February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

In Memoriam 2015

SLJ takes the opportunity to look back at the many authors, illustrators, editors, librarians, and experts in the field of young adult and children’s literature who have passed away this year. These figures have not only contributed to the community but helped to define it with their literary, scholarly, and artistic accomplishments. School Library Journal regrets any omissions. Please add to our list in the comments section.

January 12: Gifted fine artist and children’s book author best known for her biographies, Bonnie Christensen, 63, brought subjects as varied as Django Reinhardt, Woodie Guthrie, and Andy Warhol to vivid life. Her most recent picture book, published posthumously, Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King (Holt, 2015), received starred reviews from SLJ, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

January 22: Best known for illustrating the “Harry the Dirty Dog” books, which she created with her husband, author Gene Zion, Margaret Bloy Graham, 94, collaborated with many well-known writers. She was awarded Caldecott Honors for her illustrations for Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book (Harper, 1951) and Really Spring (HarperCollins, 1956), written by Zion.

February 3: Literary agent George McHugh Nicholson, 77, a giant in the world of publishing, represented iconic authors such as Patricia Reilly Giff, Betsy Byars, Lois Duncan, and Leonard Marcus. Hugely influential, Nicholson, while working at Dell, introduced the idea of publishing paperbacks of literary merit, and as a result of his efforts, works by S.E. Hinton, Judy Blume, and others flourished.

February 12: A passionate and prolific author of science titles for children, Margery Facklam, 87, received numerous accolades for her work; her And Then There Was One: The Mysteries of Extinction (Sierra Club Bks, 1993) was named an SLJ Best Book. In addition to penning more than 30 books, Facklam worked at the Buffalo Museum of Science as assistant curator of educator and director of education and public relations at the Aquarium of Niagara.

March 2: Award-winning author Mal Peet, 67, began writing children’s and YA literature late in life, but his sophisticated work, marked by complex themes and beautifully prose, resonated deeply with readers.

Marcia Brown

Marcia Brown

March 12:  Beloved science-fiction and fantasy author Terry Pratchett, 66, was known not only for his wildly popular, long-running “Discworld” series but for the dedication and loyalty of his fan base. The popularity of the best-selling series resulted in many fan-created conventions in the 1990s. While the author initially wrote for adults, in 2001 he began writing for children, and in 2011 he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement (administered by YALSA and sponsored by SLJ).

March 20: With more than 30 books to her name—and several novels adapted into after-school TV specials—Ellen Conford, 73, expertly captured the joys and angst of adolescence through novels, such as And This Is Laura (1977)  and To All My Fans, with Love, from Sylvie (1982, both Little, Brown).

April 28: Prolific author and illustrator of more than 30 books, Marcia Brown, 96, was one of only two three-time Caldecott winners (along with David Wiesner). Her works spanned decades and artistic styles, from gouache to Chinese calligraphy.

St. George Photo: Signet

Judith St. George
Photo: Signet

June 10:  Author of the Caldecott-winning So You Want to Be President? (Philomel, 2000), Judith St. George, 84, conveyed her deep passion for subjects such as mystery and American history through more than 40 fiction and nonfiction works.

June 14:  Longtime member of the Association for Library Service to Children Floyd Dickman, 76, was a dynamic part of the community whose mentorship and commitment to inclusivity reverberated throughout the field. Dickman’s myriad accomplishments included teaching library science at the graduate level; serving on the 1986, 1994, and 2002 Caldecott Award Committees and the 2009 Newbery Award Committee; and endowing several scholarships, including the Floyd and Stella Dickman Librarian’s Scholarship.

Floyd Dickman

Floyd Dickman

August 8: Though author Ann McGovern, 85, was best known for her retelling of Stone Soup, the classic story of the power of community, she penned more than 50 books over the course of her lifetime. Travel and the ocean were inspirations that resulted in titles such as Shark Lady: True Adventures of Eugenie Clark (Four Winds, 1978) and Night Dive (Macmillan, 1984).

September 7:  Barbara Carle, with her husband, author and illustrator Eric Carle, cofounded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the first institution in the United States devoted to the celebration of national and international picture book art.

October 8: Humorous cartoon illustrator Roy McKie, 93, is most known for the drawings that accompanied the books of Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), such as My Book About Me, by Me Myself! and Ten Apples Up on Top!

October 12: Professor and advocate Bernice Cullinan, 88, wrote/edited more than 40 books and was dedicated to children’s poetry, serving as editor-in-chief of Boyds Mills Press’s poetry imprint, Wordsong. The NCTE poetry award for children was established to honor her son, who at age six was killed in a bicycle accident.

Ann McGovern Photo: Gay Block

Ann McGovern
Photo: Gay Block

October 16: Exploring difficult yet always relevant subjects, two-time Caldecott honoree Vera B. Williams, 88, cast a light on experiences that often went unseen. While picture books such as A Chair for My Mother (Greenwillow, 1981) continue to resonate with librarians and readers, Williams is also remembered for her devotion to social justice and activism—in particular, for children’s right to read.

October 27: Cofounder of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, Lillie Bellin Pope, 97, was a dedicated educator. As, respectively, vice-president and president of the Foundation, she and her husband, Martin Pope, established many significant programs, grants, and honors (including, notably, the Ezra Jack Keats Award, which honors emerging talent).

December 16:  Noted author and poet Peter Dickinson, 88, amassed a number of critical accomplishments. In addition to receiving a Michael L. Printz Honor for The Ropemaker (Delacorte, 2001), he was short-listed nine times for the Carnegie Medal for children’s literature and was the first author to win it twice, for Tulku (1979) and City of Gold (1980, both Gollancz).

December 21: Devoted Oregon school librarian and literacy advocate Debbie Alvarez, 42, inspired both colleagues and children through her blog, “The Styling Librarian,” and the Oregon Battle of the Books, a competition that gets kids of all ages reading. “What a wonderful, inspirational person,” Portland children’s author Bart King tweeted Wednesday.

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.



  1. Kathleen Odean says:

    Thanks for compiling this. So many losses for the children’s book world but also so many fine books and real advocacy to be grateful for.

  2. SAD to say two recent deaths must be added: Joe Lasker and Andrea Cheng.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I hadn’t heard about Ellen Conford. She was my very favorite author in middle school and will be greatly missed.