Nkundo of Zaire by Verna Aardema, was published the following year. Within the past eighteen years, Hillenbrand has developed a distinct colorful illustrative style displayed in more than forty books for young readers. His creative use of a variety of media including acrylics, artist crayons, colored pencils, egg temperas, gouache, inks, oils and oil pastels, and pens bring his characters to life on the page. In 1999, he became an author with his first book, Down by the Station. Hillenbrand lives in Terrace Park, Ohio with his wife (Jane) and son.
1990 Gold medal, Society of Illustrators. Notable Book citation, American Library Association, for Traveling to Tondo: A Tale of the Nkundo of Zaire. Children’s Choice citation, International Reading Association, for Sam Sunday and the Mystery at the Ocean Beach Hotel and The House That Drac Built. 1995 Best Books designation, School Library Journal , 1995 Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, Bank Street College of Education, and 1997 North Carolina Children’s Book Award all for Wicked Jack. 1997 Horn Book Fanfare List for Coyote and the Fire Stick: A Northwest Coast Indian Legend. 2000 Ohioana Citation for Art. 2002 Please Touch Book Award for Kiss the Cow. 2002 Parenting magazine, Best Books of the Year for Fiddle-I-Fee. Advertising awards from Communication Arts Advertising Age, Print, Society of Publication Designers, and Society of Illustrators.