In Memory: Kathleen Krull

By Stephani Martinell Eaton

Kathleen Krull, award-winning author and editor, died after a brief illness on Jan. 15. She was 68.

Author Kathleen Krull Remembered After Unexpected Death from School Library Journal. Peek: “Children’s author Kathleen Krull died unexpectedly over the weekend. Her sister-in-law announced her death on Krull’s Facebook page, sharing that Krull had been diagnosed with cancer a few months ago but the original prognosis was good.”

Obituary: Kathleen Krull by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Illustrated biographies became Krull’s format of choice, and she was often praised in reviews for her lively writing and her knack for including quirky or unusual tidbits about her subjects.”

Born on July 29, 1952 in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; she later moved to Wilmette, Illinois. Krull was an avid reader and played many musical instruments in her childhood. Krull studied music at Northwestern University. Immediately after graduating from Lawrence University with a B.A. in English, she began an editorial career at Harper and Row. She also held editorial positions at Raintree Publishing and Harcourt Brace during her career.

In 1984, Krull became a full-time writer. While one of her first books, Songs of Praise, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Hartcourt, 1989) combined her love of music and writing she soon became a prolific author of illustrated biographies. One of her most famous being the Lives of . . .  series which are collective biographies, featuring 20 historical figures in each volume (also illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt).

She also penned the Giants of Science series, middle grade books about the lives of scientists illustrated by Boris Kulikov. Krull approached her subjects by showing how their work built upon the body of knowledge available to them. She says on her website, “I like to think of my new Giants of Science books as the ‘anti-Eureka’ series. These are biographies of real human beings that show how scientific discovery is never a revelation arriving in a single, mind-blowing flash.”

Krull’s oeuvre is also abundant with picture book biographies of single subjects often looking at “little ironies, amusing juxtapositions, concrete details, strengths and weaknesses.” Not only had she authored books on historical figures such Louisa May Alcott, Abraham Lincoln, and Kubla Khan but also more contemporary figures such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Biden, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Over Krull’s career, her titles received many awards. Most notably, in 2004 Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Hartcourt, 2003) received a Pura Belpré Honor for illustration and The Boy Who Invented TV, illustrated by Greg Couch (Dragonfly, 2014) was an Orbis Pictus recommended book in 2010.

In 2011, Krull received The Children’s Book Guild of Washington D.C. Nonfiction Award, which is presented annually to “an author or illustrator whose total body of work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.” Mary Quattlebaum who chaired that year’s Nonfiction Award Committee had this to say of Krull: “[Her] zest for history, politics, music, art and many other subjects shines through her fine writing. Krull not only informs but excites her young readers—and helps spark their curiosity to learn more.”

As news of her death broke, friends, fans, and colleagues reacted: John Schu, Donna Janell Bowman, Erin Dealy. Educators and librarians urged their followers to read her works: Rachel Windenhammer, Margo Jantzi.

Cynsational Notes

Stephani Martinell Eaton holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she won the Candlewick Picture Book Award and the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle grade fiction. She is represented by Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary Agency.