February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Elaine Landau, Prolific Nonfiction Kids’ Author, Dies at 65

Elaine Landau, author of more than 300 books that supported schools’ curriculum and children’s quest for information, died on June 29 in Miami, FL, due to complications from autoimmune disease. She was 65. Her death was announced by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Florida.

Landau was born on February 15, 1948, in New Jersey. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from New York University and a Master’s degree in library and information science from Pratt Institute.

The topics of her many books varied from animals and holidays to historic events and contemporary social and news issues, including Oil Spill!: Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (Millbrook, 2011) and Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown(Clarion, 2011). She also authored many series for a number of publishers, including “The Best Cats Ever” (Lerner), “What Would You Do?” (Enslow), “Head to Toe Health” (Marshall Cavendish) and “Planet Books” (Scholastic).

Long before the current interest in nonfiction for children to support the Common Core State Standards, Landau had actively promoted the use of nonfiction through her frequent appearances at library and reading conferences and through school and library visits, where she personally met librarians from around the country.

“I have never entered a school library for a visit without noticing one of Elaine’s books,” says Alix Finn, author of Towering (HarperTeen, 2013). “Elaine’s boundless energy was an inspiration to many, and her giving personality made her a friend. She will be greatly missed by many.”

This April, she was part of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) School Library Month Community Gallery. “A school library is the jewel of any school. It’s a place where students can learn and grow,” Landau said. “There’s no better place for anyone to be!”

Always an advocate for librarians, she dedicated each book in her “The Best Dogs Ever” (Lerner) series to a different member of the profession, including Carl Harvey, past president of AASL and school librarian at North Elementary School, Noblesville, IN.

“Elaine easily tackled non-fiction topics and made them so understandable for student readers,” Harvey tells School Library Journal.  “She certainly will be missed, but her memory will live on each and every time one of her titles is checked out and enjoyed by a child.”

Another book in the series was dedicated to Diane Chen, who in 2012 said of Landau’s work: “Often when I pick up a nonfiction title that reads clearly and is popular with students, I look to see who the author is and discover…Elaine Landau.”

Says Landau’s editor at Lerner, Sara Hoffman: “There are no words to express the sorrow I feel over the loss of Elaine Landau, an immensely talented longtime Lerner author whom I was also privileged to call a friend. Elaine’s impact on the school and library publishing world is immeasurable, as is her impact on those of us fortunate enough to have known her.”

Many of Ms. Landau’s titles have been included on prestigious awards lists and have also received a number of honors including: ALA/YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, International Reading Association’s Children’s Choice and IRA Young Adult Choice, NCSS/CBC Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year.

“Besides being an extraordinary nonfiction writer, Elaine was a mentor to many in the Florida SCBWI and her boundless energy and encouragement were an inspiration to fellow writers, many of whom considered a good friend,” says Catherine Balkin, founder of Balkin Buddies, which arranges author visits to schools and libraries. “Elaine’s contributions to children’s non-fiction will live on in her many readers, and those of us who had the privilege to know her personally will miss her greatly.”

Landau is survived by her husband, Norman Pearl, and her son, Michael Pearl.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.