Main content

Laura Vaccaro Seeger ’80

Laura Vaccaro Seeger ’80 is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator and a two-time winner of the Caldecott Honor Award, winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book, and a two-time winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award.

She is also the recipient of both the Massachusetts Reading Association and the New York Empire State awards for “Body of Work and Contribution to Children’s Literature.”

Vaccaro Seeger’s paintings have been exhibited at many museums and galleries including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the Mazza Museum of Picture Book Art, the Society of Illustrators, the New York Public Library, and the New York Nassau County Museum of Art.

Vaccaro Seeger grew up on Long Island, New York, with her parents, Vera and Phil, brothers, Billy and Tommy, sister, Linda, and both grandmothers. She began drawing at two years old and never stopped. She earned her BFA degree at the School of Fine Art and Design at the State University of New York at Purchase in Westchester, New York. She then moved to Manhattan and began a career as an animator, artist, designer, and editor in the network television business. She created show openings and special segments for NBC and ABC for many years and won an Emmy Award for an opening animation for an NBC Special.

Vaccaro Seeger has been an artist and a writer for as long as she can remember and has always wanted to make picture books for children. In the fifth grade, she’d written an essay that stated with absolute certainty that she was born to make picture books. By that time, she had written and illustrated her own little library.

Over the years, she continued to make books of all shapes and sizes and several years ago, she decided it was time to try to get some of her books published. She was fortunate to have met her editor, Neal Porter, almost immediately. They are now starting work on their nineteenth book together and have plans for many more. Her popular series, “Dog and Bear”, is based on her beloved dachshund, Copper.

First The Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger '80 Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger '80 I Used To Be Afraid by Laura Vaccaro Seeger '80

From Purchase Magazine

Read an excerpt on Laura Vaccaro Seeger from the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of PURCHASE magazine, reprinted from the feature story The Art of the Book.

Not Just for Kids

Laura Vaccaro Seeger ’80 studied fine art and graphic design at Purchase. Although she filled her journals from the time she was in fifth grade with ideas for picture books, she never considered pursuing a career as a children’s book author or illustrator. After graduation, she spent many years in network television creating show openings and special segments for NBC, ABC, and Fox, and won an Emmy Award for an opening animation she made for an NBC special.

She reached a point in her life when she decided it was time to focus seriously on the ideas filling her journals and to create concept books for children. Seventeen books later, her work has earned significant recognition; her accolades include Caldecott Honors, Theodor Seuss Geisel Honors, an Oppenheim Platinum Award, and placement on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Vaccaro Seeger presents concepts through words and images in clever ways designed to appeal not only to children, but also to the adults who read to them. Through the inventive use of die-cuts, she forces shifts in perspective that turn even the simplest concepts—such as the alphabet in The Hidden Alphabet—into something new and fresh.

Her process begins with an idea that captures her interest. Then she taps into the skills she honed at Purchase in both graphic design and painting. For The Hidden Alphabet, it was the opportunity “to force a person to see something one way, then with the turn of the page, or the lift of the page, have the perspective completely change,” she says. “You can see the design influence—the negative space, the perspective, even the use of the die cut. It’s all
design,” she adds.

Carol Bankerd, associate professor of Art+Design in graphic design, was a huge influence on her. Vaccaro Seeger also remembers fondly the lessons she learned from her painting teacher, John Cohen, professor emeritus of visual arts. To this day, she says, whenever she paints she hears his voice in her head telling her, “Push the paint, Laura, push the paint.”

Vaccaro Seeger is an author in the literal sense—she writes the text of her books—but the decisions she makes regarding the use of words are integral to the design process and not separate from her artistic choices. “I think of myself as an artist and my tools are paint and pencils and words,” she says.