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Children’s Literary Obituaries: What We Lost in 2019

It’s not that I want to begin 2020 on a dour note. But while we traipse merrily into a new decade and a new era, it’s not the worst idea to look back and pay tribute to the authors and illustrators of children’s books we lost in 2019. Here is a recap of the creators that we should stand back and remember at least one more time:

John Burningham

April 27, 1936 – January 4, 2019

“… his genius lay in an ability to communicate in a childlike but never childish visual language and in his understanding of the mutually exclusive worlds of childhood and adulthood.” – The Guardian

Jan Wahl

April 1, 1931 – January 29, 2019

“Mr. Wahl told The Toledo Blade in 2006 that as he grew older he recognized two different ways to view aging, only one of which made it easy for an adult to write for children.

‘I think that for many people, it’s like going from train station to train station, leaving things behind,” he said. “But for me, it’s more like a tree, adding rings every year. So it’s not that difficult to suddenly go back to being age 4’.” – The New York Times

Tomi Ungerer

November 28, 1931 – February 9, 2019

“I know how it feels to be different,” he said in an interview last year with Print magazine, “and I must say that all the children’s books I did after that were all actually ostracized animals. I did one about the rats, about a chauve-souris — a bat — about a vulture.”  – The New York Times

See Also: Beastly Boy: Tomi Ungerer and the Art of Provocation by Lisa Brown

Paul B. Janeczko

July 27, 1945 – February 19, 2019

“From his first anthology with us in 1999 to his forthcoming collection The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems [March], he made poetry joyful and resonant. He could be daring, as in A Poke in the I, or intensely moving, as in his two verse novels Requiem and Worlds Afire. He loved to teach and he loved to share the pleasure of poetry.” – Publishers Weekly

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

November 12, 1928 – March 12, 2019

“Marjorie Weinman Sharmat had two dreams as a child: to become a detective and to be a writer. By age 8 she had accomplished both, after she and a friend put out their own spy newspaper, The Snooper’s Gazette. Most of its news came from eavesdropping on adults.” – The New York Times

Judith Kerr

June 14 1923 – 22 May 22 2019

“She was just so funny. Even last week she was joking with me on the phone about she was rather pleased that she was exactly the same weight she’d always been, but that she’d let it go a bit far … She could always make me laugh. She always seemed to see the good.” – The Guardian

Lee Bennett Hopkins

April 13, 1938 – August 8, 2019

“I called him the Pied Piper of Poetry. Because that’s what he was.” – News-Press

Charles Santore

May 16, 1935 – August 11, 2019

 

“You have to be humble,” he said in a podcast released last year by the Woodmere. “You have to say, ‘I’ve got a hell of a lot more to learn,’ and try to be open to learn it even if you’re trying to teach yourself. So I never think of myself as a professional, always as an amateur.” – The New York Times

 

Mordicai Gerstein

November 24, 1935 – September 24, 2019

 

“All stories, in one way or another, are about this mystery of being a human being,” Mr. Gerstein said in a 2005 interview with TeachingBooks.net. “What are we here for and what are we doing? What are we supposed to do? How am I supposed to be a kid? How do I be a teenager? How do I be me?” – The New York Times

Richard Jackson

November 17, 1946 – October 2, 2019

“The words that come to mind are elegance, followed closely by eloquence and unfailing generosity of spirit. I will miss him dearly, as will all who knew him.” – Publishers Weekly

Berthe Amoss

September 26, 1925 – October 6, 2019

“She was a real model of how you could blend a demanding family life with a professional commitment.” – The New Orleans Advocate

Andrew Clements

May 29, 1949 – November 28, 2019

“He could surround a mystery, as in his Keepers of the School novels, on the measurement of a hidden room, the placement of a statue, the sound of a hollow, the trajectory of a wrecking ball. That the seemingly smallest details, the smallest actions, could matter so much, is what Andrew reinforced again and again. Andrew Clements, in innumerable ways, reminded us all the pen was mightier than the sword, quite literally.” – Publishers Weekly


And special remembrance to Sharon Hancock, Candlewick’s former Executive Direction of School and Library Marketing, who died on April 17th of 2019. She was always a pleasure to work with, and she will be sorely missed. You can read her Publishers Weekly obituary here.

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  2. A sad, gracious piece. Thank you for telling us these things about beloved members of out nation so graciously.

  3. Thank you Betsy. They will be missed.

  4. Kate Kubert Puls says:

    I’m so glad you mentioned Sharon, Betsy. (She hired me into my first job in our wonderful world, at Eeyore’s Book for Children in 1989, and became a dear friend as we moved through our lives, jobs, and years.)

  5. Debra Cardillo says:

    Nice tribute. But please check spelling of names — it’s Mordicai Gerstein. Such a lovely, talented man; we were so honored to work with him.

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