Aug 16, 2015

A Legacy of Literature: Author Ann McGovern

The world of children's literature lost a legacy recently when author Ann McGovern died at age eighty-five. 
As the New York Times obituary stated, 

"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."

 Many of her books are out of print, but well worth tracking down. One in particular that I always shared with students, regardless of their grade level, is THE LADY IN THE BOX, written by McGovern and illustrated by Marni Backer. It's a sensitively told story in which urban siblings are torn between their street-savvy awareness of "stranger danger" and their instinct to offer support and human contact to a homeless woman in their neighborhood. It unfolds convincingly and opens hearts and minds to homeless people as actual individuals in our communities.

In addition to this and other classics, I remember her for the popularity of her titles in the Scholastic ...If You Lived... series. 
I began this blog several years ago when trends in digital media and school testing-pressures led some to question if picture books were becoming relics of the past. Since then that question has been refuted by many voices beyond my own. Picture book publication has trends of its own, including reduced word counts and a renewed emphasis on nonfiction content.
 On both counts McGovern's titles remain timeless. Some of her out-of-print titles in my classroom were taped, rebound, and held together with love and luck. Like magpies, kids are attracted to glossy crisp covers, but fascinating information told in an appealing voice overrides a crumbling cover to win kids' attention and loyalty.
The same is true for her fiction titles noted in the NYT quotation.
Nothing says "read me" like stories revealed through the perfect pairing of language and illustration.
An example of that magical combination is  TOO MUCH NOISE, illustrated by the incomparable Simms Taback. This, too, is a story that spans ages from the earliest lap-sitting listeners to the oldest readers in the room. The story, the flow of language, the comic and colorful images, and the story itself offer  timeless delights.
The awareness that her work will find its way into the hearts and minds of generations to come should comfort the family and friends who enjoyed the privilege of having her in their lives. Check out her books today.

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