Verna Aardema was born on June 6, 1911 in New Era Michigan. She received her B.A. degree from Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences in 1934. She was a grade school teacher from 1934 to 1973 and staff correspondent for the Muskegon Chronicle from 1951 to 1972. Aardema started writing children's stories in the 1950's, and in 1960 she published her first books, Tales from the Story Hat and The Sky God Stories. She specializes in the modernization and adaptation of traditional African folktales. In the 1970s, Aardema joined illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon and produced three picture books. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears received the Caldecott Medal in 1976 and the Brooklyn Art Books for Children Award in 1977. Who's in Rabbit's House? was the 1977 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award winner in 1978. Aardema received the Children's Reading Round Table Award in 1981, and several of her books have been selected as Notable Books by the American Library Association. Oh Kojo! How Could You! won the 1984 Parents' Choice Award for Literature. Verna Aardema died in 2000.
Leo Dillon was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 2, 1933. He attended Parsons School of Design in New York City, where he met his wife Diane (Sorber) Dillon. They graduated in 1956, married in 1957, and soon became a husband and wife team of illustrators. During his lifetime, they published over 40 children's books including Hakon of Rogen's Saga by Eric Hagard, The Ring in the Prairie by John Bierhorst, The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton, and If Kids Ran the World. They won the Caldecott Medal in 1976 for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema and in 1977 for Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove. They also won a Coretta Scott King Award and five Coretta Scott King Honors. In 2002, they published the first picture book they wrote themselves, Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles-Think of That! They also created cover designs for adult science fiction books. He died from complications of lung surgery on May 26, 2012 at the age of 79.
Diane Dillon is director of scholarly and undergraduate programs at the Newberry Library.