He was born October 25, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York. At age 13, he and his family moved to Bayside, in Queens, New York, where he graduated from Bayside High.
He began his art career as an abstract expressionist painter. After earning degrees from Cooper Union and Yale, and studying abroad in Venice in 1963 under a Fulbright Scholarship, Mr. Marcellino returned to the United States and became a designer and illustrator. His main focus was LP cover art, and by 1969 he was creating album covers for Capitol, Decca and Polygram.
In 1975, he entered the book publishing world, producing 40 book jackets per year for the next 15 years - winning many awards for his work along the way. But it wasn't until the mid-1980's that he turned to the children's book field to focus on picture book illustration. He won a 1991 Caldecott Honor for Puss in Boots - his first full-color picture book - and received many other honors for his children's book illustrations. On the subject of narrative illustration, Mr. Marcellino once said,
"...each picture is a link in a chain, and they all exist in counterpoint with the text. And although you want each picture to have impact, just like a jacket, the book illustration can also be more subtle. It can be pondered and savored over a period of time. It's a very different discipline from what I was used to, but I must say it was love at first sight."
He extended his career into writing with the publication in 1999 of I, Crocodile, the first book he both wrote and illustrated. It was a huge critical and commercial success, garnering many awards and honors.
Fred Marcellino was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998. At the time of his death on July 12, 2001, he was working on an I, Crocodile sequel: Arrivederci, Crocodile, or See You Later, Alligator. Sadly, it remained unfinished.