February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Remembering Dianne de Las Casas, Founder of Picture Book Month

Dianne de La Casas (left) and illustrator Marita Gentry at the 2011 ALA conference.

Three hundred friends and family members gathered in Metairie, LA, on August 26 to celebrate the life of Dianne de Las Casas, author, storyteller, and creator of Picture Book Month. De Las Casas, 47, was killed in a house fire on August 21 in Harvey, LA.

In 2011, just after the New York Times published an article with the headline “Picture Books No Longer A Staple for Children,“ de Las Casas worked to designate November as Picture Book Month

“Picture books celebrate childhood,” she told the Huffington Post. “They speak universal truths and help children better understand the world around them.” Since then, through the Picture Book Month website, the celebration grew with “champions,” who each day in November write an essay about the importance of picture books.

Last year, some of the champions included Kwame Alexander, Todd Parr, and Andrea Davis Pinkney. Tara Lazar, author and creator of Picture Book Idea Month, now known as Storystorm, met de Las Casas during the planning of the event. “Dianne’s enthusiasm for children’s literature was boundless,” Lazar says. “Dianne was a spark plug, and the electricity she brought to our community will be sorely missed.”

De Las Casas was the author of more than two dozen books, including The Cajun Cornbread Boy and The Gigantic Sweet Potato (both Pelican, 2008, 2010). Most recently she worked with John Couret to start a publishing company, Write Hook Media, with a focus on antibullying.

Friends and family members have used social media to express their love and admiration for de Las Casas. “She will be remembered as the life of the party, the diva, the artistic and very creative person, the organizer, the loving mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and a lot more things, too many to mention,” her mother, Josie Chretien, wrote on Facebook.

Author and illustrator Joyce Wan, whose latest books are Good Night, Sweetie (Scholastic, 2017) and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat (S. & S., 2017), first met de Las Casas at a Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators conference six years ago. “She had this remarkable gift for making everyone feel welcomed, cared for, and special” recalls Wan.

On Facebook, Wan also posted: “She had a sparkle that could light up a room and captivate whoever she met. No matter what challenges she faced, she never let them stop her from tackling big, visionary projects, and they never compromised her boundless commitment to her dreams, her colleagues, her friends, and her family.”

De Las Casas is survived by two daughters, Soleil Casas of Las Vegas, NV, and Eliana Casas of Harvey, LA.

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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.

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  1. Debbie Ohi says:

    I only just found out about Dianne’s passing. Deeply shocked and saddened. I first met Dianne at an SCBWI conference – she was one of the first people I met, and she was so friendly, warm and welcoming. My heart goes out to her family.

  2. Julia DeVillers says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute. Dianne has left quite a legacy and will be greatly missed.

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