Born May 22, 1933, he grew up in the care of his grandparents in Schenectady, NY. As a child, he was out of school and sick through most of second grade. When he got well, he worried about returning to school, and so made up stories to cope. Once there, he began making up stories on the spot for his fellow second graders. They loved the stories, and it helped him gain the acceptance of his peers.
He realized he wanted to be a professional artist while still in high school. He went on to attend Pratt Institute of Art in New York City, where he met Anita Kempler. After graduating from the Institute in 1955, he married Miss Kempler, and the two moved to New York City, living, working and eventually raising their children there.
He began a freelance art career in 1961. His very first book that he both authored and illustrated was A Zoo for Mister Muster, published in 1962. All told, in his twenty-six year career he wrote and/or illustrated nearly 100 books. Many of those received awards, including a Caldecott Medal for Fables (1981), two Caldecott Honors for Frog and Toad are Friends (1971) and Hildilid's Night by Cheli Duran Ryan (1973), and a Newbery Honor for Frog and Toad Together (1973).
Arnold Lobel died on December 4, 1987.