IPhoebe Gilman was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She went to the High School of Art and Design, Hunter College, and the Art Student's League of New York. As a young artist, one of her passions was travel, and she lived in Europe and Israel for extended periods. In 1974, two years after arriving in Canada, she married Brian Bender, with whom she had three children. She taught for 15 years at the Ontario College of Art before devoting herself full-time to writing and illustrating children's books. Her first book, The Balloon Tree, appeared in print in 1984 after she spent 15 years of trying to get published, and became the first of many works. Her books are notable for their strong female characters. Something from Nothing won the 1993 Ruth Schwartz Award for best children's book, and was later adapted into a television special. She died at age 62 of leukemia, two years after recovering from breast cancer.