Ed Emberley Drawing Books

In 1999, a coworker asked me if I remember a series of grade school books. He said, “You’d draw a circle, then a square, then a triangle, and you’d have a rabbit.” Did I remember those books. I absolutely did. I could see the panels of muted colors, each panel showing another, simple step in an awesome drawing. But I couldn’t remember what it was called. My first Internet search for “kids’ drawing books” turned up lots of similar books, but not the exact ones. I waited a week, searched the net for “kid’s drawing books” again, and they were the third hit I got. It turns out they were the Ed Emberley series of drawing books.

Retroist, make this a picture comment!: There are lots of Ed Emberley books, most titled “Ed Emberley’s Something or Other”. I choose to buy the Halloween book, even though it is just selections from his “Orange” book, because I just love everything Halloween.

Ed Emberley believed that everyone could draw, and he came up with a system that would help them do so. He created awesome drawings using only simple shapes. You’d draw one shape, add another, and another, and another, and soon you’d have an animal or a face or a car or any of the numerous things you found in Ed’s books.

These books and this drawing system were a super-huge hit in my grade school. I know I checked these books out of our library on many occasions, as did many of my friends. We spent a lot of our free time trying to copy the images in these books. Our biggest challenge and our was the dragon which appeared in the “Green” book.

I don’t think I ever did draw the dragon correctly. But I drew a lot of things in Ed’s books. And even if Ed’s system didn’t make me a skilled artist, it sure did give me a lot of fun.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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4 thoughts on “Ed Emberley Drawing Books

  1. Not only do I remember these books, I still have mine and recently dug them out for my daughter. Now a new generation is getting joy out of them…

    I also recently found out that he has a Twitter account, though he does seem to be a frequent tweeter…

  2. Great find! My friends and I must have checked these out from the school library a hundred times between us. True story: While home one summer during college, I had a job at the school libraries converting the old paper card system to a modern database/bar code system. One day I found one of these books, complete with the ancient card with our signatures on it from the second grade or so. I guess it, sadly, hadn’t been very popular in the ensuing years.

  3. I would guess that Ed Emberley tweets in a unique way. He probably sends out one letter, then adds another, then another…

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