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Simms Taback, None Better

JANUARY 6, 2012
I met Simms Taback shortly after I arrived in Manhattan in 1976. He was tall, broad-shouldered and handsome and spoke with a deep, resonant voice. And he was immensely talented. I liked him anyhow. We all loved the man; he was warm, self-effacing, generous and unpretentious.

Simms and I stayed in touch over the years via email, so I knew he was fighting a deadly cancer, but I was shocked and saddened when I read about his passing from an obituary in The New York Times.  Although I was aware that his days were numbered--my sister died of pancreatic cancer in 2009--it seemed that Simms, with his easy laugh and fearless, upbeat attitude, might beat the odds. The world has lost a great man, a great talent.

Simms did not make drastic changes in his style over the years, but his work--always excellent--got better and better over time. When he won his first Caldecott award, followed by a second one in short order, he became more sought after than ever. No one in the field of illustration was more deserving of the attention and accolades.

We are lucky to have many wonderful illustrators creating books for children these days, but I believe Simms to be the greatest of them all. His work is completely honest. His stories, his colorful designs and the characters he created over the decades never feel contrived.  Simms had the gift to make pictures that were mirror images of his spirit: kind-hearted, fanciful and pure.

My friend, Jean Marzollo, an editor and the author of the I Spy books for children, wrote a lovely remembrance of Simms on her website.