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Tony’s Biography

Quick Bio:

New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi has been creating children’s books for nearly two decades. From fanciful picture books like The Spider & The Fly (a Caldecott Honor book), to chapter books like Kenny and The Dragon and the WondLa trilogy, DiTerlizzi imbues his stories with a rich imagination. With Holly Black, he created the middle-grade series, The Spiderwick Chronicles, which has sold millions of copies, been adapted into a feature film, and has been translated in over thirty countries. He teamed up with Lucasfilm to retell the original Star Wars trilogy as a picture book and his collaboration with acclaimed author Mo Willems created the bestselling The Story of Diva & Flea. The beginning of his storied career is showcased in Realms: The Roleplaying Game Art of Tony DiTerlizzi. He has been featured in Time magazine, USA Today, CNN, PBS, the BBC and The Today Show.

Detailed Bio:


Dragons, space monsters, goblins and insects: the characters that inhabit the world of children’s author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi have not changed since he was a kid growing up in South Florida.

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1969, DiTerlizzi is the oldest of three siblings raised in an artistically rich household. He started drawing at a very young age—including a crayon mural of Winnie-the-Pooh on his freshly painted bedroom walls.

One of his first handmade books, on dinosaurs, was done for a Boy Scout merit badge. Fascinated by nature’s endless designs, Tony created another book on insects, which were carefully drawn from his own collection.

In 1981, after seeing Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal and playing Dungeons & Dragons, DiTerlizzi spent the summer writing and illustrating an entire field guide on fantastic creatures. He would return to this premise decades later as the genesis for The Spiderwick Chronicles.

By the time he graduated high school, DiTerlizzi had dreams of becoming a children’s book illustrator. He attended two art schools—Florida School of the Arts and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale—and received his degree in graphic design in 1992.

DiTerlizzi began work as a freelance illustrator for TSR, publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, shortly after graduation. He designed and rendered countless images of warriors, wizards and monsters and later contributed to the collectible card game Magic: the Gathering. The artwork from this period in his career would later be collected in REALMS: The Role-playing Game Art of Tony DiTerlizzi.

A move to New York City in 1996 brought Tony to the center of the publishing world. At last, his dream of writing and illustrating imaginative books for children was realized at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

His first picture book, Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-this-World Moon Pie Adventure, debuted in 2000. Inspired by Windsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland and Norman Rockwell, the story of a young space adventurer in search of his favorite snack garnered positive reviews. Kirkus compared DiTerlizzi to David Wiesner and William Joyce. Most importantly, children loved the book.

He followed with a second picture book, Ted—the story of a workaholic single parent dealing with his son’s mischievous imaginary friend. Once again, the book was well received, and it won several state awards including the University of Chicago’s Zena Sutherland Book Award.

His third picture book, The Spider and The Fly, was based on Mary Howitt’s famous 1829 poem. Here, DiTerlizzi exhibited his love of insects as he rendered Chaz Addams-esque paintings of the intrepid spider and the guileless fly. The result was a critically acclaimed, New York Times bestseller. It won a Caldecott Honor, an award for high artistic achievement in children’s publishing.

During a magazine interview on his work for Dungeons & Dragons, DiTerlizzi met up-and-coming fantasy writer Holly Black. A fellow admirer of fairy folklore, the two created the chapter book series The Spiderwick Chronicles. The books followed the adventures of three New England children who unearth an old John James Audubon-styled field guide to fairies, trolls and goblins. No sooner do they find the tome, they then discover that all of its subjects are very real and very dangerous. The Spiderwick Chronicles is loved by children and adults alike, and has been published in over 30 countries, selling over 12 million copies.

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies released a live-action adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles in 2008 starring Freddie Highmore, Mary Louise-Parker and Nick Nolte with DiTerlizzi acting as executive producer.  The film was well received by critics and was successful at the box office.

2006 brought a return to picture books with DiTerlizzi’s nonsense alphabet book, G is For One Gzonk!. Next, he and Holly continued the Spiderwick saga in the trilogy, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. The latest Spiderwick story followed a new set of kids dealing with giants, mermaids and nixies in the humid tropics of South Florida.

DiTerlizzi’s passion for crafting chapter books for young imaginations continued with Kenny and The Dragon, followed by a team-up with his wife, Angela, on a silly series of young picture books, Adventure of Meno.

2010 marked a decade of DiTerlizzi creating books for children. He celebrated by launching a futuristic fairy tale trilogy, The Search for WondLa. The middle-grade books center on twelve-year-old, Eva Nine, who is raised by a robot. Eva soon discovers that she is the only human alive on an alien planet and begins searching for her family.

Upon completion of the WondLa trilogy, DiTerlizzi penned a picture book adaptation of the original Star Wars trilogy using the illustrations of Academy Award winning concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie, titled The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. He continued in the collaborative spirit by next teaming with beloved picture book author & illustrator, Mo Willems, in the chapter book, The Story of Diva & Flea—which remained on the New York Times bestseller list throughout the fall of 2015.

A believer in the healing power of stories, DiTerlizzi has held author events for children in hospitals all over the world. In 2011 he was honored with the title of Global Ambassador by the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

DiTerlizzi is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. He has been featured in Time magazine, USA Today, CNN, PBS, the BBC and The Today Show.

The artist lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife and author, Angela DiTerlizzi, and their daughter.

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