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June 1, 2016

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In Memoriam 2014

The children’s book community is often referred to as a family. We talk about each other with terms of affection, our conventions often feel like giant family reunions, we gather together to celebrate the accomplishments of authors and illustrators, and we mourn as a family when someone passes away.

During 2014, we lost several notable members of our children’s book family and we wanted to take a moment today to acknowledge the loss—and celebrate some of the wonderful books they created.

 

When the creator of Clifford, Norman Bridwell (1928-2014) passed away earlier this month, the tributes flew in from around the world. The Big Red Dog taught children everywhere about kindness, responsibility, and friendship. We can’t imagine the landscape of childhood without knowing this improbably big dog and his girl, Emily Elizabeth.

 

When he was selected as the third National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) declared that, Reading is not optional.” Throughout his career, he inspired readers with his work, his wisdom, and generous spirit. Among many other awards, he was honored by the American Library Association with the Printz Award, Newbery Honor medals, Coretta Scott King Author Honors, the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement.

 

Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1927-2014) is one of the few authors who has been honored by the Newbery Committee multiple times.  The Headless Cupid, The Witches of Worm, and The Egypt Game, were all Newbery Honor titles. She said she began to write children’s books by accident, but that she came to love writing for those who shared her own “optimism, curiosity, and freewheeling imagination.”

 

If you remember having to make big decisions in the middle of an exciting book—“if you cross the river turn to page 27, if you turn back turn to page 58”—then you have R.A. Montgomery (1936-2014) to thank. He published the first Choose Your Own Adventure book in 1977 and to date there are more than 230 titles that have sold 250 million copies. Beyond those numbers, there are countless readers who lost themselves in a book and traveled the world with the turn of a page.

 

While the name Nancy Garden (1938-2014) might not ring a bell with all readers, the impact of her 1982 novel, Annie on My Mind is impossible to calculate. Because of the book’s lesbian theme (and the fact it ends happily) it quickly landed on the banned and challenged books list. Ms. Garden became a vocal advocate for books that spoke to gay and lesbian youth who didn’t often see their lives on the page.

 

Eric Hill (1927-2014) created books with simple text and pictures that are simply perfect for young children. He was encouraged to draw cartoons as a teenager and never stopped drawing after that. He first created Spot for his young son and happily chose to share the lovable puppy with the world. Since 1980, more than 60 million Spot books have sold in more than 60 languages.

 

Kate Duke (1956-2014) created charming books that seem to speak to another age. Tiny mice and pudgy guinea pigs scamper across the pages teaching young readers about the alphabet, numbers, plants, and how to tell a really good story.

 

While the word ‘prolific’ is accurate, it somehow feels flat when talking about the work of Erik Blegvad (1923-2014). With more than 100 picture books and illustrations for dozens of chapter books to his name, most readers have spent time with at least one of his books. His highly detailed pen and ink pictures always added something—and often a humorous something—to the story that was being told.

 

While L.A. Meyer (1942-2014) first published picture books in the 1970s, he was better known for his twelve book adventure series Bloody Jack. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy was published in 2002 and quickly gained a legion of fans who loved the high seas adventures of a girl in disguise during the 1700s.

 

When you look over the list of books by Robert D. San Souci (1946-2014) it’s easy to see why his name comes up when the conversation turns to storytellers and folklorists.  Among his most beloved retellings of traditional stories are Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella, Fa Mulan: The Story of a Warrior Woman, Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure, and the Short & Shivery ghost story collections.

 

To all these men and women, thank you for sharing your words and art with the world. Readers everywhere are richer for having known you and we are truly grateful.

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December 30, 2014