Many beloved and talented authors, illustrators, and other champions in the world of children’s literature passed away this year. Their work has enriched our lives and our collections, and it has brought joy to countless children (and grown-ups). While the loss is great, our gratitude for and admiration of their lives is great as well.
School Library Journal regrets any omissions. Please add to our list in the comments section.
January 15–Francisco X. Alarcón, 61. A noted Chicano poet who began writing for children in 1997 with Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems (Children’s Book Press). Alarcón was the recipient of two Pura Belpré Honor Awards, for Laughing Tomatoes and Iguanas in the Snow (Children’s Book Press).
February 19–Harper Lee, 89. The author of the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird (Lippincott) won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize. The novel is widely taught in U.S. classrooms despite its most recent ranking as 21 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most challenged books.
February 29–Louise Rennison, 64. Her character Georgia Nicolson first appeared in 1999 with Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (HarperCollins). The British author of more than 20 books for teens was awarded the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2010.
March 21–Gloria Houston, 75. The author of the Christmas classic The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (Dial) also wrote tributes to teachers and librarians, such as My Great Aunt Arizona (Harper) and Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile (HarperCollins).
April 7–Harry Mazer, 90. The author of 22 novels including The Island Keeper (Delacorte), Heroes Don’t Run (Scholastic), and Snow Bound (Dell) also coauthored three books with his wife, Norma Fox Mazer, including The Solid Gold Kid (Delacorte). He is also the author of the “Boys at War” series.
April 10–James Cross Giblin, 82. The author of over 20 books for children including Chimney Sweeps: Yesterday and Today (Crowell) was the winner of the 1983 National Book Award. His book The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (Clarion) won the 2003 Robert F. Sibert Medal.
May 28–Michael McCurdy, 74. The acclaimed artist used wood engravings and scratchboard illustrations in many books. Among them are Howard Norman’s The Owl-Scatterer (Atlantic Monthly Press) and Ann Whitford Paul’s The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork (Harcourt), both named Best Illustrated Books by The New York Times.
June 6–Rhoda Blumberg, 98. The author’s many award-winning nonfiction titles include Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard), which was named a 1985 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner and a 1986 Newbery Honor Book.
June 15–Lois Duncan, 82. The prolific author’s many classic suspense novels included Killing Mr. Griffin (Little Brown) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (Little Brown).
July 15–Helen Bailey, 51. The British author was best known for her teen fiction series about a girl named Electra. Her first “Electra Brown” book was Life at the Shallow End (Hodder).
July 18–Ruth Gordon, 83. The longtime school librarian was active in many professional organizations. Her advice to book reviewers includes her famous tip: saying “I loved that book!” is a conversation stopper. Her frank comments on listservs earned her the online nickname “Big Grandma.” She was also a published author of folktales and poetry collections.
August 13–Joyce Carol Thomas, 79. The author of more than 30 books for children and teens, Thomas earned numerous awards, including a Coretta Scott King Author Award and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
August 20–Morton Schindel, 98. The founder of Weston Woods Studios, provider of audiovisual materials adapted from award-winning children’s books, was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated short for his adaption of William Steig’s Doctor De Soto (FSG) in 1985. He was awarded the Regina Medal in 1979.
August 31–Brian Wildsmith, 86. While a creator of more than 80 titles, the British illustrator’s first solo work, an alphabet book entitled ABC (Oxford) won a Kate Greenaway Medal in 1961.
September 3–Anna Dewdney, 50. The creator of the “Llama Llama” books, which has over 10 titles, requested that in lieu of a funeral service, her friends, family, and admirers read to a child. The first title in the preschool series was Llama Llama Red Pajama (Viking).
September 12–Barbara Seuling, 79. She both wrote and illustrated her first picture book, The Teeny Tiny Woman: An Old-English Ghost Story (Viking). Also, Seuling wrote an early chapter book series. The first title was Oh No, It’s Robert! (Cricket).
October 31–Natalie Babbitt, 84. Her classic novel Tuck Everlasting (FSG) was made into a film and recently brought to Broadway as a musical. The book celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015 with an event at Symphony Space in New York City.
November 2–Jan Slepian, 95. She co-authored several books (with Ann Seidler) in the “Listen-Hear” series. Her book The Alfred Summer (Macmillan) featured two young disabled characters and was a finalist for the 1981 National Book Award and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book.
November 7–Yumi Heo, 52. The Korean-born author and illustrator of more than 30 books was best known for her illustrations in Rachel Vail’s Sometimes I’m Bombaloo (Scholastic), Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story (Schwartz & Wade), and Lenore Look’s Polka Dot Penguin Pottery (Schwartz & Wade).
December 24–Richard Adams, 96. The British author’s very first book was Watership Down (Macmillan). The allegorical tale of a small band of rabbits has sold 50 million copies in 18 languages and became a staple in high school English classes.
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