The American children’s author Lois Duncan, who has died aged 82, was best known for her literary young adult thrillers I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973) and Killing Mr Griffin (1978). She was quick to pick up on the rise of realism in children’s fiction in the 1960s, and had a gift for creating psychological suspense thrillers with credible contemporary settings and convincing characters. She placed thoroughly normal school students in everyday settings and then threw in a dramatic surprise – sometimes supernatural, sometimes realistic – which would reveal how different people behave in challenging circumstances. Without being didactic, through her characters she showed readers the necessity of facing up to the consequences of their actions.
The bold, strong-minded characters created by Gillian Avery were an antidote to her timidness as a child. She became a gifted children’s author as well as a leading authority on the history of children’s literature, specialising in the Victorian era. “Writing about the Thirties”, she once said, “would be so dowdy that no one would want to read about it.”
Her best-known novel A Likely Lad, set in the 19th century, tells the story of Willy Overs, who overcomes pressure from his father to stop his education and begin work in the insurance business. It won the Guardian award for children’s fiction in 1972 and was adapted for television in 1990.
All of her novels were imbued with a strong sense of social comedy — a reflection of her own good humour. She was praised for her detailed vignettes of Victorian life, yet Avery, ever modest, said that any impression of scholarship was a happy accident.
And the Guardian’s obit
Highly recommend you read this splendid obituary in full:
Charmingly eccentric, contagiously enthusiastic, unpredictably knowledgeable, adored by his children, grandchildren, editors and many friends, author of over 50 novels of extraordinary range and ambition, Peter Dickinson will be greatly missed.
Guardian obit by Julia Eccleshare
Kamala Laxman, a well-known author of children’s books and widow of legendary cartoonist R.K. Laxman, died due to old age, her son said. She was 90.
Kamala Laxman is survived by her son Srinivas, daughter-in-law Usha and granddaughter Rimanika.
“She was not keeping too well and was suffering since my father’s death last year. After his death, she had said ‘I will join you soon’. It appears her wish was fulfilled today,” said Srinivas.
With many children’s books to her credit in the 1970s, Kamala was commissioned by the India Book House to write a series for children.
Among her notable books are The Thama Stories and her book Raman of Tenali & Other Stories, Thama and His Missing Mother, among others, many of which were illustrated by her husband, R.K. Laxman.
Vera B. Williams, a writer and illustrator for young people whose picture books centered on the lives of working-class families, a highly unusual subject when she began her work in the 1970s, died … at her home in Narrowsburg, N.Y. She was 88.
With the death of Diana, the last of the three Pullein-Thompson sisters, the heyday of the pony-crazed pre-pubescent girl is over. For at least three decades — from the 1950s to the 1980s — daughters of the middleclass were expected and encouraged to go through a horsey phase, when their idea of heaven was to muck out a stable or curry-comb a mane, even if they never sailed over the last fence to win a red rosette. Such ambitions were fuelled by pony books, the majority bearing the Pullein-Thompson byline.
In their stories even a girl from an unpromising urban background might acquire a broken-down pony and school it to triumph in gymkhanas. Janet, for instance, in Diana Pullein-Thompson’s Janet Must Ride, was a town child who imagined “galloping over green fields and jogging down country lanes past little old cottages with hollyhocks in their gardens”; at 16 she leaves home with her terrier, Gangster, to work in the country as a girl groom, and ends up getting clear rounds in the show ring. The books taught readers all they needed to know about keeping ponies, even the poundage of oats required per feed.
Ann McGovern, a prolific author for children whose work ranged over women’s history, adaptations of folk tales and her own exploits as a globe-trotting adventurer, died on Saturday at her home in Manhattan. She was 85.
The author of more than 50 titles that have collectively sold millions of copies, Ms. McGovern was known in particular for “Stone Soup,” her 1986 retelling of the traditional story, with illustrations by Winslow Pinney Pels.
Her books carried artwork by some of the foremost picture-book illustrators of the era, among them “Too Much Noise” (1967), illustrated by Simms Taback; “Zoo, Where Are You?” (1964), illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats; “Nicholas Bentley Stoningpot III” (1982), illustrated by Tomie dePaola; and “Little Wolf” (1965), with pictures by Nola Langner, a friend since grade school who illustrated a half-dozen of Ms. McGovern’s books.
Before turning to writing full time, Ms. McGovern was a children’s book editor in New York.
A good obit for Tanith Lee by Andrew McKie for the Herald:
Tanith Lee, who has died aged 67, was an inventive and prolific writer, chiefly of fantasies, though in the course of some 90 novels and 300 short stories she also ventured into science fiction, horror, the reinvention of fairy-tales, historical fiction, children’s and young adults’ literature; she also wrote two episodes of the cult BBC TV series Blake’s 7.
Her settings and atmospheres were strongly in the tradition of “the Weird”, owing much to the influence of writers such as Lord Dunsany and his mystical countryman Ã† (George William Russell), C.S. Lewis and Jack Vance. Her own work, like that of Angela Carter, often commandeered the tropes of mythology and fairy tale to explore sexuality, identity – especially feminine identities – mortality and isolation.
One of Tanith Lee’s prominent themes was the moral and erotic development of characters placed in hostile, or at least unpredictable, worlds which the heroine (or hero) comes, if not to control, at least to meet on her own terms through a deliberate effort of the will.
From the mid-1970s, when she published her first adult novel, The Birthgrave, which was nominated for a Nebula Award, and became a full time writer, most of Lee’s books enjoyed a respectable degree of commercial and critical success. But despite having had “quietly phenomenal sales, now and then”, in recent years she found it increasingly difficult to interest publishers in her work. Most of her backlist is now out of print.
In 2012 she told an interviewer: “most of the so-called big publishers are unwilling even to look at a proposal. They aren’t interested in seeing anything from me, not even those houses I’ve worked with for many years … I can only conclude (without knowing any figures) that a lot of this is financial. I have had people say to me, ‘We would like to publish this, but though it would sell, it wouldn’t sell enough. And so they won’t let us buy it’.”
Full obit via Tanith Lee | Herald Scotland.
Marcia Brown, a celebrated author and illustrator of children’s books and three-time Caldecott Medal winner whose work ranged from the bold strokes of “Once a Mouse” to the more abstract and lyrical sketches of “Cinderella,” has died.
Brown died April 28 of congestive heart failure at her home in Laguna Hills, California, publisher Simon & Schuster announced Friday. She was 96.
Brown won the Caldecott, the highest honor for children’s picture books, for “Cinderella,” ”Once a Mouse” and “Shadow.” She was a National Book Award nominee in 1983 for “Shadow” and in 1992 received a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lifetime achievement. She is survived by her editor and longtime companion Janet Loranger.
The illustrator Fritz Wegner, who has died aged 90, was a prolific creator of funny, detailed and memorable drawings, and a much-loved teacher. Born in Vienna to secular Jewish parents Michael and Eti, his secure childhood was abruptly ended by the Anschluss of 1938. After drawing a cartoon of Hitler and enraging his pro-Nazi teacher, he understood the danger he was in and his parents organised his departure, alone, by train to London.
His parents and sister were able to join him later, but initially Fritz was taken in by George Mansell, one of his teachers at St Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martins), and his wife. As Wegner recalled in an interview: “It was an extremely generous thing to do and indeed I lived with them for several years, learning everything I later knew about lettering, penmanship, gilding and the Roman alphabet. That was the start of an early passion, after which I moved on to doing illustrations.