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Goodbye, Jim

JimGiblinI was sorry to hear on Monday about the death of James Cross Giblin, editor, publisher, author, and friend–to me and countless others in the children’s book business. Back before it was even a Thing, Jim was writing narrative nonfiction about the damnedest things–windows, milk–and had the gift for conveying his own enthusiasm for his topics to readers who never knew they could find, say, chairs, so interesting. He probably could have rattled on with such books of social history forever, but Jim’s ambitions grew as he wrote a brave, early book about AIDS, and full-scale biographies of some of history’s villains: John Wilkes Booth, Joe McCarthy, and Adolf Hitler. And while Jim is noted for his nonfiction writing, he also contributed a fine and surprisingly sexy short story to Marion Dane Bauer’s 1994 gay YA anthology, Am I Blue?

The Horn Book remembers Jim Giblin–who would have enjoyed autocorrect’s insistence that he be called Jim Goblin–with an excellent history of children’s nonfiction he wrote for us in 2000 and a more recent Talks With Roger sponsored by the Highlights Foundation, which has founded a scholarship for writers in Jim’s name. Give.


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. Susan Golden says:

    We had the pleasure of James Cross Giblin’s insight and warmth at a symposium I helped organize at Appalachian State University many years ago. He made all the students feel comfortable and taught them a lot too. Humble, charming, and fun to be with. He will be missed.

  2. Myra Zarnowski says:

    A wonderful, kind, intelligent man. I had the pleasure of presenting with him at a conference. I will miss him.

  3. Joanna Rudge Long says:

    Almost 20 years ago I asked Jim about his next project. “Windows,” he said, with his radiant grin — and windows began to open in my mind as I imagined the dimensions he would discover in that simple-seeming topic. And so it was, from the book’s title (“Let There Be Light,” 1988) to its impeccable historical research to its creative window into the world of ideas. Quintessential Jim. Joanna Long

  4. Sharon Rawlins says:

    I’m sorry to hear this! I particularly loved his books Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth and When Plague Strikes: The Black Death, Smallpox, AIDS. He was one of those authors who knew how to make any nonfiction topic he wrote about enticing and exciting.

  5. SO sad to lose such a tender, loving individual. Jim published one of my very first collections when he was editor at Seabury Press back in the ’70’s.

  6. Jim would have loved what you said about him, Roger; I know I did, especially the part about autocorrect’s insistence on calling him Goblin! I can hear him laughing now. Even though I haven’t seen him in quite a while, I’m going to miss him. The last time I saw him, we got lost together in Nashville’s Opryland Hotel and we both swore we’d never go back to Nashville if another conference was held there. But he was a fun person to get lost with.

  7. Jim was truly inspirational. His narrative nonfiction grabbed me when fiction thought it had the only hold on me. He was kind, encouraging and supportive of writers. I will miss him.

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