April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Ann Jonas, Award-Winning Children’s Book Creator, Dies at 81

Ann Jonas, award-winning writer and illustrator of numerous children’s books, died September 29 in Rhinebeck, NY. Between 1982 and 1999, Jonas created a total of 16 books for young readers, including The Quilt, (Greenwillow, 1984), Aardvarks, Disembark! (Greenwillow, 1990), and Bird Talk (Greenwillow Books, 1999). She is perhaps best known for Round Trip (Greenwillow, 1983), which was named an ALA Notable Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book.

Daughter Nina Crews, husband and illustrator Donald Crews, and Ann Jonas.

Readers of the black-and-white picture book are delighted to find that once you have reached the end that it can be flipped and read backwards. The author told Horn Book of the work, I drew on my graphic design experience to stylize the images sufficiently to make this reversal possible.”

Jonas will be remembered for her skillful illustrations, which were influenced by her training in graphic design. Contemporary Authors cites her “use of uncomplicated shapes, bright colors, and clean lines that form illusionary watercolor worlds that intrigue young children.”

After her early experience working in the graphic design field, Jonas was encouraged to try her hand at a children’s book by publisher Susan Hirschman and her husband, the children’s book illustrator Donald Crews. In 1982, she published her first book, When You Were a Baby (Greenwillow) under her maiden name.  The book shows an infant’s progress through various developmental stages.

Jonas once said of her work, “I’ve been trying to explore other ways of stretching children’s imaginations. I find myself drawn more and more often to designing books that involve some sort of visual play. It seems like a wonderful opportunity to encourage children to look at familiar things in different ways while offering the appeal of a game or a puzzle.”

Jonas was born on January 28, 1932, in Flushing, New York, to Herbert and Dorothy Jonas. She lived most of her childhood on Long Island.  While attending Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, she met her husband, Donald Crews. The two were married in Germany on January 28, 1963, and had two daughters, Nina and Amy. The family lived in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn before moving to Germantown, NY in 1996.

Jonas is survived by her husband, daughters, two sons-in-law, four grandchildren, and a brother.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Southern Poverty Law Center, Doctors Without Borders, or Reading Is Fundamental.

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.