Many books have been created in, and inspired by life in Michigan. Here are just a few of the authors and illustrators with Michigan roots who have made a lasting impact on their art form.
Mitch Albom moved to Michigan to join the Detroit Free Press as a sports columnist in 1985. Having achieved national recognition for sports writing in the early part of his career, he penned several books about athletic achievement, but his breakthrough book was more personal. Based on weekly meetings with a terminally ill old college professor of his, Tuesdays with Morrie captured the nation’s attention. It remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 205 weeks. Several books would follow including The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Have a Little Faith. His books have sold over 39 million copies worldwide.
Mark Arminski is a rock concert poster artist born in Detroit. He began studying art at the Oakland Community College and pursued printmaking in stone lithography at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. His first commissioned poster work was in the form of silk screens for Iggy Pop and the Smashing Pumpkins.
Jim Benton is an illustrator and author whose creations include Dear Dumb Diary, Dog of Glee, Just Jimmy, Meany Doodles, and arguably his best-known for work, It’s Happy Bunny. He was raised in Birmingham, Michigan, graduating from Seaholm High School, before studying fine arts at Western Michigan. People magazine has named him “one of the most visible cartoonists in America.”
Brothers Hildebrandt are twin brothers, born in Detroit, who worked collaboratively as fantasy and science fiction artists. Greg and Tim Hildebrandt began their careers in 1959. They worked on documentary films and thousands of illustrations for text books, children’s books, calendars, book covers, posters, comic books, advertisements, movie posters, production design for films, collectables and trading card games. They became internationally known for the original Star Wars movie poster and the 1976, 1977, and 1978 JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings calendars.
Jeffrey Brown was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he grew up dreaming he would draw comics for a living. He is now a New York Times bestselling cartoonist and author of Darth Vader and Son, as well as the middle grade Star Wars Jedi Academy series.
David Coverly is the creator of the single-panel comic Speed Bump. He grew up in Plainwell, Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University. His work has appeared in Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, The New York Times and USA Today. He has been repeatedly recognized for his work by the National Cartoonists Society.
Jeffrey Eugenides is a novelist and short story writer. The native Michigander has written numerous short stories and essays, as well as three novels: The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex and The Marriage Plot. The Virgin Suicides served as the basis of a feature film, while Middlesex received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in addition to being a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International Dublin Literary Award, and France’s Prix Médicis.
Judith Guest attended Detroit’s Mumford High School and then transferred to Royal Oak High School, from which she graduated and went off to study at the University of Michigan. She taught at a public school for several years before making the decision to devote herself full-time to completing a novel. Her first book, Ordinary People, was the basis of the 1980 film by the same name, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. She wrote five other books as well as the screenplay for the 1987 film Rachel River.
Sarah Noble Ives was an author, illustrator, and historian known for her children’s books including Dog Heroes of Many Lands and Songs of the Shining Way. Her work also appeared in publications like the New York Herald Tribune and Boston Globe. Born in Grosse Ile, she attended Port Huron High School, where she first began studying art, and later studied in Paris. When she returned to the United States she began work as a freelance author and illustrator under the name “Noble Ives”, like other female artists of the time who hid their identity. While illustrative work paid her bills, her true love was said to be oil painting, particularly landscapes.
Elmore Leonard moved with his family to the Detroit area in 1934, where he would reside for the rest of his life. After graduating from the University of Detroit in 1950, he pursued writing more seriously, entering his work in short story contests and sending it off to magazines. A year before he graduated, he got a job as a copy writer with Campbell-Ewald Advertising Agency, a position he kept for several years, writing on the side. Several of his most popular novels became motion pictures, including 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre, Valdez Is Coming, and Joe Kidd, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, and Out of Sight. His numerous literary honors include the Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Mystery Writers of America, National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution, and a Peabody Award.
Terry McMillan was born and raised in Port Huron, where she discovered her love of literature while shelving books at the local library. She burst on to the literary scene in 1987 with her acclaimed New York Times bestseller Mama, which won the Doubleday New Voices in Fiction Award and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Her follow-up efforts included Waiting to Exhale, A Day Late and A Dollar Short, The Interruption of Everything, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Getting to Happy, Disappearing Acts and Who Asked You? all bestsellers. Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back were made into award-winning major motion pictures.
Patricia Polacco is an award-winning writer and illustrator, who grappled with undiagnosed dyslexia as a youngster, severely limiting her ability to read. Born in Lansing, she eventually relocated to Union City, a familiar backdrop in many of her stories. She did not start writing and illustrating her first children’s book until she was 41 years old, and has published more than sixty titles including Just Plain Fancy, Pink and Say, The Butterfly and Mr. Lincoln’s Way.
David Small is an illustrator and writer who was born and raised in Detroit. He wrote and illustrated a picture book, Eulalie and the Hopping Head, which was published in 1981, and led to extensive work for national magazines and newspapers. His drawings appeared regularly in The New Yorker and The New York Times. A learn-as-you-go illustrator, his books have been translated into several languages, made into animated films and musicals, and have won many of the top awards accorded to illustration, including the 1997 Caldecott Honor and The Christopher Medal for The Gardener written by his wife, Sarah Stewart, and the 2001 Caldecott Medal for So, You Want To Be President? by Judith St. George.
Chris Van Allsburg is an illustrator and author of children’s books, that hails from East Grand Rapids. He has won two Caldecott Medals for U.S. picture book illustration, for Jumanji (1981) and The Polar Express (1985), both of which he also wrote. Each was later adapted as highly successful motion pictures. He was also a Caldecott runner-up in 1980 for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. For his contribution as a children’s illustrator he was a 1986 U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition for creators of children’s books.
Gloria Whelan is a poet, short story writer, and novelist known primarily for children’s and young adult fiction. She won the annual National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2000 for the novel Homeless Bird. She also won the 2013 Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction with her short story entitled What World Is This? Born in Detroit and educated at U of M, she eventually relocated to Northern Michigan, where she wrote her first book. She has written over fifty books of fiction for children and young adults. Many have been set in rural northern Michigan, while other settings include Africa, China, Vietnam, India, and Russia.