Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Sad Time for Children’s Books


The last few years have been rough for the field of children’s books—we lost Eva Ibbotson, Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, and Simms Taback. (See my three posts about DWJ: recent ones about her and her upcoming book of essays plus one from 2009 crowning her the queen of children’s fantasy.) Now, 2012 hasn’t been any better when it comes to this sort of loss. For today’s post, I’m going to list several authors and illustrators who have passed away this year along with some notes about my favorite books they wrote or illustrated. Please leave your own notes in the comments about favorite books by these authors and illustrators and I’ll add your thoughts to the post. Also, let me know if there’s someone I missed that you think should be included.


Jose Aruego—An illustrator whose best-known book is surely Robert Kraus's Leo the Late Bloomer, in which the father tiger spying on his kid has got to be one of the funniest things ever depicted by an artist. Thanks to poet-illustrator Douglas Florian for letting me know about this illustrator's passing. Here is Doug Florian's post about Jose Aruego.

Note that Aruego often worked with fellow illustrator and author Ariane Dewey. He collaborated with her on one of my own favorites, Joseph and James Bruchac's How Chipmunk Got His Stripes, a retelling of an Iroquois legend about bragging and teasing.





Nina Bawden—a British author best known for her book, Carrie's War.

I remember reading her book, The Witch’s Daughter, as a child. I thought it would have a real witch with magic, and it didn’t. I was a little disappointed, but I liked the book anyway!














Jan Berenstain—Everyone's heard of the Berenstain Bears, right? Of course, it feels weird to use Jan's name without her late husband's name, too: Jan-and-Stan. The bear family is cartoonishly appealing and sets out on all kinds of adventures.

I can't say I loved all of the books, mostly because of their didacticism, but when I taught first grade, I really liked one of their simpler books, The Spooky Old Tree.

















Remy Charlip—a dancer and choreographer as well as an author-illustrator; he was also the model for Georges Méliès in Brian Selznick’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Fortunately is probably my favorite Charlip book with its simple, clever up and down rhythm.




John Christopher—but his real name was Sam Youd. Another Brit, author of the Tripod series and other science fiction.

I remember reading the Tripod books when I was 13 or 14 and being both thrilled and sort of terrified. Aside from Andre Norton’s books, they were the most memorable science fiction books I read as a kid.








Leo Dillon—Here’s my earlier post about the passing of this brilliant illustrator, who worked closely with his wife Diane. They illustrated numerous books and also did many book covers like this one for Garth Nix's Sabriel.

I have lots of favorites, though I’m especially fond of To Every Thing There Is a Season.













 
Jean Craighead George—who won a Newbery for Julie of the Wolves.

I’m rather partial to My Side of the Mountain, which makes you think surviving in the great outdoors is, well, possible.














Ellen Levine—author of books like Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Stories and Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life.

I love Levine’s beautiful book, Henry’s Freedom Box, which was illustrated by Kadir Nelson and won a Caldecott Honor award.











Margaret Mahy—a New Zealander and one of the best YA writers ever. Yet she also wrote picture books and funny chapter books.

I’m a die-hard fan of her classic YA paranormal/horror/romance Changeover, but then, her 2009 rhymed picture book, Bubble Trouble, is a laugh-out-loud tour de force.







Jean Merrill—her classic book, The Pushcart War, is out of print, but The Toothpaste Millionaire is still making the rounds in schools. Middle grade fiction about economics and class warfare? Sure!

I know I read The Pushcart War when I was young, but I don’t remember it very well. What I’d love to do is get my hands on a book she wrote called The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars. Wouldn’t you?







Else Holmelund Minarik—Two words: Little Bear. Such a perfectly sweet-but-not-saccharine capturing of what it’s like to be very young. And the series was illustrated by Maurice Sendak, to boot.

I still like the first book best. My copy has been read ragged from the days I taught kindergarten and first grade. Mother Bear is so cool: “But who is this?” she asks Little Bear when he is playing outer space, “Are you a bear from Earth?”







Maurice Sendak—This is my goodbye post to the inimitable Mr. Sendak.

I love Where the Wild Things Are, especially that wonderful last line: “…and it was still hot.” I'm also very fond of the Nutshell Library!





Donald J. Sobol—author of the Encyclopedia Brown books.

Oh, you know you did it, too, tried to figure out the solution and then sneaked a look in the back of the book for the answer. And then there’s the Moriarty to Encyclopedia’s Sherlock: Bugs Meany. (Actually, Bugs was no match for our boy detective.)






Again, please leave your comments about these authors and illustrators along with anyone I may have missed. We can only hope that's it for 2012and be glad for the legacy of the books that such generously creative people have left for us.



COMMENTS ABOUT THESE AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS*

I guess we always have our favorites, and I didn't know about Else Holmelund Minarik. Little Bear books are still being read in my house, now to grandchildren. And I love all the Elizabeth Craighead George books; she is a treasure of making us love the earth and all creatures in it. There are many memories here. 
—Linda at Teacherdance


Unfortunately you have to add the talented Jose Aruego to your list. He created more than 60 picture books, many for Greenwillow, where I had the honor and pleasure to meet him. I posted about him on August 22nd at the Florian Cafe:
http://floriancafe.blogspot.com/
His work, mostly with Ariane Dewey, was fresh, original, and very funny. [Ed. See addition above.]


Douglas Florian


Seeing all these authors and illustrators together brings both sadness at their loss and appreciation for the role their works have played in my life.

I remember the John Christopher books vividly; I read them several times and still own my childhood copies (from the '70s.) Like you, I found them thrilling and a bit unnerving; they served as a gateway to Norton, Heinlein juveniles, and more grown-up SF later on.

At a younger age, I went through an Encyclopedia Brown phase, reading every book I could find (which wasn't that many.)

My Side of the Mountain remains a favorite; I read it to my class as a teacher, then to my daughter's class when she was around 4th grade. In addition to, as you say, conveying the sense that wilderness survival is possible, Sam also provides a great model of capability, self-reliance, and independence.

And I still love Minarik's Little Bear books. Her gentle prose and Sendak's whimsical illustrations are a perfect match. I enjoyed them as a child, and read them to my daughter; we also watched the delightful animated series based on the books.

I will miss all these authors/illustrators, but I'm so thankful their work remains to delight another generation.


—Lark



Ah, it was Margaret Mahy I was thinking of this weekend. When Jerry Nelson died (don't think he ever did anything directly with children's BOOKS), I kept feeling like, "MORE PEOPLE NEED TO CARE AS MUCH ABOUT THIS LOSS AS ME!" and then I remembered that I'd felt the same way about one of the many KidLit losses this year but couldn't remember who it was (it wasn't Sendak. EVERYONE remembered Sendak), but it was Mahy. I felt so "OH NO MARGARET MAHY!" and everyone else was all "Who's Margaret Mahy?" and I was all "HOW CAN YOU ASK THAT QUESTION?!?!" *ahem* anyway...

—Amy of Amyslibraryofrock


Sigh... My Side of the Mountain is an all-time favorite of mine. (Now a librarian myself, I have a renewed appreciation for the librarian who helped Sam!) And, I remember my mother teaching me how to read rhyme aloud without sounding sing-song via The Berenstain Bears' Almanac.

Much loss, to be sure.


—Kimberly


*There are more nice comments, so check them out. I've just put the ones in the body of the post that commented about specific books or about someone I missed.

10 comments:

Linda at teacherdance said...

What a nice post in memory of these writers who gave us so many wonderful stories. I guess we always have our favorites, & I didn't know about Else Holmelund Minarik. Little Bear books are still being read in my house, now to grandchildren. And I love all the Elizabeth Craighead George books; she is a treasure of making us love the earth & all creatures in it. There are many memories here. Thank you!

Charlotte said...

Oh gosh, I certainly do hope that's it for this year!!!

Alex said...

I knew all these great people had passed away this year but seeing it out all together really makes you feel the full impact of the loss. I echo Charlotte's hope that that is it for the year.

Douglas Florian said...

Unfortunately you have to add the talented Jose Aruego to your list. He created more than 60 picture books, many for Greenwillow, where I had the honor and pleasure to meet him. I posted about him on August 22nd at the Florian Cafe:
http://floriancafe.blogspot.com/
His work, mostly with Ariane Dewey, was fresh, original, and very funny.

bookkm said...

This getting older thing is so hard! No more Margaret Mahy, no more Nina Bawden, no more Maurice....It all seems unfair and sort of ominous.

Lark said...

Seeing all these authors and illustrators together brings both sadness at their loss and appreciation for the role their works have played in my life.

I remember the John Christopher books vividly; I read them several times and still own my childhood copies (from the '70s.) Like you, I found them thrilling and a bit unnerving; they served as a gateway to Norton, Heinlein juveniles, and more grown-up SF later on.

At a younger age, I went through an Encyclopedia Brown phase, reading every book I could find (which wasn't that many.)

My Side of the Mountain remains a favorite; I read it to my class as a teacher, then to my daughter's class when she was around 4th grade. In addition to, as you say, conveying the sense that wilderness survival is possible, Sam also provides a great model of capability, self-reliance, and independence.

And I still love Minarik's Little Bear books. Her gentle prose and Sendak's whimsical illustrations are a perfect match. I enjoyed them as a child, and read them to my daughter; we also watched the delightful animated series based on the books.

I will miss all these authors/illustrators, but I'm so thankful their work remains to delight another generation.

rockinlibrarian said...

Ah, it was Margaret Mahy I was thinking of this weekend. When Jerry Nelson died (don't think he ever did anything directly with children's BOOKS), I kept feeling like, "MORE PEOPLE NEED TO CARE AS MUCH ABOUT THIS LOSS AS ME!" and then I remembered that I'd felt the same way about one of the many KidLit losses this year but couldn't remember who it was (it wasn't Sendak. EVERYONE remembered Sendak), but it was Mahy. I felt so "OH NO MARGARET MAHY!" and everyone else was all "Who's Margaret Mahy?" and I was all "HOW CAN YOU ASK THAT QUESTION?!?!" *ahem* anyway...

LinWash said...

Thanks for this post. I had heard about the deaths of some, but not all of these author/illustrators. How incredibly sad.

KateCoombs said...

Oops. I missed another important children's book figure--Jan Berenstain of Berenstain Bears fame. Have now added her.

Kimberly said...

Sigh... My Side of the Mountain is an all-time favorite of mine. (Now a librarian myself, I have a renewed appreciation for the librarian who helped Sam!)And, I remember my mother teaching me how to read rhyme aloud without sounding sing-song via the Berenstain Bears' Almanac.

Much loss, to be sure.