Leo and Diane Dillon

Leo Dillon (March 2, 1933 – May 26, 2012) and Diane Dillon (née Sorber; born March 13, 1933) were American illustrators of children's books and adult paperback book and magazine covers. One obituary of Leo called the work of the husband-and-wife team "a seamless amalgam of both their hands".[3] In more than 50 years they created more than 100 speculative fiction book and magazine covers together as well as much interior artwork. Essentially all of their work in that field was joint.[1][2]

The Dillons won the Caldecott Medal in 1976 and 1977, the only consecutive awards of the honor.[4] In 1978 they were runners-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's illustrators; they were the U.S. nominee again in 1996.[5]

Leo Dillon
Lionel John Dillon, Jr.[1]

March 2, 1933
DiedMay 26, 2012 (aged 79)
United States
EducationParsons School of Design
Known forIllustration
Spouse(s)Diane Dillon
AwardsList of awards
Diane Dillon
Diane Clare Sorber[2]

March 13, 1933 (age 85)
Los Angeles, California, United States
EducationParsons School of Design
Known forIllustration
Spouse(s)Leo Dillon
AwardsList of awards
Jadis, the White Witch of Narnia. Art by Leo and Diane Dillon, 1994


Leo Dillon, of Trinidadian immigrant parentage, was born and raised in East New York. He enlisted in the Navy for three years' service so that he could attend art school. He credited his interest in art and his inspiration to become an artist to his friend and mentor, Ralph Volman.[6] Diane Sorber hails from the Greater Los Angeles Area where her interest in art was encouraged early by her mother, who was a pianist.[6] The couple met at the Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1953 — where they "became instant archrivals and remained together from then on".[3] They graduated in 1956 and married the next year. This union resulted in an artistic collaboration, which the couple described as a third artist. Diane Dillon explained this in an interview through these words: “We could look at ourselves as one artist rather than two individuals, and that third artist was doing something neither one of us would do. We let it flow the way it flows when an artist is working by themselves and a color goes down that they didn’t quite expect and that affects the next colors they use, and it seems to have a life of its own.”[7]

An association with writer Harlan Ellison led to jobs doing book covers for his short story collections and both cover and interior woodcut illustration for his anthology Dangerous Visions. They illustrated a large number of mass market paperback book covers for the original Ace Science Fiction Specials, for which they won their first major award, science fiction's 1971 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. A detailed biography and introduction to their work and styles were written by Byron Preiss in a book he edited in 1981, entitled The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon. They once described their work as incorporating motifs derived from their respective heritages. This can be demonstrated in their work for Margaret Musgrove's Ashanti to Zulu, which used tribal motifs and combined historical with contemporary styles.[8]

On May 28, 2012, Ellison reported on his website his reception of a phone call from Diane announcing Leo's death at the age of 79 from lung cancer two days prior.[9] Spectrum Fantastic Art, an annual art competition and art book project of which the couple were general managers, confirmed Leo's death on its website.[10] The obituary of Leo in The New York Times praised the Dillons jointly as "one of the world's pre-eminent illustrators for young people, producing artwork — praised for its vibrancy, ecumenicalism and sheer sumptuous beauty — that was a seamless amalgam of both their hands", also noting the ethnoracial diversity of characters in the Dillons' work in the 1970s, "until then, the smiling faces portrayed in picture books had been overwhelmingly white."[3]

The Dillons had one surviving son. Lee (Lionel John Dillon III), born 1965, became an artist and collaborated with his parents several times, including the illustrations for Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch by Nancy Willard (1991).[11] Both Leo and Diane lived in the Cobble Hill neighborhood at the time of Leo's death.

Picture books illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

  • 1970 The Ring in the Prairie, written by John Bierhorst / Dial Press
  • 1972 Honey, I Love, Eloise Greenfield / Viking
  • 1973 Blast Off, Linda C. Cain and Susan Rosenbaum / Xerox
  • 1974 Whirlwind Is a Ghost Dancing, compiled by Natalia Maree Belting / Dutton
  • 1974 Songs and Stories from Uganda, W. Moses Serwadda, Hewitt Pantaleoni / World Music Press
  • 1974 The Third Gift, Jan R. Carew / Little Brown
  • 1975 The Hundred Penny Box, Sharon Bell Mathis / Viking
  • 1975 Song of the Boat, Lorenz B. Graham / Crowell
  • 1976 Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears, Verna Aardema / Dial Press
  • 1977 Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions, Margaret Musgrove / Dial Press
  • 1977 Who's in Rabbit's House: A Masai Tai, Verna Aardema / Dial Press
  • 1980 Two Pair of Shoes, P. L. Travers / Viking Press
  • 1980 Children of the Sun, Jan R. Carew / Little Brown
  • 1985 Brother to the Wind, Mildred Pitts Walter / Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books
  • 1986 All in a Day, Mitsumasa Anno and Raymond Briggs / Hamish Hamilton (London) (Translation of: Marui chiky¯u no maru ichinichi.) —illustrations by 10 artists, including the Dillons
  • 1987 The Porcelain Cat, Michael Patrick Hearn / Little Brown
  • 1989 The Color Wizard, Barbara Brenner / Bantam Little Rooster
  • 1990 The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, Katherine Paterson / Lodestar
  • 1990 Aïda, Leontyne Price / Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  • 1991 The Race of the Golden Apples, Claire Martin / Dial Books for Young Readers
  • 1991 Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch, Nancy Willard / Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  • 1992 Northern Lullaby, Nancy White Carlstrom / Putnam
  • 1992 Switch on the Night, Ray Bradbury / Knopf
  • 1993 The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Nancy Willard / Scholastic/Blue Sky Press
  • 1994 What Am I?, N. N. Charles / Scholastic/Blue Sky Press
  • 1997 To Everything There is a Season, the Dillons / Scholastic/Blue Sky Press
  • 1999 Wind Child, Shirley Rousseau Murphy / HarperCollins
  • 2000 Switch on the Night, Ray Bradbury / Knopf (reissue)
  • 2000 The Girl Who Spun Gold, Virginia Hamilton / Scholastic/Blue Sky Press
  • 2001 Two Little Trains, Margaret Wise Brown / HarperCollins
  • 2002 Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles—Think of That, written and illustrated by the Dillons / Scholastic/Blue Sky Press
  • 2003 One Winter's Night, John Herman / Philomel
  • 2004 Where Have You Been?, Margaret Wise Brown / HarperCollins
  • 2005 The People Could Fly - The Picture Book
  • 2005 Earth Mother, Ellen B. Jackson / Walker & Company
  • 2006 Whirlwind is a Spirit Dancing, Natalia Maree Belting and Joseph Bruchac / Milk & Cookies Press —illustrations reprinted from 1974 title, Whirlwind is a Ghost Dancing
  • 2007 Mother Goose numbers on the loose / Harcourt
  • 2007 Jazz on a Saturday Night / Blue Sky Press
  • 2009 The Secret River, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings / Atheneum Books for Young Readers (reissue)[a]
  • 2009 Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers and Sons

Chapter books illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon



  1. ^ a b c The Dillons created cover illustrations for many books that were not first editions. By policy the cover images and cover illustrations displayed in Wikipedia book articles should be from the first editions but that is not always true. They should have captions but that is not always true.


  1. ^ a b Leo Dillon at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved July 8, 2013. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ a b Diane Dillon at ISFDB. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Margalit Fox (May 30, 2012). "Leo Dillon, Celebrated Illustrator of Children's Books, Is Dead at 79". the New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA)
    "The Randolph Caldecott Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002" Archived 2013-01-14 at Archive.today. The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Smith, Henrietta (2009). The Coretta Scott King Awards, 1970-2009. Chicago: American Library Association. p. 79. ISBN 9780838935842.
  7. ^ "The Global Artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon - Akron Art Museum". akronartmuseum.org. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  8. ^ Sawyer, Walter (2011). Growing Up with Literature. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. p. 95. ISBN 9781111342654.
  9. ^ Harlan Ellison (May 28, 2012), Leo Dillon Is Dead, Harlan Ellison website, "Diane just called. Saturday, he died. Saturday. Tumor on the collapsed lung, he never regained consciousness. I'm more than a pretty miserable piece of shit right now. Half my soul for fifty years went with him. Please remember Leo & Diane.
  10. ^ "Spectrum Fantastic Art".
  11. ^ "Leo & Diane Dillon: The Third Artist Rules". Interview conducted by Karen Haber. Locus Online (excerpted from Locus Magazine, April 2000). Locus Publications. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  12. ^ "Coretta Scott King Book Awards - All Recipients, 1970-Present". ala.org. American Library Association. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  13. ^ World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on 2010-12-01. Retrieved 4 Feb 2011.
  14. ^ "Winners 2012: Fiction". Bologna Children's Book Fair. BolognaFiere S.p.A. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012.

Further reading

  • Borea, P., & J. Janow. "Leo and Diane Dillon." Communication Arts Magazine 25: pp. 42–51, May/June 1983.
  • Brodie, Carolyn S. "Creators of Magic on Paper: Leo and Diane Dillon," School Library Media Activities Monthly 15(6): pp. 46–48, February 1999.
  • Cooper, Ilene. "The Walk of Life." Booklist 95(3): pp. 344–347, October 1, 1998.
  • Davies, Anne. "Talking with Leo & Diane Dillon", Book Links 14(3): pp. 45–48, 2005.
  • Davis, SE. "One + One = Three." Step-By-Step Graphics 13: pp. 30–41, 1997.
  • Deines, Ryah. "An Interiew with Leo & Diane Dillon," World Fantasy Convention (Calgary, Alberta, Canada). Mystery in Fantasy & Horror (Souvenir Program), pp. 68–71, 2008.
  • Haber, Karen. "Leo & Diane Dillon: The Third Artist Rules", Locus 44(4), n471: pp. 4–5, 67-70, 2000.
  • Preiss, Byron, ed. The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Ballantine Books, Trade Paperback, Hardcover and Collectors Limited Edition, Fall 1981.
  • Reichardt, Randy. "Tribute to Leo & Diane Dillon," World Fantasy Convention (Calgary, Alberta, Canada). Mystery in Fantasy & Horror (Souvenir Program), pp. 45–46, 2008.
  • Wills, F. H. "Leo und Diane Dillon," New York: grafik fur popular-wissenschaftliche werke {with English and French tr}. Novum Gebrauchsgraphik, pp. 50–56, March 1968.

External links

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Swiftly Tilting Planet is a science fiction novel by Madeleine L'Engle, the third book in the Time Quintet. It was first published in 1978 with cover art by Diane Dillon.

The book's title is an allusion to the poem "Morning Song of Senlin" by Conrad Aiken.


Abhorsen is a fantasy novel by Australian writer Garth Nix, first published in 2003. It is the third book in the Old Kingdom series (following Sabriel and Lirael).

Abhorsen features Lirael, who is the recently revealed Abhorsen-in-Waiting; Prince Sameth, who is Lirael’s new-found nephew and descendant of the Wallmakers; Mogget, a bound servant of the Abhorsen line; and the Disreputable Dog.

The novel is named after the position of Abhorsen in the book's world. The origin of this title is known: Nix chose the name referencing "Abhorson", the executioner in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.

All in a Day

All in a Day is a 1986 children's picture book by Mitsumasa Anno. It features illustrations by Anno and several other internationally known illustrators: Eric Carle, Raymond Briggs, Nicolai Ye. Popov, Akiko Hayashi, Gian Calvi, Leo and Diane Dillon, Zhu Chengliang and Ron Brooks.

And Chaos Died

And Chaos Died (1970) is a science fiction novel by American writer Joanna Russ, perhaps the genre's best-known feminist author. Its setting is a dystopian projection of modern society, in which Earth's population has continued to grow, with the effects somewhat mitigated by advanced technology. The novel was nominated for, but did not win, the 1970 Nebula Award.

Dangerous Visions

Dangerous Visions is a science fiction short story anthology edited by American writer Harlan Ellison and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. It was published in 1967.

A path-breaking collection, Dangerous Visions helped define the New Wave science fiction movement, particularly in its depiction of sex in science fiction. Writer/editor Al Sarrantonio writes how Dangerous Visions "almost single-handedly [...] changed the way readers thought about science fiction."

Contributors to the volume included 20 authors who had won, or would win, a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, or BSFA award, and 16 with multiple such awards. Ellison introduced the anthology both collectively and individually while authors provided afterwords to their own stories.

Deathbird Stories

Deathbird Stories: A Pantheon of Modern Gods is a 1975 collection of short stories by American author Harlan Ellison, written over a period of ten years; the stories address the theme of modern-day "deities" that have replaced the older, more traditional ones. The collection, with its satirical, skeptical tone, is widely considered one of Ellison's best. The book includes a 1973 introduction and a stern caveat lector page advising the reader against enjoying the volume in one sitting. The title of the book comes from "The Deathbird", the nineteenth and last story in the collection. The collection includes three major award-winners, including "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs", which won the Edgar Award; "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W", which won the Hugo Award; and "The Deathbird", another Hugo Award winner. Early editions have illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon.

Isle of the Dead (Zelazny novel)

Isle of the Dead is a science fiction novel by American writer Roger Zelazny, published in 1969 with cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1969, and won the French Prix Apollo in 1972. The title refers to the several paintings by Swiss-German painter Arnold Böcklin. In the novel, Francis Sandow refers to “that mad painting by Boecklin, The Isle of the Dead.” Böcklin created at least five paintings with that title, each depicting an oarsman and a standing figure in a small boat, crossing dark water toward a forbidding island. A later Ace books edition featured a cover painting by Dean Ellis that was deliberately reminiscent of Böcklin’s work.As to the novel's inspiration, Zelazny noted, “This was a spin-off from the novelette I did called ‘This Moment of the Storm.’ Actually, it wasn’t the guy I was interested in, at first. I wanted somebody that was born in the twentieth century, who had made it aboard one of these generation starships where he’d been frozen and spent generations getting to this new planet which proved habitable. By the time he got there, they’d invented a faster-than-light drive, because several centuries had gone by and they’d become more sophisticated. Earth had much higher technology, and he had the means of going back fast if he wanted to, but he didn’t. He wasn’t sure he was happy on the world he’d reached, though, and decided to go out and try a few others, since it was easy to do. There were still time dilation effects and, through making a few sharp investments here and there, with so much time passing, he became quite wealthy. He also happened to become the oldest human in the galaxy, and because of the fancy new medicine he was in very good shape. He also just happened to have been through the initiation ritual which would make him a god in this other religion, even though he didn’t believe in it wholeheartedly. But it was the concept of the big expanse of time that interested me."


Lirael (called Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr in some regions) is a fantasy novel by Garth Nix and illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon, first published in 2001. Named for its central female character, Lirael is the second in his Old Kingdom trilogy, preceded by Sabriel and continued in Abhorsen.

Never Forgotten

Never Forgotten is a 2011 picture book by Pat McKissack about a blacksmith father in West Africa who has Musafa, his son, kidnapped by slavers and with the assistance of the four elements discovers that Musafa is working in Charleston as a blacksmith's apprentice.

One Million Tomorrows

One Million Tomorrows is a science fiction novel by British writer Bob Shaw, first published in 1970 in magazine form by the American magazine Amazing Stories. The paperback version is somewhat different, and was published the same year by Ace Books, as illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.

The Black Corridor

The Black Corridor is a science fiction novel by Michael Moorcock. It was published in 1969, first by Ace Books in the US, as part of their Ace Science Fiction Specials series, and later by Mayflower Books in the UK.

It is essentially a novel about the decay of society and the deep personal and social isolation this has caused, and tells of a man fleeing through interstellar space from Earth, where civilisation is collapsing into anarchy and wars. The author uses techniques ranging from straight narrative to entries in the spaceship's log, dream sequences and sixties-style computer printouts.

The Jagged Orbit

The Jagged Orbit is a science fiction novel by British writer John Brunner. It is similar to his earlier novel Stand on Zanzibar in its narrative style and dystopic outlook. It has exactly 100 titled chapters, which vary from several pages to part of one word. It was first published in 1969 with cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon, in the Ace Science Fiction Specials line issued by Ace Books.

The Jagged Orbit was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1969, and won the BSFA Award for the best SF novel in 1970.

The People Could Fly

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales is a 1985 collection of twenty four folktales retold by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. They encompass animal tales (including tricksters), fairy tales, supernatural tales,and slave tales (including slave narratives).

The Preserving Machine

The Preserving Machine is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer Philip K. Dick. It was first published by Ace Books in 1969 with cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon as part of their Ace Science Fiction Specials series. The stories had originally appeared in the magazines Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, Beyond Fantasy Fiction, If, Amazing Stories, Planet Stories, Worlds of Tomorrow, Imagination and Satellite.

A hardcover issue of this book was released through the Book-of-the-Month Club (USA) in late 1969 and remained available through 1970. It is an octavo-sized book, bound in gray textured paper boards, stamped in green on the spine, in a dust-cover with "Book Club Edition" printed in lieu of the price on the bottom front flap. Other hardcover editions were published in 1971 and 1972 respectively by Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, and the Science Fiction Book Club, Newton Abbot, Devon.

The Snow Queen (Vinge novel)

The Snow Queen is a science fiction novel by American writer Joan D. Vinge and illustrators Michael Whelan, and Leo and Diane Dillon, published in 1980. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981, and was also nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1981.Based on the fairy-tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen takes place on a mostly oceanic planet called Tiamat, whose suns orbit a black hole, which facilitates a type of interstellar wormhole travel and connects Tiamat to the rest of the civilized galaxy (the "Hegemony", the remnants of a fallen Galactic Empire).

The Year of the Quiet Sun

The Year of the Quiet Sun is a 1970 science fiction novel by American writer Wilson Tucker, dealing with the use of forward time travel to ascertain future political and social events. It won a retrospective John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1976. It was also nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1970, and a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1971.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale is a 1975 picture book by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon told in the form of a cumulative tale written for young children, which tells an African legend. In this origin story, the mosquito lies to a lizard, who puts sticks in his ears and ends up frightening another animal, which down a long line causes a panic. In the end, an owlet is killed and the owl is too sad to wake the sun until the animals hold court and find out who is responsible. The mosquito is eventually found out, but it hides in order to escape punishment. So now it constantly buzzes in people's ears to find out if everyone is still angry at it.

The artwork was made using watercolor airbrush, pastels, and India ink. The cutout shapes were made by using friskets and vellum cut shapes at different angles.The book won a Caldecott Medal in 1976 for the Dillons. It was the first of their two consecutive Caldecott wins; the second was for Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions.

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