P.D.S.

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.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Oh, that is so sad. I loved his blog, and his Newbery-related anecdotes were always fascinating.

  2. Peter even had an April Fool’s joke for *my* blog, which came to me unsolicited. I would have done it if I’d had time, but I thanked him and told him I’m lucky to get up the posts that I do. Clever ideas just dripped from his brain at all times.

    This is all so sad and wrong. He was always so on top of news and so opinionated about it all that I can imagine him now saying something like, “can you believe this happened to me?” and he’d be emailing me and Betsy about it, covering it at his own site, rounding up links and cracking jokes about it.

    He was also very kind and so modest about his talents. To a fault, really, as Betsy has noted. I wish he could hear the kind words spoken about him now. He also loved his family deeply, and I hope others’ kind words bring them comfort now.

    I will miss him, and it’ll be sad to have further manuscript and book discussions without him. He was excited about the book’s release.

    • While I didn’t know him, I dreamt last night that you and Betsy were incorrect on this news of his untimely death. I wish my dream were true. I am so sorry for your loss.

  3. I love the quip his brother posted this morning: “Ashes to ashes, dust jacket to dust jacket.”

  4. Jennifer Buehler says:

    It won’t be the same awaiting ALA award announcements without Peter’s predictions and stories. I’ll always remember the photo he posted of sleeping with the Printz contenders two years ago. I loved learning about children’s literature from his blog, and I marveled at his vast knowledge and interesting observations. Though I never met Peter, I feel I’ve lost a friend.

  5. We always loved Peter’s writing on his “Children’s Book Collecting” blog or whenever it turned up in the pages of Horn book. He had the rarefied gift of subtle wit and sophisticated humor not often seen inside the world of children’s book reviews. His “Vamped-up Newbery’s” was fantastic! Thank you for reminding us. We hope that more of his short works will see the light of day or be collected for all to enjoy, especially those “masses of material never intended for publication” you mention in your tribute. His devoted following would love to have a peek at them.

  6. Helen Schinske says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. What a shock. Peter and I had some very pleasant conversations on his blog, and I will greatly miss him.

  7. I’m so saddened by the news of Peter’s death & find myself echoing the comments of so many others…I never met Peter, but through his blog & his Facebook presence, I too feel I’ve lost a friend. And I WISH I did have the privilege of knowing him personally. I was first awed by his knowledge of YA & children’s lit, charmed by his wit & humor, and finally, touched by his kindness. This time last year, my dearest friend was in a car accident which caused traumatic brain injury & put her in a coma. Peter didn’t know me…I was just one of many followers of his blog, but his concern for HER condition, his good wishes, prayers & support were so genuine. I was truly touched & won’t forget him.

  8. I’m another person who only knew Peter online but hoped that, as a fellow Midwesterner, I’d get to meet him someday. When I remember Peter’s stories, the word that comes to my mind is generosity. He was so generous in sharing little-known anecdotes of the book world, historical information, advice on collecting, and even stories of his childhood. He welcomed everyone to join in the conversation on his blog and his Facebook, but unlike some people who are looking for as many “friends” as possible, Peter did it without any sense of ego whatsoever. His attitude seemed to be that if you possessed even a fraction of his passion for children’s books, you *were* a friend. I know I feel like I’ve lost a friend, even though in the grand scheme of things I barely knew him. I’m so sad that Peter didn’t have a chance to do everything he was looking forward to, and I’m so sad for his friends and family who have lost him. Farewell, Peter.

  9. I still can’t believe it. I’m reeling.

  10. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Jennifer, Peter loved awards and their drama. For a while there, he had a contact at one of the wire services who told him what was winning the Newbery and Caldecott Medals the night before the press conference. Sometimes, he would tell us.

  11. Suzan Alteri says:

    I worked with Peter at Wayne State University for four years. We worked together with the Eloise Ramsey Collection for Young People and with the juvenile books. I will always remember his expertise in children’s literature, the twinkle in his eye when we would talk about our favorite and not-so-favorite books, who was rumored to win what awards, and also life. He was wonderful man who died before his time. Rest in Peace, Peter.

  12. I never heard this information before about Peter having an ALA inside connection or source at the wire service… seems like a fantasy, but a great one!

  13. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, Colleen? Amazing that Roger is letting us in on this secret, even now. And hard to imagine that Peter could keep himself from telling you, his source for the books he wanted so badly. Think back: were there times when he just happened to order a few books that–well, how about that–were awarded prizes the next day? I bet he would have done it by ordering a whole batch of “contenders” with the winning books in the mix, and you would have just thought he was good at judging good books and predicting the winners.
    It is so cool to be putting together a complex portrait of this man we each knew in different ways. I find myself imagining him listening in and enjoying it immensely.

  14. I wish I’d met Peter in person. In the last year, we started talking on Facebook and his blog. I compiled our conversations at my site:
    http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2012/05/peter-d-sieruta.html

  15. Peter read many book reviews, blogs and lists of mock Newbery and Caldecott awards, examining all these things to make sure he wasn’t missing any books he should know about. He purchased most everything with his own money, rarely receiving comp copies from publishers –there was a friend at Random house that did send Peter review copies and I gave him many galleys that were sent my way to help him with his blogging. I asked some of my reps if he could be on a reviewers list – but I never received assistance with that. He always wanted the finished books if he thought there was a chance of them gaining recognition. After the awards were given in January he couldn’t keep all the books he invested in, and he donated the surplus to the Wayne State University library.

    As far as receiving insider tips, I think he preferred trying to figure it out for himself, like a puzzle, after reading, seeing and discussing all the information available. It was a badge of honor using his intelligence, logic and detective skills to uncover noteworthy books.

    There was a tip he was given for one of the awards this past January. It sounded a little tricky the way this information was worded and it didn’t pan out (but the book mentioned was a logical and deserving choice) -a good reason not to trust tips.

  16. We miss our very dear Betty MacDonald fan club member Peter Sieruta so much.

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