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>This time, it was a friend.

>Editor Frances Foster called this morning to tell me that writer Janet McDonald died yesterday in Paris, her adopted home. I never met or even spoke with Janet, but my admiration for her books led to my interest in her writing something for the Horn Book, which led to one of the richest–and definitely the most riotous–files in my email archives. There was no joke she would dare not make, but unlike many funny people, she was just as appreciative of other’s (mine, I mean) jokes as she was expert at making her own. After we had finished working on her Horn Book article, our correspondence continued, with sometimes a dozen emails in a day when I was allegedly working at home and she was up late in Paris, allegedly doing the same: “I need a new YA book idea and fast, now that I’m done with the one Frances was awaiting. Or how will I pay my rent? It’s too hot to set up my Love Tent in the Bois de Boulogne next to the Brazilian trannies (plus, those gorgeous wenches would get much more traffic than me).” We talked gossip, politics, sex, aging, love troubles–books, rarely. In the past year, there were some breaks in our emails due to Janet’s illness, which we both thought she’d beat–she told me about doing a victory dance with Kiley Minogue in the chemotherapy ward–but when I didn’t hear from her for a good long time I knew it had come back. I’ll really miss her.

Her books will remain a signal contribution to YA literature: smart, teen-intriguing tales set in the African American neighborhoods of the Bronx and Brooklyn, told by someone who really knew what she was talking about, and who knew that a situation was never enough; you need a story. And while Janet’s books frequently deal in tough issues, plenty of her characters have a gift for backtalk that could have you, as Janet often said, “on tha flo’!” Her novel Off-Color will be published this November by Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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.



  1. >My condolences on the loss of your friend.

  2. >Oh, man. What terrible news.

  3. >I’m so sorry for your loss. Friendships like that are rare, on- or offline.

  4. rindawriter says:

    >I LOVE this quote in her article for you:

    “The transmission of moral values I leave to the literati preachers.”

    May the light of her words endure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    >I too never met Janet McDonald but corresponded w/ her via email; and chatted w/ her on the phone. I was shocked when I received an email from her friends advising of the arrangements. Just like you, I feel saddened at the loss of this gracious lady.
    Janet Anderson-Davis

  6. >I was an email friend of Janet’s. She surely changed our hearts for the better, before leaving, even though we are saddened to let her go. I am forever grateful to her for influencing me to be a better person and to appreciate this life fully. Oh, we know she’s not gone. She stays in our broken hearts to help them mend and we have all her books!

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