Shared from the 3/24/2021 Philadelphia Inquirer - Philly Edition eEdition

Children’s books author Joan W. Anglund, 95

Joan Walsh Anglund, 95, a prolific children’s author who earned the devotion of millions of readers with her sentimental depictions of little ones, their features often reduced to their allseeing eyes in illustrations that sought to capture the essence of childhood, died March 9 at her home in Litchfield County, Conn.

The cause was a heart ailment, said her daughter, Joy Anglund.

Mrs. Anglund produced more than 120 books that, translated into numerous languages, sold 50 million copies. No translation was needed for the emotion evoked by her illustrations, which became ubiquitous through their adaptation for greeting cards, calendars, figurines, and other collectible merchandise.

Working in pen and ink, Mrs. Anglund honed a signature style in which children’s round faces were rendered without mouths or noses. Much like children themselves, they were a tabula rasa, a screen on which young readers could project and try out their own new and unfamiliar emotions.

“I think perhaps I am trying to get down to the essence of a child — not drawing just a particular, realistic child, but instead I think I’m trying to capture the ‘feeling’ of all children — of childhood itself, perhaps,” Mrs. Anglund observed in reflections quoted in the reference guide Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults.

“This may be too why I find myself dressing the children in my books in a timeless manner,” she continued, “not really in any definite ‘period’ in time — but always with a vague sense of nostalgia.”

Her first book, A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You, was published in 1958 after her husband, Robert, discovered the manuscript and submitted it to the Harcourt publishing house in New York City, where the family lived at the time. A transplanted Midwesterner, Mrs. Anglund was consumed by loneliness and despaired that she might never find a companion in the city.

“I would look at the huge buildings around me and imagine that behind every window was someone who had the potential to be a friend,” she once said, according to an obituary that appeared in Publishers Weekly.

Her ruminations on friendship became the germ of her book, which Ellen Lewis Buell, a reviewer of children’s literature for the New York Times, described as “small, pretty” and “deceptively slight-looking.” For any child who has ever felt left out, she wrote, Mrs. Anglund’s “theme — that friendship is where you find it — can be a very reassuring experience.”

Mrs. Anglund went on to produce dozens more books, finding particular success in the early years of her career with Love Is a Special Way of Feeling (1960), Christmas Is a Time of Giving (1961), and Spring Is a New Beginning (1963).

Robert Anglund died in 2009. Their son, Todd Anglund, whose childhood fascination with his cowboy hat and boots made him the model for her book The Brave Cowboy (1959) and its sequels, died of a heart attack in 1992.

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