Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 14, 2011

Children’s Book Industry Mourns

The Death of a Children’s Book Author by David Caruba 

On Wednesday of last week I read with sadness that author Steven Kroll had passed away.  Judging from his output, over 90 published picture books, MG and YAs, you would think he lived to 143.  In actually, he was 69.  And he was funny.  But let’s get to that in a minute.

By all accounts, Steven was a highly successful author, A-tier for at least three decades, maybe more.  He was well liked, sought after by publishers, and respected by other writers.  Yet you’d be hard pressed to find any mention, outside of a single sentence Publisher’s Lunch, of his passing (beyond the obvious—his website is down, or at least it is as I type this).

So to put his death in perspective, to my mind Steven Kroll was a great picture book writer, and a genuinely nice person.  I didn’t know him well personally—only met him once—but did like his work.  And he was funny.  So let’s get into that now.

Long ago, in PTT (pre-Temean Times…I know..perish the thought), the New Jersey chapter was small and based in the Madison area.  Don Hinkle was regional advisor, and we used to host an amazing annual conference of maybe forty members at the Madison Public Library.  Things were more genteel then (writers actually cared about each other and helped each other to succeed), and Don could be counted on to attract a huge number of industry professionals.

Huge being three, maybe four, and they consisted of one or two editors and one or two authors/illustrators.  One of these one year was Steven Kroll.

If memory serves, he was living in New York then, and came armed not with PowerPoint slides or elaborate graphics, but with a handful of his picture books.  One featured pigs.  Pigs were funny.  And rather than deliver a Pulitzer speech on tickling young funny bones, Steven read from his stories.  And we all laughed.  During one of the breaks, he hung out.  We swapped jokes (we being members, I was kind of shy back then).  We laughed some more.

I associate him, his picture books, the conference and the laughter, with everything that I liked about being a young writer and trying to break into this industry.  Though I didn’t know Steve Kroll well, I’ll miss him.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who will do so, or who has fond memories of him.  Next time I receive a rejection, I intend to revisit some of his work.  He was funny then, and I have no doubt he’ll bring a smile to me even today.

Thank you David for writing this.  Steven was known to a lot of New Jersey members.  He had an apartment in NYC and a home in Bucks County, PA.  Our condolences to his wife and family.  He will be missed.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. David, it sounds like this was very intimate and fun—probably more like the Chapter events that take place now BETWEEN the annual conference 🙂

    Thanks for writing this because, honestly, I wasn’t familiar with Steven’s work, but now I’ll check it out and think of these lovely things you said as I’m reading 🙂

    Like

    • Donna,

      Isn’t that funny that someone can be so successful and still not be well-known. Thought I should honor him in some way. I never expected to lose him at such an early age.

      Kathy

      Like

      • Kathy, I’ve found that this has actually happened to me pretty often—that I’m not familiar with authors that have had so much published! I’m alway shocked ’cause over the years, I’ve done a lot of reading about the industry, you know? Anyway, I’m glad to know of him.

        I was disappointed that my Barnes didn’t have his books, but I’m thinking the library probably does 🙂
        Donna

        Like

  2. Steven was one of the first people I ever showed my picture book texts to after we met about two years ago. He was kind, generous with his time, and encouraging. I wish I’d gotten to know him better.

    And what an amazing number of books!

    My son loves Steven’s book, “Patches Lost and Found”.
    We’ll keep reading his stories, and I will always remember him.

    Like

    • Mimi,

      Glad you got to meet him. That’s what is nice about writing, you have a chance that someone may remember you through your books.

      Kathy

      Like


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