February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Author, Illustrator Remy Charlip Dies at 83

© Rita Bottoms

Remy Charlip, dancer, actor, and an award-winning author and illustrator of more than 30 children’s books including I Love You (Scholastic, 1999) and Mother Mother I Feel Sick (Parents’ Magazine Press, 1966), died August 14. He was 83.

Charlip’s most famous work, Fortunately (Parents’ Magazine Press, 1964), a light-hearted, engaging picture book about a young boy who encounters a number of perils on his way to a friend’s birthday party, remains a staple during story hours, and School Library Journal’s blog, Fuse 8, named it one of its Top 100 Picture Books.

His other works include Baby Hearts and Baby Flowers (Greenwillow, 2002), Arm in Arm (Four Winds, 1969), and Handtalk Birthday, co-authored with Mary Beth Miller (Four Winds, 1987). The latter two were named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Charlip also illustrated several of Margaret Wise Brown’s books, such as The Dead Bird (Young Scott, 1965) and Four Fur Feet (Hopscotch, 1990),

In the late 1970s, Charlip devised the concept of “Airmail Dances,” where he would send sketches of choreographed dances to other performers, encouraging them to stage their own interpretations of his moves. Charlip also displayed his innovative style in Thirteen (Four Winds, 1975), a picture book co-authored with Jerry Joyner that simultaneously tells 13 different stories and received a Boston Globe/Horn Book award and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year citation.

In 2007, Charlip published A Perfect Day (HarperCollins), a rhyming picture book about a father and son spending a day together. SLJ gave the book a starred review, stating that “In less than 100 words, Charlip has crafted a cozy story that is a perfect example of parent and child bonding.”

Charlip also inspired other artists. He was the model for illustrations of Georges Méliès in the Caldecott-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007), written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Selznick spoke about his friendship with Charlip in his Caldecott acceptance speech, calling it “one of the great joys of [his] life.”

Born January 10, 1929 in Brooklyn, NY, Charlip spent several years with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He began designing book jackets and soon decided to write and illustrate his own books, starting in 1956 with Dress Up and Let’s Have a Party (Scott, 1956).

In 1958 he co-founded the Paper Bag Players, a renowned children’s theater company that still tours and performs. Combining both his artistic passions, he became the head of Sarah Lawrence’s Children’s Theater and Literature Department in 1967.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.