it was quite a shock when Peter D. Sieruta’s brother John posted Saturday evening on Peter’s Facebook account that Peter had suddenly died the previous night, complications from a fall, it seems. Peter was already a Horn Book legend when I came here in 1996; he was among the first reviewers for Anita Silvey’s new Horn Book Guide and would contribute hundreds of reviews to each issue (they paid, he told me, for annual theater trips to New York). I soon had him reviewing for the Horn Book Magazine (the help with the “boy books” being greatly appreciated) and his reviews were always crisp and astute. He also contributed many columns and articles to the Magazine, including “Dear Clueless” (which was reprinted in a children’s literature textbook by someone who did NOT get the joke) and, most recently, an April Fools’ spoof for Read Roger. (I was feeling distinctly un-clever and drafted Peter, who said “well, I have three or four ideas for my own blog and can’t possibly post them all, so sure.”) But best of all were the masses of material never intended for publication that came into our office via post and email with great regularity. I remember a beautiful handmade baby book he constructed for Jennifer Brabander when she had her second child, and there was a side-splitting stream of letters and sample reviews from one “Dawn Layton,” busily babysitting and finishing up her G.E.D. but intent on a career as a Horn Book reviewer. Dawn tended to not go beyond the cover in her review preparation, sample: “The Giver is a book about an old man who gives.”
At the time of his death Peter was working on a book with Julie Danielson and Betsy Bird. Their book, tentatively titled Wild Things! : The True, Untold Stories Behind the Most Beloved Children’s Books and Their Creators, will be published by Candlewick Press next year. I’m sure it will be great: of anyone I knew, Peter always had the best historical gossip about children’s books and he would track a rumor to its source like a bloodhound. There was no one in this field like him, and he will be missed.