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Ellen Raskin was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 1928. She entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison at age 17 with the intention of majoring in journalism, but ended up changing her major and persuing a carreer in fine artistry. After winning many awards for her artistic efforts during her time as at a professional art studio, she decided to work for herself and moved into the field of freelance illustration and design.
After fifteen years of illustrating the ideas of others, Ellen Raskin had an idea for her a picture book of her own, Nothing Ever Happens on My Block, published in 1966. Gradually Raskin found that she could turn down commercial assignments and concentrate all her time on her own children's books, each one an exercise in problem-solving for her and, often, for the reader as well. Almost all of them, picture books and novels alike, develop some aspect of the theme that things are not what they first appear to be. Raskin's delight in wordplay is evident throughout her books.