Holiday Reading by Charles Santore

THE LITERARY WORKS and illustrations of Charles Santore, Jr. were on display during the inaugural debut of the speaker series at the Charles Santore Library at 7th & Carpenter Streets. Photo by Eldon Graham

Charles Santore, the renowned Philadelphia author, stopped by at the Free Library’s Charles Santore Library, located at 7th & Carpenter Streets, last Saturday to share ideas and inspiring personal stories about his life and his work – and to raise money for the library in a book sale.

He signed copies of multiple works including The Wizard of Oz, his famous rendition of The Night Before Christmas, and his new edition of Alice in Wonderland, which recently released in October.

Queen Village’s Head House Books was on hand to sell copies of Charles Santore’s wonderful books, which make much appreciated and timeless gifts for the holidays. Head House Books was pleased to share the proceeds of the sales of Santore’s signed books with the Charles Santore Library.

The library itself is going through some turmoil. One of the issues with the library was that it is not open on Saturdays, which leaves less opportunity for community gathering. This is attributed to budget cuts.

They had to “move heaven and earth” said Mitchell Bach, a friend of the library and of Santore, Jr., to get it open for the Saturday of the event. It was thanks to some help from Councilman Mark Squilla (2nd Dist.) that the library was able to open.

Many often mistake the library as being named after the famed author and illustrator himself; but it was actual named after his father, Charles Santore, Sr. The elder Santore, a South Philadelphia native, was born in 1910. He was a former boxer, Republican ward leader and the founder of Municipal Employees Union Local 696. At the time of his death, he was the oldest active ward leader in any party. The Southwark Library was renamed the Charles Santore Library on March 26, 2004 to honor this renowned citizen of our community.

CHARLES SANTORE, JR. seen here signing one of his beloved works, The Night Before Christmas, for a gracious fan. Photo by Eldon Graham

Charles Santore, Jr. was born in 1935. He is an award-winning American illustrator best known for his children’s books. He won the Hamilton King award from the New York Society of Illustrators in 1972, and his book William the Curious was honored in the 1998 Storytelling World “Stories for Pre-Adolescent Listeners” category. His most-popular works include celebrity portraits that he completed for TV Guide.

This event is the first of a new speaker series initiated by Santore Friends. The idea is to get notable individuals who have enriched our community to appear at the library. Charles Santore, Jr. was first on the list.

Santore attended the Museum School of Art, currently known as the University of the Arts, where he studied illustration. He recalled finding his passion by disapproving of some of the newer artist trends back then. “I went to art School, I took illustration” said Santore. “I might have been a painter, but that was the beginning of abstract painting, so realistic painting was out and everyone was into abstract painting, which didn’t interest me really. So I thought, what do you do when you draw on the painting? Someone said illustration, and I thought, oh. And that’s what happened.”

Upon graduating in 1956, he served in the Army before returning to Philadelphia to work in a small art studio.  He began his career handling assignments from the N.W. Ayer Agency. His first editorial assignment was for the old Saturday Evening Post, then headquartered in Philadelphia.

In 1985, he was approached by Running Press to illustrate a new version of Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. This was a life-changing experience, making him realize how different it was to illustrate an entire book rather than just one image.

“I was always really interested in children’s books. It’s a different world when you illustrate for magazines and for advertising,” said Santore.

His work has appeared in publications such as Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, National Geographic, and many others. His illustrations are part of permanent collections at many locations, including the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the Free Library of Philadelphia, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, the United States Department of the Interior and many private collections.

From Feb. 17 to May 13, a retrospective of Santore’s work, “Fifty Years of Art and Storytelling,” will be hosted at the Woodmere Museum in Chestnut Hill.

For more information about the Santore Friends and the Charles Santore Library, please visit at

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