Judith Kerr, who died this week aged 95, shown above receiving BookTrust’s Lifetime Achievement Award…
Anthea Bell, the translator of Asterix, and seven-times winer of the Mildred L Batchelder award (for translated children’s fiction published in the US) has died aged 82.
Claire Armitstead’s obituary in The Guardian is an excellent information-packed summary of her career.
Other notable obituaries are also listed.
Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/18/anthea-bell-obituary
The Times – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anthea-bell-obituary-zg3zq6vcz
Telegraph – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2018/10/19/anthea-bell-prolific-translator-whose-versions-asterix-series/
New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/obituaries/anthea-bell-dead.html
Vladimir Radunsky, an illustrator who used an abundance of artistic styles to create captivating children’s books about subjects including Albert Einstein, a rapping dog and a towering stalk of asparagus, died on Sept. 11 at a hospital near his home in Rome. He was 64.
Other obituaries/death notices:
Extract from Julia Eccleshare’s Guardian obit.
Published in 1963, like many other successes Stig of the Dump was turned down by a succession of publishers before Kaye Webb, then creating the Puffin list, bought it and published it handsomely in a paperback edition with illustrations and a now iconic cover by Edward Ardizzone. Reflecting in an interview in 2013, 50 years after the book’s publication, King opined that Stig was rejected by publishers because, even then, adults were anxious about children acting so entirely alone: “It was beginning to be rather improper to let a child run wild like that,” he said.
In the intervening years, adults’ views of children’s unsupervised outdoor play have become even more fraught with anxiety about possible risk; to the point where such play has almost disappeared.
Despite that, because it is a story that is both delightful and strong, and maybe because it is possible to think that Stig and his adventures with Barney are imagined rather than real, the book has endured and flourished in the intervening 55 years. Having been in print continuously with more than two million copies sold, it is on every list of modern classic children’s books, is a staple of primary school classrooms, was selected as the representative title for the 60s in Puffin’s list of The Puffins of Puffins, and has been adapted twice for TV.
Jill Barklem, who has died of pneumonia aged 66, was the creator of the Brambly Hedge children’s titles, a richly imagined and beautifully illustrated series of stories that are a fine example of the pastoral tradition in children’s books. Inspired by her observations of the countryside around Epping in Essex, where she grew up, Jill created the series on the underground as she commuted to her degree course at St Martin’s School of Art in central London. Hating the overcrowded trains, she transported herself to a place of her own imagining that offered peace, space and friendliness, populating it with a community of mice.
Pat Hutchins, who has died aged 75, was an award-winning illustrator and author, best known for her 1968 children’s book Rosie’s Walk. She created more than 40 picture books and short novels, all of which show her storytelling skills, her tremendous sense of humour and her warmth for children.
The work of the Opies was key to my developing the interest in primary-aged children that led me to enrolling, in the mid-1970s, on a PGCE course to teach 5-9 yr olds. And for me one of the pleasures and privileges of the time I spent working in schools was being able to watch children at play in their various break times. I still miss that.
As these obituaries of Iona Opie, who long outlived her husband, make clear, the couple had an approach to their work which more resembled that of artists rather than scholars.
Both their combined work, and that of Iona Opie after Peter died, will be a treasure trove for decades (indeed, centuries) to come.
Their first publication was I Saw Esau (1947), a slim precursor of the wide spines of The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951) and The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book (1955). The Opies applied years of rigour to an oral culture too commonplace to have received attention before: their scholarship, informally communicated, was important to the postwar discovery of the words of ordinary people. “It took 50 generations to make up Mother Goose,” Iona said. “Nursery rhymes are the smallest great poems of the world’s literature.”
They slogged on. “We stayed home and plod, plod, plodded along.” The Opies wanted to do fieldwork among the juvenile tribes of Britain, about whom anthropologists knew nothing; they ignored claims that traditions were dead and recruited helpers to question children in 70 schools. The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959) revealed a complex, secret society with its “own code of oral legislation for testing, betting, swapping, keeping secrets”.
The tribes remembered from generation to generation a codex of knowledge, yet could speedily disseminate a joke nationwide. This society was unsentimental, anti-authoritarian, aware of the absurdity of adults. The book that recorded it – just before its customs were changing with the commodification of childhood – was on all the reading lists for the new subject of sociology in the 1960s.
On the Opies plodded, no car, no telly, interviewing thousands for Children’s Games in Street and Playground (1969) and filing folk fictions for The Classic Fairy Tales (1974); they also anthologised children’s verse.
I never met the man but over the years met many who had worked with him and no one ever had anything but praise for him – none more so than David Fickling and James Riordan.
For 21 years Ron Heapy was the guru who oversaw the success of the children’s books department at Oxford University Press (OUP). Moving there in 1979, he found a demoralised outfit, which — in his own words — “felt like a mixture of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Strictly Glum Dancing’’. Facing him on his office wall was an apparently unmovable “grim chart with a graph going down and down like a staircase in a nouvelle vague film”. When sales started to improve and the graph started to climb, with yellow ducklings surreptitiously added to it all happily swimming upwards, it was finally taken down.
A man of huge energy and explosive enthusiasms, Heapy had a sharp eye for talent and a capacity to nurture this until it finally came good. Early on he spotted one Geraldine Jones, working unadventurously on English as a foreign language adaptations of classic texts. He told her to try a novel about a girl in modern times. She came up instead with A Little Lower than the Angels, a story about an apprentice stonemason set in the Middle Ages. Now writing under her married name Geraldine McCaughrean, she went on to produce many more distinctive stories over the years, winning many literary prizes.
full obit via the Times paywall Ron Heapy | Register | The Times & The Sunday Times.