Diane Stanley was born in Abilene, Texas on December 27, 1943. She earned her bachelor's degree from Trinity University and her M. A. in medical illustration from Johns Hopkins University College of Medicine. She has worked as a medical illustrator, a graphic designer for Dell Publishing, and an art director for G. P. Putnam's Sons, winning three design awards from the New York Book Show.
Stanley is the author and/or illustrator of fifty books for children, noted especially for her series of twelve picture book biographies. Shaka, King of the Zulus was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and Leonardo da Vinci received the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction from the National Council for Teachers of English. Ten of her books have been honored as American Library Association Notable Books and she has twice received both the Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Society of Children's Book Writers' Golden Kite Award. She was the recipient of the Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Award for the body of her work.
She has three grown children and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband, Peter Vennema, who often collaborates with her in research.
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