Virginia Hamilton was born March 12, 1936 and raised in Yellow Springs, OH, which is said to be a station on the Underground Railroad. Her grandfather settled in the village after escaping slavery in Virginia. Hamilton received a scholarship to Antioch College, and then went on to the Ohio State University at Columbus and the New School for Social Research in New York. She published Zeely, her first book for children, in 1967. Virginia was the first African American woman to win the Newbery Award, for M.C. Higgins the Great. Since then, she has won three Newbery Honors and three Coretta Scott King Awards, as well as an Edgar Allan Poe Award, and was the first children's author to receive a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1995. She also received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1995. This award honors an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial or lasting contribution to children's literature. In 1992, Virginia was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, which is presented every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People, in recognition of her entire body of work, and is considered the most prestigious international award in children's literature. Virginia Hamilton passed away in Dayton, Ohio on February 19, 2002 at the age of 85 from breast cancer. She had written over 35 books, some of her most popular include The People Could Fly; The Planet of Junior Brown; M.C. Higgins, the Great; Bluish; Cousins; and the Dies Drear Chronicles.
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.