Already in 2021, the world of children’s book publishing has lost some iconic authors and illustrators. Through the stories they wrote and the illustrations they created, our lives have been enriched beyond measure. Here’s a short statement about each of these imaginative people and some book covers to illustrate their work.
Eric Carle: Both an author and an illustrator, his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold more than 50 million copies in 66 languages. His illustrations were primarily collage, featuring hand-painted papers. He also founded the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to ensure that picture-book illustrations, as an art form, would be celebrated around the world.
Beverly Cleary: Millions of kids have romped through the pages of Cleary’s books with Henry, Beezus, and Ramona. Cleary drew the inspiration for her chapters books from the kids in her neighborhood and the kids she served during her years as a librarian.
Floyd Cooper: Cooper illustrated for some of the best-known children’s authors including Nikki Grimes, Walter Myers, and Carole Boston Weatherford, mostly in books that portrayed the African-American experience. His distinctive painting style created luminous illustrations in earthy tones as he helped to bridge the racial gap in children’s literature.
- Lois Ehlert: Author and illustrator, Ehlert was inspired by the beauty of the natural world. Her artwork featured brightly colored snips of paper as well as “found” objects such as buttons or feathers. She related how her parents encouraged her to be creative in her autobiographical picture book The Scraps Book. Her book Rrralph is not her most beautiful, but it always makes me laugh! Some of Ehlert’s artwork reminds me of the work of Cincinnati graphic artist Charley Harper.
Patricia Giff: Giff was a long-time favorite with children making the leap to chapter books. She also won critical acclaim with her historical fiction for older children.
Norton Juster: Please don’t ask “Who is Norton Juster?” His book The Phantom Tollbooth has been a favorite of elementary students and teachers for many years. Filled with puns and other wordplay, it’s been compared to a modern Alice in Wonderland. Juster’s picture book The Hello, Goodbye Window earned a Caldecott Medal for illustrator Chris Raschka.
Kathleen Krull: Krull was the queen of the juvenile biography. I liked to select books for the library by Krull, because I always knew they would be accurate and highly readable. Her books cover people from a wide span of history and popular culture.
Ted Lewin: Both an author and an illustrator, Lewin paid for his art studies at the Pratt Institute with a side gig as a professional wrestler. Ted and his wife Betsy Lewin, also an illustrator, took much of their inspiration from their travels to exotic locations. When writing this blog, I was surprised to find that Ted Lewin did the illustrations for The Island of the Blue Dolphins, work reminiscent of the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth.
Ann Rinaldi: Rinaldi is well-known for her historical fiction written for upper elementary school students. Although she didn’t publish any new books in the last years of her life, she remained popular with students. In addition to many stand-alone titles, she also contributed two books to the Dear America series.
It’s never too late to discover these fantastic authors and illustrators!