Roger Mayne, photographer, was born on May 5, 1929. He died of a heart attack on June 7, 2014, aged 85
Eric Hill, who has died aged 86, was one of those unusual and fortunate people whose first book was not only an immediate success but also became a staple of children’s bookshelves for decades. Where’s Spot?, a simple lift-the-flap picture book with a lovable puppy at the heart of every picture, was published in 1980. Within weeks, it was a bestseller, taken to the hearts of pre-schoolers and their parents across Britain.
That immediate success was no flash in the pan: the many sequels that followed included Spot Goes to School (1984) and Spot Goes on Holiday (1985); Spot’s adventures were translated into 60 languages; and sales figures topped 60m copies worldwide. And then there were award-winning adaptations for television and DVD, and all kinds of merchandising. More than 30 years later, Spot is a ubiquitous character who can be found on everything from stationery sets to bed linen, and is one of the most recognisable brands for young children.
As with many other popular children’s books, the ideas for Spot came from close to home. The little puppy first appeared in the bedtime stories that Eric, a freelance graphic designer, told his son, Christopher, born in 1976. When it came to writing the story down, Eric drew on an advertising flier he had created, which had a flap that lifted up to reveal something amusing. Finding that Christopher was entertained by the device, Eric used it as a way of telling the story about Spot who, within a very domestic interior, simply sets off to search for his missing ball. At each wrong location, a surprise is revealed.
Eric Hill was a popular illustrator who made no claims to greatness but, as creator of the phenomenally successful and much loved Spot the Dog, his beautifully designed and consistently charming books gave pleasure to generations of infants. Hill was a working-class Londoner but the benefits of selling more than 60 million copies of Spot books meant he spent his final years living on his own Californian ranch.
He devised his most celebrated title, Where’s Spot?, for his two-year-old son Christopher. While working in advertising, he had written a simple bedtime story for Christopher on a flyer he had previously created. It involved a moveable flap whereby a man wearing a bowler hat was revealed to have a bird nesting on his head.
Noticing how much his son enjoyed this device, Hill went on to create a book using lift-up flaps on every double-page spread, which caught the eye of a literary agent, the daughter of a friend, who found a book packager keen to take it on.
Eric Hill – Washinbgton Post
Eric Hill, the children’s author who enlivened story time and bedtime for millions of youngsters with his simply told, lift-the-flap tales of the yellow dog Spot, died June 6 at his home in Templeton, Calif. He was 86.
John Rowe Townsend, founder of The Guardian Children’s Prize and author of Gumbles’ Yard, has died:
from intro to Guardian obit.:
John Rowe Townsend, who has died aged 91, was not only a dominant figure in the academic study of children’s literature, but, as the author of Gumble’s Yard (1961), a seminal influence on the entire development of modern children’s books. This, his first and possibly most famous, book – in print for 50 years and now available as an ebook – was written when he worked on the Manchester Guardian, and was born of his shocked awareness of the unbridgeable gap between the comfortably jolly lives of the young characters in the books he reviewed and the harsh realities faced by the children he had seen while researching a feature on the NSPCC.
Phyllis Krasilovsky Dies at 87
Krasilovsky’s books included “The Very Little Girl” (1953) and “The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes” (1950, with illustrations by Barbara Cooney), about a lazy man who neglects his dirty plates for so long that he has to eat from a soap dish.
One of her books, “The Cow Who Fell in the Canal” (1957), a glimpse of life in Holland, illustrated by Peter Spier, became very popular in translation in the Netherlands.
She also wrote travel articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers and magazines including Redbook and Ladies’ Home Journal.
“I’ve brought you the moon, Little Bear,” said Big Bear.
The Walker Christmas card which just arrived through the letterbox features one of Barbara Firth’s illustrations from Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?
Firth is described on the rear of the card as a “much-missed friend of Walker Books” having died earlier this year.
Her Guardian obituary appeared as I was in the throes of closing the old ACHOCKAblog, and starting up this new ACHUKAblog, and the Christmas card’s arrival has alerted me to the fact that a link to Firth’s obituary was never posted here. So I am rectifying that now.
Barbara Firth [1928-2013], who has died aged 84, achieved success relatively late in life with her rich, warm and evocative illustrations for books such as Martin Waddell’s Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? Her realisation of Waddell’s touching story of Big Bear helping Little Bear overcome his fear of the dark by bringing him bigger and bigger lanterns, before taking him outside to show him how the moon – the biggest lantern of them all – is always there, touched a chord with parents and children. Firth created an engaging, rumpled and shambling Big Bear and an enchantingly bright-eyed and eager Little Bear. Their cave is a haven of cosiness and Firth’s illustrations are full of depth and surprise, as well as charm… …
Charlotte Zolotow, New York Times obit.
- Official Charlotte Zolotow website: http://www.charlottezolotow.com/
- Wikipedia (at time of posting rather shockingly brief): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Zolotow
- The Charlotte Zolotow Award, established in 1998, s given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year.
Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished author and editor of children’s books whose work — both her own titles and those of the writers in her stable — offered even the youngest readers a forthright view of emotionally fraught subjects like anger, envy and death, died on Tuesday at her home in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. She was 98.
Robert Leeson, children’s author, was born on March 31, 1928. He died on September 29, 2013, aged 85
In The Third-Class Genie (1975), which started as a newspaper serial, young Alec accidentally rescues a black genie who finds himself sadly out of touch with his new working-class surroundings and is finally arraigned as an illegal immigrant. This lively story, still in print in the Collins Modern Classics Series, gave Leeson ample opportunity to sound off against poverty, class, sexism and racism. It also revealed an outstanding talent for comedy. Another popular success, The Demon Bike Rider (1976), featured a gang of resourceful and good-humoured working-class children faced by what seems like a terrifying apparition.
Time was then shared between writing more light stories for young readers along with some serious historical novels. His trilogy starting with Maroon Boy (1974) and ending with The White Horse (1977) describes the adventures of a mixed-race youth caught up in Cromwell’s New Model Army during the civil war. Accurate in detail almost to a fault, it was still a fine achievement. In 1979 he was invited to write a novelisation of the popular BBC school series Grange Hill. He agreed, but only if left free to develop original plots while using the same characters. Five involving and amusing stories resulted, mostly composed of children’s dialogue, starting with Grange Hill Rules, OK? (1980) and finishing with Forty Days of Tucker J (1983).
Canadian author Claire Mackay – winner of five literary awards, including the Vicky Metcalf Award for her body of work and the Ruth Schwartz Award for One Proud Summer – has died aged 82.
Her good friend and fellow author Jean Little recalls, ““We always sat together in the first row at meetings, and I know we were very bad. I was at a meeting the other day, and it seemed to me it was very boring. I miss her terribly.”
The first thing everyone says about children’s author Claire Mackay is that she was funny. Other words and phrases come up – witty, generous, lover of words and language – but everyone starts with “funny.”
“She was killingly funny,” says children’s book author Tim Wynne-Jones. “You wanted to stand near her at meetings, whenever you got a chance, because she’d always have some great aside to make, especially when someone was yattering. Never nasty, but always funny and accurate.