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Author and illustrator Ann Blades was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on November 16, 1947. Although Blades was enrolled in a number of schools during her childhood, her experience attending school in England at age 11 proved most influential to her future career. While there, Blades was encouraged to pursue her interest in watercolour painting, an activity which would continue to occupy her in her later years.
Despite her early artistic inclinations, Blades received no formal art training. Instead, she obtained a teaching certificate from the University of British Columbia in 1970 and a nursing degree from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 1974. Following conferral of her education credentials, Blades moved to north-eastern British Columbia to teach in a two-room school in the small community of Mile 18. It was during this time that she wrote and illustrated her first book, <i>Mary of Mile 18</i> (1971). The following year, Blades moved to Tache in central British Columbia to teach; again finding inspiration for her second work, <i>Boy of Tache</i> (1973). In both of these early works, Ann Blades drew from the lives of her students, capturing the experience of growing up in rural isolation. Both books met with immediate success and critical acclaim.
<i>Mary of Mile 18</i>, won Blades a Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award (1972) and was later made into an animated film (1981), directed by Svend-Erik Eriksen. In 1978, <i>A Salmon for Simon</i>, written by Betty Waterton, and illustrated by Blades, was published, earning Blades the Canada Council’s Children’s Literature Prize for Illustration and the Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award. According to Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman, authors of, <i>Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing</i> (2010), Blades considers these illustrations to be her best work. Blades also collaborated with Waterton to produce, <i>Pettranella</i> (1980). Blades has illustrated the works of a number of other authors, including; Michael Macklem’s <i>Jacques the Woodcutter</i> (1977), <i>Six Darn Cows</i> by Margaret Laurence (1979), <i>Anna’s Pet</i> by Margaret Atwood and Joyce Barkhouse (1980), <i>A Candle for Christmas</i> by Jean Speare (1986), <i>Ida and the Wool Smugglers</i> by Sue Ann Alderson (1987), <i>The Singing Basket by Kit Pearson</i> (1990), <i>A Dog Came, Too: A True Story</i> by Ainslie Manson (1993), <i>A Ride for Martha</i> (1993) and <i>Pond Seasons</i> (1997), both by Sue Ann Alderson.
Blades has worked as an illustrator of children’s books and an artist full-time since 1980, winning the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award in 1986 for <i>By the Sea: An Alphabet Book</i> (1985). In 1989, Blades published a series of board books on the four seasons; <i>Fall, Summer, Spring and Winter</i>. Several of Blades’ subsequent works have focused on her own childhood experiences and those of her children. These summer vacation stories include: <i>Back to the Cabin</i> (1996) and <i>The Cottage at Crescent Beach</i> (1977). Recent works written and illustrated by Blades, include: <i>Wolf and the Seven Little Kids</i> (1999) and <i>Too Small</i> (2000).
Today Ann Blades is considered an iconic figure in children’s literature and illustration.