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R.I.P. Eve Bunting, 94, Northern Ireland-born Edgar winner & author of 250 juvenile books

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Oct 20, 2023, 1:32:58 PM10/20/23
She grew up in Maghera, Northern Ireland and moved, in the 1950s, to Scotland and then to the U.S. Her first book was published in 1971.

She died on Oct. 1, in Santa Cruz, California.


...In her autobiography for "Something About the Author”, Mrs Bunting recalled that while at boarding school in Methodist College Belfast, they had no radios, so students served up their own entertainment. “Perhaps it was there, in the telling of tall tales after ‘lights out,’ that I got my first taste of storytelling,” she wrote. “It was certainly there that I developed my lifelong love of books and reading.”

From the Publisher's Weekly obit:

...Though she wrote about other cultures and countries, she often drew inspiration from the lore and geography of her homeland, as well as her childhood experiences there, for her stories. Her historical novel SOS Titanic (Harcourt, 1996), follows 15-year-old Barry O’Neill, sailing from Ireland to New York City on the ill-fated ship. The Banshee, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (Clarion, 2009), is a ghost story set in Ireland, and in Ballywhinney Girl, also illustrated by McCully (Clarion, 2012), a girl and her grandfather find a mummified corpse in one of Ireland’s peat bogs.

“Once I got started, I couldn’t stop,” Bunting said in a 2010 interview with Reading Rockets, explaining what she told children who asked why she had written so many books. “Mostly I write picture books, because that’s my favorite genre to write,” she added. “I love to write picture books for the older child that can also be read and used by adults and teachers in classrooms.”

In that vein, she wrote numerous picture book texts that address serious themes. Among those are The Wall, illustrated by Ronald Himler (Clarion, 1990), about a father and son traveling to the Vietnam Memorial to find the grandfather’s name; Fly Away Home, illustrated by Himler (Clarion, 1991), about a homeless father and son living in a Chicago airport terminal; and Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz (Harcourt, 1994), in which a boy and his mother witness the riots in Los Angeles, which won the 1995 Caldecott Medal. She noted that her more complicated works contained “hope for the future” even if they may not have a happily-ever-after ending.

In all, Bunting created more than 250 books for young people. Her numerous accolades and honors include the Kerlan Award, the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery (Coffin on a Case, Harper, 1991), and the Regina Medal (1997), given by the Catholic Library Association...


...In “The Cart That Carried Martin” (2014), illustrated by Don Tate, Mrs. Bunting explored the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the battered, mule-drawn wagon that carried his coffin.

“The cart was not heavy,” she wrote. “The coffin was not heavy. The man inside it was not heavy. His great spirit had been the heaviest part of him. It could not be kept in a coffin.” When the wagon passes, someone asks, “Is it over?” The response is, “It will never be over.”...


...She was an only child. She described her father as a “big, rough, tough cattle-dealing man” whose exterior belied his love of poetry. Her mother worked in the post office.

Mrs. Bunting recalled her childhood as replete with pleasures, among them rainy days spent by the fire with a book. But it was also marked by the antagonisms in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. Her parents, although Protestant, encouraged her to befriend a Catholic girl.

Mrs. Bunting studied at a boarding school and attended Queen’s University Belfast before marrying Edward Bunting in 1951. Seven years later, amid intensifying political and religious hostilities in Northern Ireland, they decided to join his brother in California, bringing with them their three young children...
(this has seven short tributes)


...Having moved to California as a young mother, she later frequently told the stories of her fellow immigrants in her books for young readers.

One such book was “One Green Apple,” which won an Arab American Book Award in 2006 for its portrayal of a Muslim girl new to America. “Dreaming of America” told the story of Annie Stahl, an Irish girl who was the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island on her way to a new life in the U.S., while “How Many Days to America?” followed a Caribbean refugee family’s journey to a new home.

Bunting’s other notable stories included “Smoky Night,” a story of a Los Angeles riot, which won a Caldecott Medal for its illustrations by David Diaz...

Here's what I posted in 2018:

Born in Maghera, Northern Ireland, she moved to the U.S. in 1958 and
now lives in Pasadena, California. (Or Los Angeles.)

Can't find any birthday tributes, unfortunately.

She's written well over 200 books to date. I first heard of her
via the 1988 novel "Is Anybody There?"

"For Marcus, being a latchkey kid is no big deal. Every day, he picks
up his key from the oak tree in the yard and cooks dinner for his mom--
until one day his key isn't there. Who's been using his key to steal
food and household items? Is anybody really there?"

About her Edgar-winning book:

"In Coffin on a Case!, twelve-year-old Henry Coffin, the son of a
private investigator, helps a gorgeous high-school girl in a dangerous
attempt to find her kidnapped mother. As Henry narrates the story,
aiming for the wit and swagger of his hero, Sam Spade, the mystery
'unfolds skillfully and swiftly, aided by a breezy, humorous style,'
commented School Library Journal contributor Connie Tyrrell Burns.
'This is a cheerful homage to hard-boiled detecting,' noted Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books reviewer Deborah Stevenson, "with
its own twists and charm.' "
(book covers)
(more covers)
(Kirkus reviews)
(reader reviews)
(LONG bio)
(short video interview)
(11-plus minutes long - from 2010?)
(one or two more interviews?)
(more videos)

From elsewhere:

"Bunting's interest in just about everything, and her confidence in
wanting to share her thoughts and experiences with children, has led
to her incredible career as the creator of a wide variety of books.
She has written picture books, novels, and even some nonfiction. She
never shies away from addressing difficult issues, including racial
prejudice, death, troubled families, and war; at the same time, her
work is infused with hope and beauty. Her numerous awards and honors
include the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book
Writers, the PEN Los Angeles Center Literary Award for Special
Achievement in Children's Literature, and the Edgar, given by the
Mystery Writers of America."

From Wikipedia:

"Smoky Night is a 1994 children's book by Eve Bunting. It tells the
story of a Los Angeles riot and its aftermath: two people who
previously disliked each other working together to find their cats. In
the end, the cats teach their masters how to get along.

"David Diaz's acrylic, collage-like illustrating of the tale earned
the book the 1995 Caldecott Medal."
(1986 Afterschool Special about suicide)
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