We are a little over halfway through 2014, but already we have lost several remarkable figures in the children’s literature community. These prolific authors and illustrators leave behind powerful legacies of unforgettable works through which we are able to celebrate their lives and dazzling contributions to the world of children’s literature.
Erik Blegvad (March 3, 1923 – January 14, 2014)
Erik Blegvad was a children’s book artist, known for his whimsical illustrations of over 100 books. A native to Denmark, Blegvad studied at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts and worked as a commercial illustrator before developing a refined pen-and-ink style that was perfectly suited to children’s books. He collaborated with his wife, Lenore Blegvad, who wrote numerous children’s books that he illustrated until her death in 2008.
Among Blegvad’s best known works are the illustrations for Bed-Knob and Broomstick, Mud Pies and Other Recipes (J W738m), and Anna Banana & Me, along with his own translation of Hans Christian Andersen.
Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
Christened “The People’s Poet” and celebrated author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (920.7 An4i 2009), Dr. Maya Angelou was a renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, known for…well, just about everything from poems and lectures to stage performance and social activism to Hallmark cards and keynote speeches! A little less well-known but no less poignant are Dr. Angelou’s children’s books that all capture the imagination of a child’s world and Dr. Angelou’s love of language and sound.
Written in the 1990s, Dr. Angelou’s children’s books include Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (J 811 An4l), My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me (J 704.042 An4m), and Kofi and His Magic. In 2004, she also published the Maya’s World series, which introduces a child from a different country with each installment.
Eric Hill (September 7, 1927 – June 6, 2014)
While freelancing as a creative marketing designer, Eric Hill made a simple drawing of a puppy and began to tell stories about the pup’s mischievous antics to his three-year-old son. Today, that little dog is better known as Spot, and his stories have flourished into a popular series of children’s books that have sold more than 60 million copies. Hill’s first book, Where’s Spot? was an instant favorite of preschool children, who loved the bright colors and whimsical characters. Hill is also credited with one of the earliest uses of interactive flaps and pop-ups in his books that now are commonplace in books for young children today.
Walter Dean Myers (August 12, 1937 – July 1, 2014)
Walter Dean Myers was a bestselling and terrifically prolific children’s author, who was a three-time National Book Award nominee and received five Coretta Scott King awards for African-American fiction. Widely respected in the literary community and a tireless advocate for diversity in children’s literature, Myers served as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2012-13, a position created in part by the Library of Congress.
Myers completed more than 100 books in his lifetime—two notable works being Lockdown and Monster (J M99mon). Myers’ books are usually narrated by teenagers trying to make difficult right choices in the face of easy wrong ones, and he was the “rare author” to have a large following of middle-grade boys. His new, futuristic novel, On a Clear Day is scheduled to be released in September 2014.