Chris Van Allsburg majored in sculpture at the University of Michigan, where he learned bronze casting, wood carving, resin molding, and other techniques. He earned an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and in 1975 set up a sculpture studio in Providence. He also married Lisa Morrison, who became an elementary school art teacher in the Providence school system.
Chris first exhibited his sculpture in New York City in 1977 at the Alan Stone Gallery. He exhibited elsewhere in New England, and though sculpture was his primary interest, he began drawing pictures as well.
Lisa, who used picture books in teaching her third grade students, encouraged him to consider making illustrations for a storybook, and a friend, David Macaulay, put him in touch with Walter Lorraine at Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston. Mr. Lorraine responded positively to Chris's pictures, but rather than enlist him to illustrate someone else's text, he encouraged Chris to think about stories of his own.
Though still involved in making sculptures, Chris set aside some time and created the story and pictures that became The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, a Caldecott Honor Book and the recipient of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.
Since then, Chris has written and illustrated fifteen more books. Both Jumanji and The Polar Express were awarded Caldecott Medals and were made into feature length films, as was Zathura. Jumanji was also a National Book Award winner. The Polar Express and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick each received a Boston-Globe Horn Book Honor, and seven of this author-illustrator's titles have been included in The New York Times' annual "Ten Best Illustrated Books" list.
In 1993, Chris was awarded the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children's literature. He has also illustrated three books written by Mark Helprin.