The death of Patricia McKissack earlier this week at age 72, four years after the death of her husband and frequent collaborator Fredrick, is a huge loss to the children’s literature community. Their son Fredrick Jr.’s description is heart-achingly poignant: “In a way, I think my mother died of a broken heart.”
In Roger’s review of her latest book Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood (illustrated by Brian Pinkney), he describes her as “children’s book royalty and storyteller supreme.” According to Andrea Davis Pinkney, “Nobody could tell a story like Pat McKissack could! She was a gifted griot with a heart of gold. So many of us stood on Pat’s shoulders — she was a strong-strong lady whose graceful ways supported us in dreaming big. Pat’s collaborations with Fred, her husband and soul-mate, let us look far and wide to find ourselves through the power of characters, settings, and wordplay that sunk deep, settled, and brought so much joy.”
The McKissacks began creating children’s books together in the 1980s, beginning with Paul Lawrence Dunbar: A Poet to Remember. On her own or in collaboration with her husband, Patricia McKissack went on to write over one hundred books, and it’s nearly impossible to choose just a few to highlight. In 1993, Patricia won the Coretta Scott King Author Award and a Newbery Honor for The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural; she and Fredrick together won the Coretta Scott King Author Award in 1995 for Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, and in 2014 they were awarded the prestigious Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 1993 they won a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?
Here are some Horn Book articles by and about the McKissacks.
“You Can Be President” by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
“For the McKissacks, Black Is Boundless” by Barbara Bader
The McKissacks’ 1993 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award speech for Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?