James M. Needham spent his childhood in the Midwest where he developed a fascination with nature. He was raised on farms and ranches where he was surrounded by animals. As a young child, he began drawing his surroundings. He spent his spare time turning over rocks, following bugs, and watching birds. He developed an interest in the smaller details of plants an animals.
After high school, James decided to concentrate on art rather than science. He received his B.F.A. from the California College of Arts and Crafts and his graduate degree from Pratt Institute.
James has illustrated many nature-themed books for children, including Our Wet World, written by Sneed B. Collard III; Can We Save Them? written by David Dobson; Exotic Birds, written by Marilyn Singer (Doubleday); and Do Fishes Get Thirsty?, written by the New England Aquarium (Franklin Watts).
James often visits schools to talk to children about natural history, animals, plants, insects, and art. He has gone scuba diving in the Caribbean and enjoys exploring nature. He lives in Colorado.