April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Holly Meade, Artist and Kids’ Book Author/Illustrator, Dies at 56

Holly Louise Meade, artist and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, died on June 28, 2013, at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital near her home in Sedgwick, ME, the local Newburyport Daily News has reported. She was 56.

An acclaimed artist in many mediums, Meade is perhaps best known for her intricate woodblock prints, and among children’s librarians for her more than 30 picture books. These include Hush! A Thai Lullaby (Melanie Kroupa/Orchard Books, 1996), written by Mingfong Ho, which was named a Caldecott Honor book in 1997; and John Willy and Freddy McGee (Marshall Cavendish, 1998),  for which she was named an honoree for the Charlotte Zolotow Award for Creative Writing.

“Holly Meade was so special. [Her] warmth and wonderful spirit permeated her whole being—and her art,” Melanie Kroupa tells School Library Journal. “With her own special way of viewing the world she created a style all her own: unpretentious and full of life. In illustrations that reflect her own elegant simplicity, Holly allowed us to step into a story and see the world in a fresh way….The books we did together remain some of my very favorites:  Hush! A Thai Lullaby, Boss of the Plains by Laurie Carlson, and Goose’s Story by Cari Best [an SLJ Star Book in 2002], to name a few. Each is distinctive in its own way thanks to Holly’s vision and illustrations. Her woodcuts of recent years are truly wonderful—so alive and fresh!”

Meade was born in Winchester, Mass., on September 14, 1956.  She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1978, and went on to explore a variety of artistic mediums in her work, such as drawing, collage, printmaking, basket making, and fabric design. Though she enjoyed a career as an independent artist, beginning in 1992, she also brought much to the world of children’s books, which she called “the other focus of my work life.” She added woodblock printing to her many talents in 2002, after a workshop with printmaker Hester Stinnett at the Haystack Mountain School.

Her woodblock printing techniques are featured in many of her more recent picture books—such as David Elliott’s series that includes On the Farm (Candlewick, 2008), In the Wild (2010) and In the Sea (2012)—as well as in her stand-alone art works, which can be viewed online via her own Reach Road Gallery site.

Numerous online tributes and memorials have already begun to appear this week from colleagues and friends who have since learned of her death, including one from Curious City, the children’s book consulting company founded by Kirsten Cappy, urging friends and fans to donate copies of her picture books to the Maine Children’s Cancer Center Program (MCCP) in Meade’s honor. “It is utterly heartbreaking to think there will not be another children’s book illustrated by Holly Meade,” Cappy says.

Notes Julie Danielson, co-creator of the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast book blog, “Holly’s work was simply beautiful….may her legacy live on in her exceptional illustration work.”

Meade is survived by her father, Russell Meade; brother, Jeffrey Meade; sister, Andrea Lawson; daughter, Jenny Smick; son, Noah Smick and his wife, Micki; and grandson, Nathan Smick.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson (kpeterson@mediasourceinc.com) is a former News Editor ofSLJ.



  1. RIP great woman. Am sure your legacy will continue