Chris was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18, 1949, the second child of Doris Christiansen Van Allsburg and Richard Van Allsburg. His sister Karen was born in 1947.
Chris’s paternal grandfather, Peter, owned and operated a creamery, a place where milk was turned into butter, cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream. It was named East End Creamery and after they bottled the milk (and made the other products) they delivered it to homes all around Grand Rapids in yellow and blue trucks.
When Chris was born, his family lived in an old farm house next door to the large brick creamery building. It was a very old house that, like the little house in Virginia Lee Burton’s story, had once looked over farmland. But by 1949, the house was surrounded by buildings and other houses. Chris’s father ran the dairy with Chris’s three uncles after his grandfather Peter retired.
When Chris was three years old, his family moved to a new house at the edge of Grand Rapids that was part of a development; a kind of planned neighborhood, that was still being built.
There remained many open fields and streams and ponds where a boy could catch minnows and frogs, or see a firefly at night. It was about a mile and a half to Breton Downs School, which Chris walked to every day and attended until 6th grade, when the Van Allsburg family moved again.
The next house they lived in was an old brick Tudor Style house in East Grand Rapids. It was a street that looked like the street on the cover of The Polar Express. The houses were all set back the same distance from the street. Between the street and the sidewalk grew enormous Elm trees whose branches reached up and touched the branches of the trees on the other side of the street. Chris moved to this street with his mom, dad, sister, and two Siamese cats. One named Fafner and the other name Eloise.
Chris went to junior and senior high school in East Grand Rapids. He didn’t take art classes during this time. His interests and talents seemed to be more in the area of math and science.
Chris Van Allsburg is the author of books: The Polar Express, Jumanji, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Widow's Broom, Queen of the Falls, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, The Sweetest Fig, Two Bad Ants, The Stranger