Form and Content
Bill Peet: An Autobiography is the story of Peet’s life told in chronological order without chapter divisions. It begins with his first memories in Grandview, Indiana, during World War I. This section tells of his move to Indianapolis to live with his grandmother, the violent relationship between his parents, his first artistic efforts, his feelings for the environment, his experiences at school, and the early reading that became the foundation for his later writing.
After he was graduated from high school, Peet attended John Herron Art Institute, where he met Margaret Brunst, whom he would later marry. In this portion of the book, the author recounts how he tried to make a living as an artist, lists the prizes that he won, and tells of his chance to go to California to work for Walt Disney.
Peet then examines the twenty-seven years that he drew animated characters for Disney. During that span of time, he worked his way up from doing “in-between” animation drawings to making major contributions to Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), Song of the South (1946), Cinderella (1950), Peter Pan (1953), and other films. The remainder of the book deals with Peet’s transfer from filmmaking to writing and illustrating children’s books.
Half or more of every page is devoted to the author’s black-and-white illustrations of his childhood, his paintings, and drawings of the characters that he created. It was these illustrations that led this autobiography to be named as a Caldecott Honor Book in 1990.