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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014 3:45 pm
In Memoriam: Frances Foster
Posted by: Gillian Engberg
Frances Foster

Frances Foster

It’s with great sadness that we join the community of mourners for editor Frances Foster, who passed away last Sunday at age 83, following a long illness. During her 50-year career in children’s publishing, Frances shaped and nurtured the work of a remarkable and eclectic roster of talents, including Leo Lionni, Phillip Pullman, Kate Banks, and Peter Sís. This week, I revisited some favorite books that she helped bring into the world. (Here are a few that I just looked at: Louis Sachar’s Newbery Medal-winning HolesPeter Sís’ multi-award-winning The Walland the luminous and powerful Planting the Trees of Kenya, by Claire A. Nivola.)

I’ve also been revisiting the few conversations with Frances that I am fortunate to have had over the years. The first one was not long after I began working at ALA in 1998, as an assistant editor at Book Links magazine. In addition to speaking about young readers and their books, Frances also spoke about herself as a young reader—and as a young person, in general. Among many other things, I learned about her adventures as an English language teacher in Europe as a very young woman, before she entered publishing, and I learned about her profound interest in others’ stories, including my own. What might have been business as usual for Frances felt like a transformative moment of mentoring for me; her whole-hearted intelligence, sly humor, and gracious generosity made a deep impression that continues to guide how I read and recommend books, and how I listen to—and learn about—others. That’s just one personal memory of Frances. We invite you to join in and share your own remembrances—or tributes to her influential work. And as plans for a memorial service are announced, we’ll update this post with information. For now, Frances’ family asks that any donations in her memory go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Mass. 01002.

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