Jose Aruego (1932-2012)

Maurice Sendak, Ellen Levine, Jean Craighead George, Leo Dillon, and now Jose Aruego.  It’s been an all-too-mortal year for children’s books.  Mr. Aruego died on August 9, his 80th birthday. I never met Mr. Aruego, but he did kindly grant Julia Mickenberg and me permission to use his illustrations for Charlotte Pomerantz’s The Day They…

Stayin’ Alive

While riding my bike last Tuesday morning, a car hit me.  It was 7:45 am, I was cycling uphill and due west.  A car coming due east — blinded by the sun, the driver later told me — took a left turn and hit my bicycle on its (and my) left side.  Fortunately, neither of us were…

That’s Life

Maurice Sendak, Leo Dillon, Ellen Levine, Jean Craighead George, Peter D. Sieruta.  During this past month, children’s literature has become a relentless parade of death.  Or so it seems. This feeling could just be a function of age. The older we get, the more deaths we witness. The older we get, the more these deaths…

The Most Wild Thing of All: Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012

But the wild things cried, “Oh, please don’t go— We’ll eat you up—we love you so!” And Max said, “No!” —Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963) In June 2001, I went to hear Maurice Sendak speak at Yale University. A couple of years earlier, I’d started working on a biography of Crockett Johnson,…

David Bowman, Surrealist & Satirist

David Bowman — the writer, not the character in 2001: A Space Odyssey — died on February 27.  He was 54.  His obituary ran in this past Sunday’s Times.  He and I have had an on-and-off correspondence since the fall of 2000.  Upon reading his obituary, I realized (guiltily) that I’d failed to answer his…

Eat, drink, and be merry

Bumble-Ardy gets adopted by his Aunt Adeline after his “immediate family gorged and gained weight. / And got ate.”  When he throws himself a birthday party without her permission, Aunt Adeline threatens his guests: “Scat, get lost, vamoose, just scram! / Or else I’ll slice you into ham!”  On the next two-page spread, Bumble tells…

Hey, Kids! Try Some Candy Tobacco!

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco began selling Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips earlier this year. “The Orbs look like Tic Tacs, the Sticks look like toothpicks and the Strips look like breath strips,” said Susan Westof, tobacco prevention specialist, with the Jefferson County Public Health Department. … “The products are packaged in a way that makes…

The End: Children’s Authors’ Last Words

Following the deaths this month of Brian Jacques, Janet Schulman, and Margaret K. McElderry, we turn to the last words of those who wrote for the young — Seuss, Dahl, Thurber, Montgomery, Nesbit, Charles M. Schulz, Crockett Johnson, and others. “Yes. I’m not going to die tomorrow.” — Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904-1991) “Ow,…