Famous children’s book author and illustrator Tomie dePaola wrote about the work of Demi and Alexis York Lumbard in The Conference of the Birds, saying “Congratulations on a lovely book. You [both] have made a wonderful contribution to the world of children’s literature… Please, keep up the good work!”
Demi has loved drawing and painting since she was a child in New England, and she now takes up her brushes and paints every day. This is because painting, for her, is like breathing. Demi has said that her “magical grandfather” (writer Arthur Stanwood Pier) was her main inspiration in becoming a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
Demi’s books have sold over half a million copies and her work has been appreciated by many diverse people across the globe, such as the Dalai Lama and the Pope. The Empty Pot, her best-selling title, was selected by former First Lady Barbara Bush as one of the books to be read on the ABC Radio Network Program Mrs. Bush’s Story Time, sponsored by the Children’s Literacy Initiative. Demi’s book Gandhi was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and received an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.
Demi’s book about the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was named a Kirkus Editors’ Choice selection, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection, one of the Booklist Top Ten Religion Books for Youth, and a Book Links “Lasting Connections” selection. It was cited in a Publishers Weekly starred review as a “timely, exceptionally handsome biography [that] serves as an excellent introduction to Islam and it won The Middle East Book Award.”
Demi was born Charlotte Dumaresq Hunt, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father was an architect, actor, entrepreneur, and a prominent producer and patron of the theatre, who was awarded the French Legion of Honor for introducing to America the internationally acclaimed French actor and mime, Marcel Marceau. Demi’s mother was also an artist and was her mentor. Throughout her childhood Demi enjoyed spending time in her mother’s art studio and loved painting from a very young age.
Demi studied art at the Instituto Allende, Guanajuanto, Mexico, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1962 from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California, having studied with Sister Corita. She continued her formal studies of art at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1962. And, she was a Fulbright scholar at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India, where she received her Master’s degree. She also furthered her graduate studies at the China Institute. From there she settled in New York, where she began her career as an illustrator.
Demi’s favorite watercolors in children’s books are by Beatrix Potter and she her favorite story is In the Forest by Marie Hall Ets. Since her childhood she has been particularly interested in East Asia. However, she has written about many different cultures, traditions, and religions, including Chinese and Japanese fables, and Persian and Indian legends. Her Chinese husband, Tze-si “Jesse” Huang, told Demi the story of The Empty Pot and The Magic Pillow. He remembered these tales from his childhood in China where his grandmother used to tell him ancient stories. Demi and Jesse worked together on the Wisdom Tales book called Master of Zen.
In 1992, Demi and her husband represented the United States at the First Children’s International Book Conference in Beijing, China. They live outside of Seattle, Washington.