Sandra Horning’s Blog Post #2


Blog entry 2 – Every Word Counts!

All writers are familiar with the concept of “every word counts.” For writers of children’s picture books and beginning readers, every word literally counts. Most picture books published today have about 300 words. Many editors won’t even read a picture book manuscript much longer than that. Level 1 beginning readers are even shorter, with about 100 words. Keep in mind that, despite the low word count, a good story needs an arc, a plot, humor, and character development. It might seem like these stories are written quickly, and perhaps the first idea is written in a short period of time, but getting the text ready for publication can take many days, weeks, months, or longer to get right. Each word and every sentence is reviewed and revised many times. Here are some of the questions an author (and an editor) considers with each word and sentence:


Is the word necessary?

Is it the right word to convey the meaning you intend? (Does the word have more than one meaning?)

Do the challenging words have contextual clues to allow the reader to infer the definition?

Is the word count within the guidelines?


In an early beginning reader, an author needs to follow additional guidelines:

The words need to be simple enough for an emerging reader to pronounce and understand.

Contractions should be spelled out.

The words should be no more than two syllables.

Complex sentences should not be used.

The majority of the words in the text should be repeated, as you can’t introduce too many new or challenging words to an emerging reader.


I’ve been heartened to see that even someone as talented, prolific, and well known as James Marshall didn’t get every word right on his first few drafts. In looking through the dummies and drafts of his stories, I’ve enjoyed seeing his notes and eraser marks as he struggled to search for the best word.

For example, a George and Martha story usually has between 100 -150 words, but there is still much humor and character development packed into each simple story.  In one of my favorites, “The Trick” in George and Martha Back in Town, George can’t resist playing tricks on Martha, so Martha plans a trick of her own. Even at the final galley stage of the book, Marshall was still requesting changes to the text. For example, the sentence

“And when she discovered that the house slippers had been nailed to the floor, she was not amused.”

 was changed at the galley stage to:

age from galley, "The Trick" in George and Martha Back in Town (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 161). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Page from galley, “The Trick” in George and Martha Back in Town (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 161). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

“And when she found her house slippers nailed to the floor, she was not amused.”

The final sentence is much more succinct and flows better, while still maintaining the humor. Every galley page I’ve viewed has author edits similar to this page.




In the picture book The Cut-Ups Carry On, the cut-ups Spud Jenkins and Joe Turner take dance lessons and end up entering a contest with one of them dressed as a girl. In a dummy for the book Marshall describes the scene as Spud and Joe arrive at the studio for the contest:

At the T.V. Studio, Mary Frances and Charles Andrew Frothingham were just finishing up a superb tango.

“Superb” is crossed out and “flashy” is written above it. Then “flashy” is crossed out and “dazzling” is written, which is the final version in print.

At the T.V. Studio, Mary Frances and Charles Andrew Frothingham were just finishing up a dazzling tango.

“Dazzling” is a great choice that combines the essence of both “superb” and “flashy.”


Pgs. 28-29, dummy for The Cut-ups Carry On (James Marshall Papers Box 14:Folder 238) All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Pgs. 28-29, dummy for The Cut-ups Carry On (James Marshall Papers Box 14:Folder 238) All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.


In a dummy for The Cut-Ups Crack Up, Marshall describes Spud and Joe as they speed around town in a “borrowed” car.

At the corner of Maple and Elm, they passed by an astonished Mary Frances and Charles Andrews.

In the final version, “passed” was changed to a much better action verb: “sailed.”

At the corner of Maple and Elm, they sailed by an astonished Mary Frances and Charles Andrew.

Again, this is a very simple word change that greatly improves the sentence.

In the dummy for the beginning reader Three Up A Tree, the story begins with the characters looking at a tree house:

Some big kids down the block had made a treehouse.

The final version reads:

Some big kids down the street had built a swell treehouse.

 Three word changes, “block” to “street”,  “made” to “built”, and the addition of “swell” give this sentence a boost. Now the reader can imagine the kids building a treehouse, and adding “swell” shows how much they admire it.

Marshall paid so much attention to words that he even made suggestions on other author’s manuscripts that he was illustrating. His notes and papers make it clear that he shared suggested changes to words and sentences with the authors Harry Allard (of the Miss Nelson and the Stupid series) and Jeffrey Allen (Nosey Mrs. Rat, Bonzini, and the Mary Alice stories).

In Nosey Mrs. Rat the story begins with Mrs. Rat spying on her neighbor in the bath. Allen’s original manuscript read:

“I see that you are using lilac bubble bath,” Shirley Foster said.

“I personally prefer rose.”

Mrs. Davis stepped out of the bath and locked the window.

Marshall’s suggestion for changing the last line was as follows:

Mrs. Davis pulled down the shade.

This sentence was used in the final text. With fewer words Marshall made a funnier sentence and one that also worked better for the humor in the illustration. It is easier and funnier to show a shade being pulled down than to show a window being locked.


Pgs. 1-2, manuscript , Nosey Mrs. Rat (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 170). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Pgs. 1-2, manuscript , Nosey Mrs. Rat (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 170). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.



As you can see from the image, Marshall made many suggestions to Nosey Mrs. Rat. Many of them were used, including changing the title and main character from Nosey Shirley Foster to Nosey Mrs. Rat. It is rare for an illustrator to suggest text changes to the author. Most of the authors I know have never had an illustrator suggest changes. It is obvious that Marshall paid just as much attention to words, both his and others’, as he did to his illustrations. Although revising a manuscript over and over again can be tedious, Marshall’s papers and ultimately the success of his books remind me that every revision is worthwhile because every word does count, especially for the youngest readers. That said, I probably could have made this blog post a bit shorter! I will certainly be revising my work again before I send it out.





Norman H. Finkelstein to speak at UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center

The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center will host the launch of Norman H. Finkelstein’s new book, Schools of Hope on March 31, 2014 at 4pm.  If you haven’t seen the new store at One Royce Circle in Mansfield, CT, this is a wonderful opportunity to visit, see the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, meet Mr. Finkelstein and get a copy of Schools of Hope signed.  In addition to being a prolific author, Mr. Finkelstein is also a donor to the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and continues to add to his Papers. 

Norman Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein

The subtitle for the book is How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education and details how the wealthy president of Sears, Roebuck and Company decided to support schools for poor African American children in the South.  Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library in Holt, Michigan reviewed the book for School Library Journal and reports:

Gr 5-8–This highly accessible, beautifully illustrated book tells how a Jewish tycoon helped provide educational opportunities for countless African Americans. Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, used his millions to support social causes like YMCAs, hospitals, and universities. In 1911, his life’s purpose was forever changed after reading Up from Slavery and then meeting the author, Booker T. Washington, who introduced him to the deplorable educational opportunities offered African Americans in the South. Rosenwald put his personal philosophy of “Give While You Live” into practice by establishing the Rosenwald Fund for “the well-being of mankind.” Its largest accomplishment was to help build, furnish, and staff schools for African Americans in the rural South. Before the program ended in 1932, it had contributed funds to help build more than 5300 schools. Rosenwald Schools, as they were known, operated until the 1960s when they were closed due to forced school integration. Rosenwald did not just give money to build schools–he required community “buy-in” from both the black and white communities in an effort to promote racial reconciliation. This is a fascinating look at how one man’s vision changed the lives of more than 600,000 people through increased educational opportunities. The book is superbly illustrated with numerous black-and-white, excellently captioned photos. A first purchase, and of special interest for Jewish collections and communities with Rosenwald Schools.

Norman H. Finkelstein is an educator, editor, librarian and writer. For over thirty years he has been an instructor in the Prozdor High School Department of Hebrew College in Boston where he continues to teach courses in Jewish history.  Recently retired as a public school librarian, Mr. Finkelstein Norman is the author of eighteen nonfiction books. Two of his titles, Heeding the Call and Forged in Freedom, both published by the Jewish Publication Society, were winners of the National Jewish Book Award. His biography of Edward R. Murrow, With Heroic Truth (Clarion) received the Golden Kite Honor Award for Nonfiction. His recent titles include The JPS Guide to American Jewish History, (Jewish Publication Society), Plastics (Marshall Cavendish), Ariel Sharon (Lerner) and Three Across: The Great Transatlantic Air Race of 1927 (Boyd’s Mills Press).  He also served as the editor of the Jewish Publication Society’s series, The JPS Guides.

He holds B.S, Ed.M, and C.A.G.S degrees from Boston University and B.J.Ed. and M.A. degrees from Hebrew College which honored him with the Louis Hillson Memorial Prize for Excellence in Jewish Education. For nine summers he was a teacher and educational director at Hebrew College’s Camp Yavneh. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Association of Jewish Libraries.  For further information about Mr. Finkelstein, go to 

And don’t forget to join us on March 31 at 4pm for the book launch!


Meet Sandra Horning, James Marshall Fellow for 2014

Sandra Horning, of Chaplin, Connecticut, is the author of three children’s books:  The Biggest Pumpkin, a picture book illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker and due out later this year; Chicks!, a beginning reader illustrated by Jon Goodell and published by Random House in 2013; and The Giant Hug, a picture book illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev and published by Knopf in 2005.  The Giant Hug won several awards and has been translated into Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

Ms. Horning is studying the Papers of James Marshall to support the completion of a new beginning reader with the working title Crab and Snail.  She is researching word choice and length, Marshall’s revision process and his creative process from the first idea to publication.  This is Ms. Horning’s first of three blog posts in fulfillment of the Marshall Fellowship.  Welcome, Sandra!


Blog Post 1: Kids are Really Smart These Days


Most people think of James Marshall as an illustrator and vividly remember his characters, George and Martha, Miss Nelson, and Fox, among others, but I, as a children’s author myself, think of his words and how well crafted his stories are.  Since he wrote many of his stories under the name Edward Marshall, there may be people who don’t realize the large number of stories he wrote and illustrated. I’m thrilled to now have an opportunity to research how James Marshall may have created such memorable stories and characters.

As I dig into the collection, which is quite vast, I’ve been looking at story plots and character development, but Marshall’s endings are what keep jumping out. One of the reasons his books can be read over and over again is that his endings are always satisfying and funny. Since I am currently in the midst of writing a beginning reader, for the last few weeks I’ve been closely looking through drafts and dummies of Marshall’s beginning reader stories of Fox. I’ve noted several times how Marshall made a small comment in the margin near the ending: “Funnier ending” and “Make better.” When I compare the dummy to the final version in print, indeed, Marshall has always made a change to a better and funnier ending, just as he noted.

For example, in the story “Monday Morning” in the book Fox All Week, Fox jumps out of bed eager for the school field trip. When he looks out the window it is pouring down rain. He says, “This isn’t funny.” Fox is sure the field trip will be canceled and it will be school as usual. He then pretends to be sick so he can skip school.  Reading comics and having his mom wait on him, Fox is having a great time in bed when he hears voices outside his window. The last page of the story reads,

It was Miss Moon and the class.

“We are off on our field trip!” called out Carmen.

“A little rain can’t stop us!” said Miss Moon.


Marshall had many different lines ending the story:

“That’s just dandy!” said Fox.

And Fox felt just awful.

Fox couldn’t believe his ears.

“I could just die,” said Fox.


James Marshall dummy pg. 10.  All rights reserved.

James Marshall dummy pg. 10. All rights reserved.

A page from the dummy for the story “Monday Morning’ in  James Marshall’s book Fox All Week. Note “funnier ending?”  in the margin above the number 10. (James Marshall Papers:Box 7:Folder 131).  All rights reserved.  No reproduction of any kind allowed.





The ending in the final version is “This isn’t funny,” said Fox.  It is simple and subtle, and it ties into the beginning of the story, repeating Fox’s line when he thought the rain canceled the trip. It lets the reader know how Fox felt without saying it. It assumes the reader has the ability to get the understatement and humor.


In another story, “The Friday Dinner,” from the same book, Fox’s mother burns the dinner. Fox steps in and announces that he will make dinner. Then he clears everyone out of the kitchen. The reader hears Fox banging pots and pans. The last page of the dummy reads,

When dinner was served it was simply delicious. 


The last page as it was printed reads:

 Finally dinner was ready.

 “Fox,” said Mom, “These peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are simply delicious.”


The dummy ending was funny, but it is much funnier to have Mom refer to the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Plus, the illustration  might not be able to make it clear that it is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Again, as in the first example, the child reading it has to understand the humor: you don’t need pots and pans to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

In my final and favorite example, “Tuesday’s Lunch,” again from the same book, Fox and his friends are sick of the tuna sandwiches their mothers give them for lunch. They decide to teach their moms a lesson and throw the sandwiches over the schoolyard wall. Of course, later they are hungry and unhappy. As they leave school, the dummy with “Make Better” in the margins ends with the following:

On the way home Fox and his friends met a poor old cat.

“You look hungry,” said the cat.

“Would you like a tuna sandwich?”

“Oh yes!” They cried.

And they ate every bite.


James Marshall dummy pg. 16.  All rights reserved.

James Marshall dummy pg. 16. All rights reserved.

A page from the dummy for the story “Tuesday’s Lunch” in  James Marshall’s book Fox All Week. Note the “Make better” at the end of the text. (James Marshall Papers:Box 7:Folder 131).  All rights reserved.  No reproduction of any kind allowed. 




Below is the ending in print:

 On the other side of the wall they met a poor cat.

“I’m so happy,” said the cat.

“A nice lunch fell from the sky.”

“Three tuna sandwiches?” said Fox.

“Gosh,” said the old cat. “Kids are really smart these days.”


Once again, Marshall successfully made a better and funnier ending, one with additional meaning. Fox and his friends were not too bright when they decided to throw out their tuna sandwiches. The line “Kids are really smart these days.” adds an ironic note to the humor.

 So what is the secret behind his perfect endings? I think the secret is that Marshall trusts that the child reader is intelligent enough to understand the humor without spelling it out in a didactic way.  Children love to be in on a joke. Books with great endings are the books children remember and read again. This has led me to review some of my unpublished manuscript endings. Reading through them, I am taking a lesson from James Marshall and writing “Make better” and “Make funnier” next to my endings that need it! And, of course, I will keep in mind what Marshall himself stated: “Kids are really smart these days.”

ALA announces 2014 youth media awards

See the full story at  Congratulations to all, especially NCLC donor and CT Children’s Book Fair friend Mo Willems, for his Geisel Honor Book award for A Big Guy Took My Ball, published by Hyperion Books for Children.  Other past participants in the CT Children’s Book Fair to win major awards this year are Holly Black, for Doll Bones, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, a Newbery Honor Book; Aaron Becker for Journey, published by Candlewick Press, a Caldecott Honor Book; Rita Williams-Garcia for P.S. Be Eleven, published by Amistad, the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Authors; Bryan Collier for Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, published by Little, Brown and Company, the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustrators; and David Levithan for Two Boys Kissing, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a Stonewall Book Honor Award.   Fantastic!

2014 Caldecott, Newbery Winners announced!

Congratulations to Brian Floca, winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal, for his wonderful book Locomotive, which he wrote and illustrated, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.  The three Honor books are Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, published by Candlewick Press ;  Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle, published by Chronicle Books LLC; and Mr. Wuffles, written and illustrated by David Wiesner, published by Clarion Books.

The winner of the 2014 Newbery Award is Kate DiCamillo for her Ulysses: The illuminated Adventures, published by Candlewick Press.  The four Honor books are Doll Bones, written by Holly Black, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books; The Year of Billy Miller, written by Kevin Henkes, published by Greenwillow Books; One Came Home, written by Amy Timberlake, published by Alfred A. Knopf; and Paperboy, written by Vince Vawter, published by Delacorte Press.

Congratulations to all!

Three YA authors visit new Co-op

Braving a New England snowstorm yesterday, Chris Lynch, Brendan Kiely, and Jason Reynolds visited the new UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center.

Chris LynchChris Lynch is the Printz Honor Award-winning author of nearly a dozen books including the highly acclaimed young adult novels Pieces, Kill Switch, Angry Young Man and Inexcusable, a National Book Award finalist. Little Blue Lies, published this month, is his newest book. It is the gripping story of two teens who discover the danger of love.
Brendan KielyBrendan Kiely has published in Guernica, Big Bridge and other publications. Gospel of Winter is his debut novel. It is about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.
Jason Reynolds is the author of When I Was the Greatest, a gritty novel about life as an urban teen. He co-wrote My Name his Jason. Mine Too with is friend and artist Jason Douglas Griffin.
These works and many others by YA authors are available at the Co-op Bookstore or online at  Enjoy!



Cynthia Weill’s new book is a hit

Cynthia’s new work, Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family was published by Cinco Puntos Press of El Pasa, Texas, in English and Spanish.  “In Mexico, the skeleton is a beloved and humorous figure.  Its origins go back to pre-Columbian times.” (jacket).  Mi Familia Calaca coverThe papier-mâché skeletons used for the illustrations were created by Jesus Canseco Zarate, a young artist known as Chucho, from Oaxaca City, Mexico.  Chucho won a six-month scholarship to the art school Taller Rufino Tamayo, where he honed his skills in painting his figures and giving them more movement.  The story is told by Anita, who introduces each family member, from her “bratty” brother to her great-grandmother with her walker, not forgetting the pets.  Congratulations, Cynthia and Chucho!


Aaron Becker’s in the top 10!

Aaron Becker’s Journey: a wordless picture book was named one of The New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the year. We are honored that he will join us on Saturday the 9th for a presentation at 3:30pm at the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair. Congratulations Aaron!–Annual-List-of-the-10-Best-Illustrated-Childrens-Books/default.aspx

An Encounter with Robin Price

October 25 at 4 pm, Konover Auditorium, Dodd Research Center


For the closing reception for A Private and Sensuous Encounter: Women’s Fine Press and Artists’ Books, 1966-2013, we have invited Robin Price, printer and publisher, to share her artistic encounters in the world of fine press printing.

Price is an artist, letterpress printer and publisher, whose artists’ books have the craft sensibility of her fine printing background. The work of the press, under the umbrella of Robin Price Publisher has become a lifelong, interdisciplinary liberal arts education, and her press books are collected & exhibited internationally. The 25-year anniversary of her press was celebrated in 2010 with a traveling retrospective exhibition that originated at Wesleyan University Davison Art Center, “Counting on Chance: 25 Years of Artists’ Books by Robin Price, Publisher.”

Robin Price, Printer & Publisher:

For more information please contact:

How a Filmmaker Researches the Past

Fred Ho

from Steven De Castro’s film
Fred Ho’s Last Year

— Steven De Castro is a recipient of a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant to use the Fred Ho Papers held by Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.  A description of his research experience appears below.

Most folks visiting a library are doing so to write a book or a paper. But a library preserves not only the papers of our culture, but also its sights and sounds. And these audio and visual records are of particular interest, not just to writers, but to filmmakers.

Research on a historical film is similar to researching a book or paper. The director John Sayles, before producing Amigo (his drama set during the Philippine-American War), read over 100 books on the subject. The difference in documentary filmmaking is that after engaging in the scholarly work, one has to then engage in the business of negotiating and purchasing the rights to the video you have unearthed.

As a filmmaker, I have found Archives & Special Collections invaluable in my research for the upcoming documentary film, Fred Ho’s Last Year.


Enclosed within the walls of the Dodd Research Center’s archives are the sights and sounds created by one of the greatest avant-garde jazz artists of his generation – a prolific composer, a committed Asian American activist and public intellectual – Fred Ho (b. 1957).

Fred Ho is a 6-time Rockefeller Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, a 2-time National Endowment of the Arts recipient, the winner of an American Book Award and a Harvard Arts Medal. Despite these accomplishments, most people – even in the field of contemporary music – have never heard of him. Whether it is because of the fact that he is an outspoken Asian American (a rarity in the music industry), or whether it is because he infuses his own brand of leftist politics in most of his work, is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps the most compelling reason why such a prolific artist is not more widely known is that he refuses to be categorized. His music is too challenging to attract a popular fan base, and yet it embraces (and remakes) so many popular styles of music that it is not “out there” enough for other avant-garde musical cliques.

One of the most important facets of Fred’s art is that if you are buying his albums and enjoying his music, you are experiencing only a portion of his creative work. Fred is not only a musician, but an operatic composer whose works are meant to be both seen and heard at the same time. The only way to experience this, short of attending a performance, is through audio/visual media. The central repository of audio/visual records of Fred Ho’s work and public statements is in the Fred Ho Papers held by Archives & Special Collections.

Fred’s artistic and political direction profoundly changed when, in 2006, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Currently Fred’s condition is terminal and he has refused further chemotherapy. Incredibly, Fred still continues his work. As of this date, he has a concert with his orchestra at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and an upcoming book. The significance of the Fred Ho Papers to the fields of Asian American studies, art, and music is difficult to quantify, both for this generation of scholars and for future generations.

Most of the video within the Fred Ho Papers is undiscovered and unplayed. Video is (quite understandably) not of interest to scholars whose main interest is to publish papers and books. And although the video is quite visually fascinating and intellectually provocative, much of it is stored on magnetic tape that degrades with each passing year.


Through my research at Archives & Special Collections, I am able to tell a more comprehensive story of Fred Ho’s life and work on a greatly expanded timeline, through the use of archival video. The video shows Fred performing and speaking many years ago, before I began shooting. Through the skills of documentary storytelling, this material comes alive and brings the art and thought of Fred Ho to undiscovered audiences.

And yet, finding the material is only a first step. Under the Fair Use exception to the Copyright Act, a university is allowed to play these videos to a classroom of students. However, a filmmaker is not allowed to incorporate these materials into a film without authorization. So I had found the videos. Now what?

In addition to being a filmmaker, I am a lawyer. Through weeks of calls and internet searches, I was able to track down these rights holders for a release. The television production companies had their own release forms, but in one instance, I drafted the release for the company representative to sign.

Licensing of archival video footage for a film is expensive. Generally, institutions have different rate plans for licensing, which eases the cost for independent producers such as myself. Thankfully, one institution and most individuals I have asked have released their rights for free.

Due to the age of the material, many rights holders failed to locate the original high-quality versions of the footage within their own archives. Therefore, some of the video archives in the Fred Ho Papers turned out to be the only existing copies. In those cases, my research allowed me to acquire these materials and negotiate their release even when they were lost by the production company that made them.

When a video is made, it is usually made for a short term purpose. Production companies cover an event to place on the evening news. A performer may videotape his own performance for the purpose of reviewing it the following day. The maker of the video rarely intends to create a lasting archive. And yet, as a historical documentary filmmaker, I depend on the archival video at Archives & Special Collections – sometimes stored in archaic analog formats – to bring the subject alive.

Steven De Castro, J.D., is the Producer and Director of the upcoming feature documentary, Fred Ho’s Last Year. His research is made possible by the University of Connecticut’s ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES INSTITUTE, ARCHIVES & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AT THE THOMAS J. DODD RESEARCH CENTER, FRED HO FELLOWSHIP, and STROCHLITZ TRAVEL GRANT. You can contact him at

Marc Simont

Many Moons by James Thurber (Harcourt, 1990)

Many Moons by James Thurber (Harcourt, 1990)

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection mourns the loss of our good friend, Marc Simont. Mr. Simont placed a significant amount of his work here and joined us at the CT Children’s Book Fair four times between 1993 and 2002. He was talented, charming and witty, and will be sincerely missed.

Stray Dog retold and illustrated by Marc Simont (HarperCollins, 2001)

Stray Dog retold and illustrated by Marc Simont (HarperCollins, 2001)

The finding aid at Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center describes Mr. Simont:

Marc Simont was born November 23, 1915, in Paris, France to Joseph and Dolores Simont from the Catalonian region of northeastern Spain. Joseph was an illustrator and artist/reporter for L’Illustration in Paris. Because his parents moved frequently Marc attended schools in Paris, Barcelona, and New York and became a U.S. citizen in 1926. Though he later attended art schools he considered his father his greatest teacher. He studied art in Paris at Académie Julian, Académie Ranson, and Andre Lhoté School. In the U.S. he attended the New York National Academy of Design and Jerry Farnsworth’s summer school in Provincetown, Mass. He worked as assistant to mural painters Francis S. Bradford (1939 N. Y. World’s Fair) and Ezra Winter (Library of Congress).

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss (HarperCollins, 1949)

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss (HarperCollins, 1949)

Simont’s first illustration job was for a pulp magazine that folded before he could collect his $25. Eventually he became an author and illustrator of children’s books, greatly influenced by Ursula Nordstrom, editor of Harper Bros. He illustrated books by Ruth Krauss, James Thurber, Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, Karla Kuskin among others. His illustrations for Janice May Udry’s A Tree is Nice won the Caldecott Medal in 1957, and he received Caldecott Honors for his pictures in Ruth Krauss’s The Happy Day and his own The Stray Dog. Simont has also been recognized by the Child Study Association, Society of Illustrators, N.Y. Academy of Sciences, N.J. Institute of Technology, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor.  In 2008 his political cartoons were awarded the Hunter College James Aronson Award for “Cartooning With A Conscience.”

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber (Simon and Schuster, 1950)

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber (Simon and Schuster, 1950)

This curator’s favorite book is The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, by Karla Kuskin, published in 1982 by Harper and Row.  Kuskin’s story, in which “one hundred and five people are getting dressed to go to work”  is accompanied by Simont’s illustrations showing the musicians bathing, dressing, traveling to the concert hall, and “turning the black notes on white pages into a symphony.”Marc Simont "Philharmonic Gets Dressed"

A wonderful story about Simont is retold in his obituary which appeared in the New York Times on July 16, 2013.  Simont and Robert McCloskey lived together in Greenwich Village when McCloskey was working on his classic Make Way for Ducklings.  In order to study ducklings more thoroughly for his drawings and with Simont’s assent, he brought home a family of ducklings which lived in the bathtub for several months.

Rest in peace, Mr. Simont.

–Terri J. Goldich