Growing up in Bremen, Germany, Hans Wilhelm spent lots of time alone, playing in the woods, climbing trees, and creating art. “I found great comfort in drawing,” Wilhelm recalls. “It must have been my way of dealing with my fears and fantasies.”
After graduating from art and business schools, Hans moved to Africa, where he worked for a major corporation for several years. He was still very much interested in the arts, however, and wrote and illustrated stories “just for fun.” Eventually, he began traveling the world in search of a different kind of life, and worked in such places as Australia, Asia, and Europe. When he got to America, he decided to settle down.
Since then Hans Wilhelm has written and illustrated more than one hundred books for children. Readers all over the world have enjoyed his spunky soccer-loving bunny hero, Ralph, as well as the vulnerable dinosaur, Boland, and his intimidating nemesis, Tyrone. In the popular Tyrone books, Tyrone the Horrible, Tyrone the Double Dirty Rotten Cheater, and Tyrone and the Swamp Gang, Hans Wilhelm not only shares with young readers his long-standing fascination with dinosaurs but offers them positive solutions to the common childhood problem of being bullied.
A story Hans wrote about a little gray bird and published as part of a collection many, many years ago served as the source of inspiration for his most recent picture book, The Royal Raven. He revamped the story with a brand-new style of drawing and text and, for the first time in his work, incorporated iridescent gold holographic foil into the illustrations. As a result, when the raven's plain tail feathers are transformed, readers are able to see his spectacular, radiant gold wings!
While each book has presented Hans with its own challenges, he remains true to one central goal — “to have a good time while I'm making the book!” he explains, “This is an honest and true feeling that the reader -- in particular the child — can sense and appreciate.”
Hans Wilhelm finds that he works most effectively in the morning. “That's the best time for me to have creative ideas and thoughts,” he says. He writes and illustrates the majority of his books in the quiet and woodsy setting of his studio in Connecticut. Currently, he's busy illustrating a new paperback series for preschoolers, Dinofours, written by Steve Metzger.
In addition to working on books for children, Hans enjoys visiting schools and libraries. A typical visit is usually divided into three parts: first, he demonstrates how he creates a book from the original idea to the finished text and art; second, he shows slides and tells “at least two brand-new stories;” and finally, he helps children create their own story, which he illustrates on a big pad of paper. “It's always a joyful experience for all of us,” he says. In presentations to adults, Hans also show slides and tells stories, but he adds, “I usually share some of my thoughts and philosophies related to the topic of the meeting.”
The recipient of numerous international awards and honors, Hans Wilhelm continues creating books for both children and adults. He also has an animated TV series soon to be aired in Germany, France, and Japan, and other television-related projects in development.
When he's not writing or illustrating, Hans Wilhelm enjoys traveling, going to concerts, and spending time with friends. He lives in Westport, Connecticut.