Robert Quackenbush, the American author, artist and educator who wrote and illustrated more than 200 books for young readers, died May 17. He was 91. Quackenbush began illustrating children's books in the 1960s, and in 1971 he was nominated for the Caldecott Medal for his illustrations for The Peasant's Pea Patch. During the 1970s he began writing and illustrating his own books. Among his most beloved and classic books are those featuring Detective Mole, the Miss Mallard Mysteries and Pete Pack Rat.
In a statement, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing noted that Quackenbush "was, and is, truly extraordinary. He celebrated the gift of life daily and found joy in every single moment. He was also a psychotherapist and his commitment to, and skill for, the arts, literacy and mental health has left a lasting impact on many, many lives."
His editor Karen Nagel, executive editor of Aladdin Books, observed: "Having first met Robert Quackenbush when he was well into his 80s, nothing could have prepared me--or anyone else on our team--for the exuberant force of nature that was Robert. His passion for books was utterly infectious, and his creativity, insight, and grace made him a one-of-a-kind creator and collaborator. Robert was particularly thrilled that his iconic Miss Mallard, Henry the Duck, and Sherlock Chick books (many published more than 30 years ago!), were embraced by a new generation of eager readers."
Quackenbush's work is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum, the Smithsonian, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Air Force Museum and the Norton Simon Museum. His achievements earned him a Gradiva Award, a gold medal from the Holland Society, and the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his Detective Mole series. Quackenbush's Miss Mallard Series was adapted into an animated television series by Cinar that continues to be shown around the world.
Throughout his career, Quackenbush traveled to speak to and educate school children around the world about his books, art, illustrations and writing. For more than 40 years, he taught children and adults the art of writing and illustrating in his New York City studio. Following 9/11, he worked on forming the Liberty Avenue program, helping children who had lost loved ones in the attacks to express and work through their feelings through art.