of the Center for Children's Books:
Gone But Not Forgotten
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.
Stalwart children's literature contributor Paula Danziger died this July, having published dozens of books and having achieved instant name recognition from just about any children's-literature reader of the last thirty years.
Like many established literary figures, Danziger had her critics, but she
was less interested in the opinion of adult commentators than that of her young
audience. Unafraid of making audience satisfaction her primary goal, she was
a regular winner of children's choice awards and the author of titles that circulated
readily, often simply because of word of kid mouth, from The Cat Ate My Gymsuit
(1974) to her more recent Amber Brown series. While there was a familiar
Danziger flavor to her rueful and humorous stories of everyday trials, she also
had an appetite for exploration, writing narrative in email, narrative interwoven
with scrapbook art, narrative for young adults, and narrative for early readers.
This season sees the release of her first picture book, I Was Here First,
Barfburger Baby, in which the classic topic of dethronement anxiety is given
a gleefully authentic yet also reassuring take.
Throughout her career, her writing evinced sympathetic understanding but also a certain philosophical turn--even if a situation was awful, it could still be funny. She carried this philosophy to the end and even after it, with a formal death notice that assured people that it wasn't that she was avoiding their calls--she had passed away.
She leaves behind many readers who enjoyed her books very much; a considerable legacy indeed.
--Deborah Stevenson, Editor
The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. Delacorte, 1974 (BCCB 1/75)
Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon; illus. by Tony Ross. Putnam, 1994. (BCCB 6/94)
I Was Here First, Barfburger Baby; illus. by Brian Karas. Putnam, 2004. (BCCB review to come)
*Cover illustration by G. Brian Karas from Barfburger Baby, I Was Here First ©2004. Used by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons.