In Memory: Author-Illustrators Faith Ringgold & Étienne Delessert

Cynsations is celebrating its 20th anniversary by switching to a quarterly publishing schedule, featuring in-depth interviews and articles. Thank you for your ongoing support and enthusiasm!

By Gayleen Rabakukk

Author-Illustrator Faith Ringgold

From Publishers Weekly, “Award-winning visual artist, children’s book author-illustrator, and teacher Faith Ringgold, widely acclaimed for her works depicting African American heroines and themes, and for her unique “story quilt” medium, died on April 13 at her home in Englewood, N.J. She was 93.”

Ringgold earned art degrees from City Collge of New York and worked as an art teacher in public schools in Harlem and the Bronx in the 1950s and 1960s. Her first solo exhibition took place at New York’s Spectrum Gallery in 1967, followed by another show in 1970, and featured political paintings from her American People series, according to her website. In 1980 her art shifted to quilt-making, in collaboration with her mother, Madame Willi Posey, a fashion designer. She soon began making story quilts “as a way of publishing her unedited words. The addition of text to her quilts had developed into a unique medium and style all her own.”

Ringgold became an author-illustrator with the publication of Tar Beach (Crown, 1991). See a 2016 video of Ringgold reading the book, that includes stills of many interior spreads, for NPR’s YouTube channel here. Ringgold received that first book contract after Crown editor Andrea Cascardi saw a poster advertising one of Ringgold’s art exhibitions and reached out to the artist. The book received the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and a Caldecott Honor in 1992. Ringgold’s original “Tar Beach” story quilt is now in the Guggenheim Museum’s permanent collection.

Ringgold published 19 more books for young readers, including Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky (Crown, 1992), My Dream of Martin Luther King (Crown, 1996) and If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks (Simon & Schuster, 1999). Her last picture book was We Came to America (Dragonfly Books, 2022).

Author-Illustrator Étienne Delessert

“Swiss self-taught artist and animator Étienne Delessert, globally lauded for the surrealistic, wildly imaginative images in his more than 80 children’s books, died on April 22 in Lakeville, Conn., following a battle with cancer. He was 83,” reported Publishers Weekly.

Delessert illustrated more than 80 books, with some translated in 14 languages. His first picture book, The Endless Party, written with Eleonore Schmid was published in 1967 by Harlin Quist Books, and hailed for its bold visual style.

Delessert was twice honored by the Premio Grafico of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, received 13 gold and 14 silver medals from the American Society of Illustrators and the Hamilton King Award and was a finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010. From the artist’s website, “In 2017 he created in Switzerland the Maîtres de l’Imaginaire Foundation: a vast collection of originals of the best illustrators of children’s books, as well as an ambitious program of reading narrative pictures. It had large exhibitions in Strasbourg and Paris in 2018 and in Bologna in 2019. In 2020 it went to the Tsinghua University Art Museum in Beijing.”

After some criticized his work for being too avant-garde for children, Delessert consulted child psychologist Jean Piaget. The two collaborated for How the Mouse Was Hit on the Head by a Stone and So Discovered the World (Doubleday, 1971). In the late 1970s, Delessert began collaborating with designer Rita Marshall, and both consulted for Creative Education. Delessert and Marshall married in 1985 and moved to Connecticut and continued to create books together. Their titles, I Hate to Read, written by Rita Marshall, illustrated by Delessert (Creative Company, 1992) and I Still Hate to Read (Creative Company, 2008) were inspired by their son.

Delessert’s most recent title was Nonsense! Book 1, written by Edward Lear (Creative Company, 2023).

Cynsational Notes

Gayleen Rabakukk holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma. She has published numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and two regional interest books for adults.

She serves as board member for Lago Vista’s Friends of the Library and also leads a book club for young readers at the library. She’s active in Austin SCBWI and has taught creative writing workshops for the Austin Public Library Foundation. She loves inspiring curiosity in young readers through stories of hope and adventure. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.