Born in 1984 in Mexico City, Duncan Tonatiuh writes and illustrates books for children and adults. The son of an American father and a Mexican mother he grew up in San Miguel de Allende before moving to the USA as a teenager to attend high school in Massachusetts. As a kid, he was inspired by comics and anime to write and illustrate his own superhero stories. In high school he became interested in painting and admired Vincent van Gogh and Egon Schiele. Tonatiuh studied at the Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College in Manhattan. He graduated in 2008. There he focused on illustration and writing.
His first children’s book »Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin« (2010) is the story of two cousins, one that lives in a city in America and the other in a farm in Mexico. Charlie takes the subway to school, Carlitos rides a bike; Charlie plays in the autumn leaves, Carlitos under the cactuses. Sensory perceptions like sound, smell, and taste point to the differences between their two worlds even if Charlie and Carlitos share similar character traits. Spanish words pepper the text and the illustrations are inspired by the art of the Mixtecs and other Mexican cultures. In »Diego Rivera: His World and Ours« (2011) Tonatiuh tells of a mischievous boy who shows an early passion for art and eventually becomes one of the most famous painters of his time. In »Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote« (2013) Tonatiuh uses an allegorical animal story about a young hare waiting for his father to reflect upon the difficult circumstances of many Mexican and Central American families when parents try to give their children a better life by illegally crossing the border. With »The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes« (2016) Tonatiuh retells an old Mexican legend: Princess Izta wants to marry the common warrior Popoca, who swears to her his eternal loyalty. But the emperor requires that Popoca first claim victory over his enemy Jaguar Claw. Before Popoca defeats Jaguar Claw he comes up with an evil plan. He bribes one of Popoca’s messengers and tells him to lie and tell Izta that Popoca was killed in battle. After she drinks a potion to ease her pain Izta falls into a deep slumber. When the victorious Popoca returns, he is unable to wake her but remains at her side no matter what. In time, two volcanoes are created: the still sleeping Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl, who spits smoke and ash as if he is trying to wake his beloved.
Tonatiuh has also illustrated other authors’ books and has received numerous awards. Among others, he has won the Pura Belpré Medal, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award. He lives in Mexico with his wife and two children.