Politi was born on November 21, 1908, in Fresno, California. Because his father was a horse dealer, Politi and his sister enjoyed riding ponies. At age seven Politi's life changed. He moved with his family to Italy where his mother had been born and raised. There Politi grew up, loving nature and drawing. For one year the family lived in London, England, and upon their return to Italy, Politi entered and won a scholarship competition that gained him entry to the National Art Institute near Milan, Italy. He studied for six years, earning a degree to teach art. Instead of becoming an instructor, he ventured into the art world and experimented with textile and tapestry designs. Politi also illustrated a text book for a friend.
Deciding to broaden his horizons, Politi chose to move back to California. He took the route by ship through the Panama Canal and spent time in the Latin American countries. Their culture and art made a lasting impression upon him to the extent that after marrying, he lived in a Hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles. He continued with his artwork and depicted the dynamics and vitality of the Mexican way of life. Though he often could barely provide food for his wife and himself, his situation improved when he got work as an illustrator for Script magazine. Politi also saw Little Pancho published in 1938.
Illustrating books and articles for other authors, Politi then began writing and illustrating his own works. Known for his portrayals of California and its Hispanic community, Politi gained recognition and won the Caldecott Honor for Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street and for . The following year, in 1949, he won the Caldecott Medal for Song of the Swallows. An accomplished artist, author, and illustrator, Politi died on March 24, 1996, in Los Angeles.
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