12 Jan REMEMBERING GERALD MCDERMOTT
We met in 1973 at at ALA convention soon after he won a 1972 Caldecott Honor Book For ANANSI THE SPIDER: A TALE FROM THE ASHANTI (Holt).
Already a prominent artist, Gerald was also a filmaker. His film version of ANANSI, was hailed by Wilson Library Bulletin as “the two most popular children’s films produced in 1970”.
Famous. Young. Dashing. And — looking for free lance work.
I was working at Scholastic at the time trying to get him some work. Oddly enough, he was a winner of a Scholastic Arts Award while he was in high school.
Years come. Years go. We met at many conventions always finding time to get together for something. We talked and talked and laughed. Gerald was infectious, witty, brilliant about the art of bookmaking. A treasure.
In 2003 Dutton published his brilliant, CREATION. Over cocktails at still another ALA meet, he autographed my copy in his bold, gold-pen lettering. And we talked about doing a book together — SKY MAGIC under the direction of Stephanie Lurie, then at Dutton. In 2004 we were contracted. We were both excited to work together.
He wrote: “I’m sure you will put together an amazing collection…and I’ll do my best to create some visual wonders to complement your inspiration…it (is) ABOUT TIME we worked together…and it would be deeply satisfying to at last ‘collaborate’ after all these years on our parallel paths.”
Gerald was planning the dummy.
I was in the clouds.
2005, 2006, 2007. Little communication. He was somewhat disappointed with the reaction to CREATION, although the book was well reviewed. He couldn’t or wouldn’t work. He was taken off the project.
From that date on until his latest, MONKEY: A TRICKSTER TALE FROM INDIA (Harcout, 2011) he remained quite silent.
More silence now from a master, a trickster himself, a friend.
In MONKEY he writes: “Climb on my back, my friend,” called Crocodile. “I’ll take you to the island.”
I want to think him now somewhere on his island where his brilliant magical words and pictures brighten a horizon.
Loss is such loss.