Well, this marks the first time in 7-Imp history—at least since 7-Imp started doing weekly “kicks” posts on Sundays—that I’m not kickin’ on a Sunday, but it’s Saturday night as I write this and I just received the news that the one and only Peter D. Sieruta, with whom Betsy Bird and I have been researching and writing a book since 2009, passed away Friday night. I’m still lacking details about what exactly happened, but his brother has announced the news.
I am still shocked about the brand-new, intractable fact that there’s a Peter-shaped hole in the world now, and I don’t really want to accept it, to imagine further manuscript conversations without Peter, as much as I adore working with Betsy. I have no doubt she feels the same.
(In fact, Betsy has written a tribute as well, and readers can also leave memories/comments at that post on Sunday. Betsy chose just the right words and remembers him well.)
I had planned on featuring an illustrator tomorrow, listing kicks, and inviting others to do so, as I do every Sunday. But it seems only right now to say some words about Peter and invite those who knew him to do the same.
It was my pleasure to work and write with Peter over the past three years. He had a keen wit, a kind heart, and a brilliant mind. He was an avid reader; every time we turned around Betsy and I were amazed, but not surprised, by the number of children’s lit-related stories he had stored in his brain and the knowledge he held on the subject. I remember one of us asking him early on in our research, seriously, Peter, how do you KNOW all this stuff?, and he replied simply, “lifelong interest in kids’ books!”
He would get a bit anxious at times about the editing process—joking about all of his portions of the book getting hacked and removed altogether from our manuscript—and this would leave me shaking my head in wonder. And that’s because his writing was very tight and always entertaining. I often turned to him to help me find more economy with my own words. Oh, RIGHT. Why didn’t I think of that? I’d wonder, after Peter got a hold of one of my sentences. (Or, as Betsy wrote, “He was such a professional, modest to a fault, always willing to help us out when we were feeling stuck. It is intolerable to lose him.”)
Ever curious, he seemed to be always reading, writing, and learning. And his blog, Collecting Children’s Books, was a true delight, where his unique voice as a writer was on display weekly.
Peter also adored his family. This I know. He spoke so fondly of them. His brother and parents remain, and I’m sure they are devastated. I extend my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to them. Peter and I were writing partners but also had conversations of a personal nature about friends, family, and … life in general. And I know that he loved his family more than my words could possibly say here.
It was also clear to me and Betsy that Peter was very excited about our book’s publication (scheduled for next year), and it won’t be the same at all now. Not with his absence.
If anyone else would like to share memories of Peter here or leave a tribute, please know that you are welcome to do so.
I re-read these beautiful words from Walt Whitman just last week, and the least I can do is offer them up now in Peter’s honor, though I do so in shock and sadness:
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
I hope and hope that’s true. May Peter rest in peace. And may his family be sustained by happy memories.