200 Acclaimed Children’s Book Illustrators to Raise Money for Cancer Research

Grace and Robert are like a lot of thirty-something couples living in America – married and in love – with busy careers, lots of friends, a full social life in their hometown of Somerville, MA, just outside of Boston. Yet, they are different.

In November 2001 Robert, who was just 29 at the time, was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewings Sarcoma. Their world was turned upside down – they were young and recently married – this was not part of the plan. But Robert, with Grace by his side, endured his grueling treatments and nine months later, was declared cancer free. Overjoyed, they returned to living life to the fullest.

Their joy, however, was short lived. In March 2004, they received the devastating news that Robert’s cancer had returned. The doctor told the couple that Robert’s best chance for recovery was a breakthrough in cancer research. Not willing to sit back and wait for that life-saving advance to fall into their laps, Robert and Grace set to work MAKING that miracle happen – not just for his survival, but for the survival of all others stricken with this tragic disease.

When Robert was first diagnosed with cancer, Grace, an accomplished children’s book author/illustrator, helped her husband, weak and listless, by telling him a wonderful story about a mouse who, much like Robert, couldn’t go out to play in the snow. They named this story Robert’s Snow, which was published shortly thereafter by Viking. Robert and Grace decided to use this picture book that had provided them with so much inspiration as the genesis of a fundraiser to raise money to cure cancer.

The very first Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure auction was held in winter 2004. Robert and Grace, along with a group of tireless volunteers and the support of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, took on the daunting task and recruited 190 children’s book artists to paint wooden snowflakes and auctioned them off – the proceeds going to cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It was an amazing success, with over $100,000 raised to help find the cure for cancer. “Robert and I are still immensely touched by the outcome of the 2004 auction. Every one of Robert’s Snowflakes is a gift of love, community and kindness. Few couples have ever received better presents.”

Plans for Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure 2005 are already well underway. The 2005 auction will feature snowflakes from over 200 talented children’s book artists. Caldecott winners, illustrators whose books are on the NYT best seller list, and modern legends of children’s books are among the star-studded list of contributors, including: Aliki * Graeme Base * Eric Carle * Tomie dePaola * Tony DiTerlizzi * Jane Dyer * Denise Fleming * David Diaz * Holly Hobby * Ross MacDonald * Eric Rohmann * Chris Raschka * Jerry Pinkney * Peter Reynolds * David Shannon * Chris Van Allsburg * Rosemary Wells * Mo Willems

“These snowflakes are original works of art, which in some cases – like Eric Carle for instance – Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure auction is the only way you can still buy an Eric Carle original since he does not sell his original paintings anymore. Because Mr. Carle’s art is so rare and in such high demand last year his snowflake went for $5,500! We can only hope Eric’s snowflake this year will fetch an even higher bid!” says Grace.

Robert and Grace wanted to make sure the auction had something for everyone, especially those with smaller wallets. In addition to featuring snowflakes by the top children’s book illustrators, they have also invited many artists who are rising stars to participate. “This way, there’s a snowflake that can fit everyone’s budget. The 2004 auction saw final bids ranging from $60 and up,” adds Robert.

Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure is a series of five consecutive, eight-day online auctions through Ebay that span from November 6 – December 11, 2005. The 200 snowflakes will be split up into five groups of forty snowflakes. Those that are interested can visit as early as mid-September to view all 200 snowflakes and find out when their favorite will be up for auction. 100% of all proceeds from the snowflake sales will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/The Jimmy Fund.

In 2004, Robert went on an experimental drug and the results were extremely positive. Unfortunately this past spring, his body has built an immunity to that drug and Robert is now forced to undergo chemotherapy treatments once again. Grace is optimistic, “Our hope is that we can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars with Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure 2005 to fund the next new drug, for Robert and all of the brave men and women fighting cancer.” Grace and Robert will be suspending their fundraising efforts after this year’s auction in order to focus solely on his treatment and recovery. “We need to take one year, one month, one day at a time,” said Grace.

Children’s book fans, parents, educators, art aficionados and the millions who have been touched by cancer can rally around this unique charity drive. A Robert’s Snow snowflake makes the PERFECT holiday gift for someone special, a classic addition to a child’s bedroom wall or a treasured, unique accent to an art collection.

The official auction website, contains a host of information including updates on the traveling snowflake exhibit, ideas on how one can get involved locally with Robert’s Snow-themed fundraisers, information on the volunteers and community stories behind the scenes. There is also an online store where Robert’s Snow (Viking, 2004) and Robert’s Snowflakes (Viking, 2005), a compilation featuring selected 2004 snowflakes and poems by celebrated authors, can be purchased. In true Grace and Robert fashion, 100% of the royalties from the sale of Robert’s Snowflakes go to Dana-Farber.


What is Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure?

Robert’s Snow is an online auction that benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over 200 children’s book illustrators have created art on individual snowflake-shaped wooden templates. We will auction these snowflake creations on eBay with 100% of the proceeds to benefit Sarcoma Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/The Jimmy Fund.

Is Robert’s Snow going to be an annual event?

No, Robert’s Snow will not be an annual event. Like real snow, you never know exactly when it is going to happen! There are no plans for Robert’s Snow 2006, beyond that we are unsure. Our suggestion is to treat every Robert’s Snow like it’s the last.

Why is the art on snowflakes?

This project was founded by Grace Lin, a children’s book author/illustrator and her husband, Robert, a two-time cancer survivor. The first time Robert was diagnosed with cancer, they created the children’s book Robert’s Snow as a way of coping with the situation. When Robert was diagnosed a second time, they decided to use the book they created as an inspiration for this fund-raiser, Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure. Since the book is about snow, it made sense to have the artists to make art on snow shapes.

Why are the artists children’s book illustrators?

This project was inspired by the children’s book Robert’s Snow so it is fitting to have the snowflakes created by children’s book artists. Also, as most of the committee members are part of the children’s book industry, it was the most logical community for us to recruit artists. We are only able to handle a certain amount of snowflakes, so we needed to guidelines to help select participants.

How did you get all those artists?

We asked! Using a variety of methods – cold calls, snail mail, e-mail, a general call out and our seven degrees of separation; all of our artists were kind and gracious enough to agree to participate. Please support them as well as our project. The 2005 artist recruitment was spearheaded by Heidi Stemple and Jane Yolen. Please read about it in our Community Tales article “Snow Angels” on

How is the auction going to work?

There will be 5 consecutive, eight-day E-bay auctions. On November 6, approximately 40 snowflakes from the collection will go to auction for 8 days, ending on Nov. 13. On November 13th, another 40 snowflakes will go to auction, and so on. When the auction dates become closer, we will categorize the snowflakes accordingly. Please note that all snowflakes will be shipped to the winners after December 11th.

Do we have to bid online?

Yes. Unfortunately, we are not equipped to take bids any other way. The decision to use eBay was made so that the greatest amount of people would have access to the auction. Please do not be intimidated! eBay transactions are safe and secure and they provide step-by-step instructions for first-time bidders.

There are two books, Robert’s Snow and Robert’s Snowflakes. What’s the difference?

Robert’s Snow is the book that started it all. It is the book that Grace and Robert wrote when he was ill the first time, it is about a mouse that was not allowed in snow (like the real Robert). Robert’s Snowflakes is a book featuring the 2004 snowflakes from this project. Snowflake art by the 2004 artists such as Marjorie Priceman, Ian Falconer and Trina Schart Hyman are included.

How is Robert doing?

Robert is doing okay. Unfortunately, he has had to go back on a conventional chemo treatment, but we are confident that an experimental drug around the corner will give him the future we are looking for. It’s these drugs and the research that Robert’s Snow is funding that will keep him and so many others alive and well for years to come.