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June 1, 2016

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In Memoriam 2015

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 2015, we lost many 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 for readers of all ages.

 

In March, author Terry Pratchett’s (1948-2015) twitter account sent out a series of tweets which let his fans know that the “embuggeration” (his own term for Alzheimer’s disease), which he had faced head-on in a public battle, had ended his life. While the bulk of his books (including the 40-volume fantasy series Discworld) were written and published for adults, Tiffany Aching story arc of was written with younger readers in mind. (Look for The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky.) Two of his stand-alone novels were even honored with Printz Honor Awards (Nation in 2009, and Dodger in 2013) in acknowledgement of his incredible storytelling skills.

 

The art of Vera B. Williams (1927-2015) is instantly recognizable: bright colors, bold swipes, and high energy combine in a way that might make a reader want to jump right into the scene. She received two Caldecott Honor awards during her career, for “More, More, More,” Said the Baby and A Chair for my Mother. Her books often included stories of working class families which reflected the world both lovingly and realistically.

 

Ann McGovern (1930-2015) was not only a prolific author and engaging speaker, but a gifted editor and the founder of Scholastic Reading Club’s SeeSaw Book Club.  She founded the club as a way to introduce young children to books before they could read on their own. Her curious and adventurous spirit led Ann and her husband on adventures around the world. She turned many of these adventures into nonfiction books for children. She reminded her readers that, “Everything that you have – your curiosity, your enthusiasm, your interests, your feelings, all make you a traveler, too, even if you never leave your hometown.”

 

Only a handful of people have won the Caldecott Medal for children’s book illustration more than once. Combining the honor and award medals she received, Marcia Brown (1918-2015) created eight books honored by the Caldecott committee. (She won awards in 1948, 1950-1955, 1962, and 1983.) She used everything from woodcuts to watercolors, collage to drawings to illustrate original stories, poetry, folk, and fairy tales from around the world.  She worked as an educator and a librarian and considered it a privilege to share the wisdom of the ages with children.

 

Just glancing at a handful of titles by author Judith St. George (1939-2015) makes it evident she loved American history. So You Want to Be President? won a Caldecott award for its illustrations by David Small, but her witty text made this peek at the nation’s highest office accessible to young readers. She was committed to making historical events come alive and traveled around the world to conduct her research and share her experiences.

 

Barbara Carle (1938-2015), wife of author and illustrator Eric Carle, was a driving force behind the founding of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. An educator who founded an innovative preschool, she believed in the power of picture books to enrich and change lives. After visiting picture book museums in Japan, the Carles decided to give back by opening a picture book museum in the United States. The Carle opened in 2002, has welcomed more than a half-a-million guests, and shares its exhibits of picture book art with museums around the world.

 

With more than 100 easy readers and picture books under his belt, Mal Peet (1947-2015) was a veteran author when Keeper, his first novel, was published. He was awarded both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian’s Children’s Fiction Prize for his writing for teens. He didn’t like being confined by genre or the age of his audience, preferring to tell the best quality story he could.

 

Often with wit and always with a real connection to the challenges of growing up, Ellen Conford’s (1942-2015) stand-alone and series books (including the Jenny Archer series) charmed readers for decades. She said that her goal as a writer was always to create books meant to be read for pleasure. “A child who discovers that reading can be pleasurable may become an educated, literate, well-informed adult. I like to think I’m doing what I can to help the cause.”

 

The first two-time recipient of the Carnegie Medal, Peter Dickinson (1927-2015) penned books for readers of all ages—from picture books to science fiction to fantasy to adult thrillers. His career started at a humor magazine, but he may have found his true calling while entertaining his children by making up stories when they were on long family drives. He may be best known in the United States for the YA science fiction novel Eva and Bone from a Dry Sea, a novel with prehistoric and contemporary plotlines.

 

Over her four decade career, Nancy Winslow Parker (1930-2015) illustrated more than fifty books—twenty of which she also wrote. All of her books were carefully researched—down to the number of hairs on bug’s leg for her book Bugs—so that even her simplest illustrations and text were accurate. In addition to children’s books, she was a noted sculptor, painter, and model train enthusiast.

 

In addition to teaching English as a Second Language and Children’s Literature, Andrea Cheng (1957-2015) wrote picture books, historic fiction, and contemporary middle grade novels. Always told with heart, Andrea’s readers have embraced her books and have treated her characters as friends.

 

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

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One Response

  1. Nancy Osterkamp

    What a beautiful tribute!

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December 29, 2015