In Honor of Peter …

h1 May 26th, 2012 by jules

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.

54 comments to “In Honor of Peter …”

  1. Dear Jules,
    I have no personal memories of Peter, other than reading his blog, but I feel sorrow and incomprehension. Thank you for the Walt Whitman words.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with his friends and family, including you and Betsy, and those he touched with his work.

  3. I have shared several Facebook messages and wall posts with Peter. His blog, as you say, is a delight. I loved hearing his stories about how children’s authors got their start. I also loved Cindy Dobrez’s stories about how much fun she had working on the LA Times Book Prize with Peter. This summer Cindy, Travis Jonker, and I arranged our schedule so that we could spend time with Peter. I collect Newbery books and was very much looking forward to seeing Peter’s collection. He planned to take us to his favorite bookstore. Most importantly we were going to spend the day talking about books with an expert! When he sent me the news of falling down the stairs, I was disappointed, but still determined to find a time to visit. What a loss. Condolences to Peter’s family and to his many friends. Peter made me feel like family and I know that I am not alone in this thought.

  4. Ed, I’m so sorry you didn’t see that collection. It sounded like it was a wonder, indeed.

    He was a consummate book-lover, huh? And such a wicked funny wit at times …

  5. I keep not quite believing it and waking up tomorrow I dread that moment when I get up and realize that it actually happened. I don’t have enough words or the right words to do him justice. He just was the best of the best of the best.

  6. I loved Peter’s writing so much. I will miss him terribly.

  7. I am at a loss for words.

  8. While I didn’t know Peter in person, his posts made me smile every day. I especially loved his playful painting and cooking experiments and his brilliant observations on children’s books and life in general. He must have been wonderful to work with. I’m so sorry to hear this, and my thoughts are with his family and with you.

  9. Peter was always so on top of children’s lit news and always had such a strong opinion about news items, that it’s like I can imagine him being shocked at his own death, writing at his own site, “can you believe this HAPPENED?”

    No, I can’t.

    What a huge loss. He was special.

  10. Hi Jules, I didn’t know Peter, but I can feel your sorrow in your words and I’m so sorry for you, and Betsy.

  11. Dearest Jules – I’m so very sorry for you (and for Betsy) in the loss of your friend. I’ll be thinking of your both.

  12. I only knew Peter through his blog, and remember that from the very first time I read it, I was blown away by his brilliance, breadth of knowledge and wit. I was constantly in awe of the sheer elegance and beauty of his writing, his genuine love for children’s literature, and his generosity in sharing what he knew.

    I know what an uncommon experience it’s been for you and Betsy to work with him on your book, and am so sorry you’ve both lost such a dear friend. Love and Prayers. ♥

  13. So so so sad about this. I’ve done a tribute on my blog too:

  14. Jules: So sorry to hear of this. (I’m a little behind on news because I’ve been traveling.) I know that the book’s publication will be somewhat bittersweet now, but how fortunate that you and Betsy are here to carry forth Peter’s legacy — not just in the book, but in the work you both do. Take care.

  15. This is just awfully sad. Like others, I only knew him through his blog, but what a great pleasure that was.

  16. There’s no real comfort to be offered in a situation like this. He was awesome, and he’s gone too soon. But thank goodness for the book. Now some of his knowledge and stories, along with his brilliance and wit, will be preserved forever.

  17. Oh no!! Oh, Jules — and Betsy — I’m so so sorry to read this news. He was just a fount of wonder when it came to children’s literature. My sympathies to his families and to you, his collaborators…

  18. Jules, I am so very sorry that you and Betsy have lost this wonderful friend and collaborator. I am deeply saddened for his family. Peter Sieruta was a rare gem and will be sorely missed.

  19. What a tremendous loss of a generous and talented soul.

  20. This is a terrible shock. In a way, I am glad that the book is forthcoming – we’ll get just a little more of his insight and appreciation.

  21. […] and  passion for children’s and YA literature I eagerly awaited his book with Betsy and Jules. Now I do more than ever (and am incomparably saddened at their loss as well as the loss […]

  22. Monica’s post is just right, and I hope interested folks go read that. Thanks, Monica.

  23. So very sorry to hear of this news and for your loss :-(. I did not know Peter personally but enjoyed his blog posts and had hoped to meet him in person someday.

  24. This is such sad news. I will miss his insight, surprise emails and the best blog about children’s literature, bar none. I had been sharing information, trading books with, buying from and selling to Peter for years, but sadly never got to meet him in person. Still, his influence on my life and work and that of so many others is indelible.

  25. Dear Jules,
    I am so sorry for your loss of a friend and collaborator. How terribly sad. Sending you love.

  26. This is sad news, Jules. I am sorry to hear it.

  27. Oh Jules — very greatly saddened by this news. I am so, so sorry for you and Betsy and his family and friends.

    The video which Betsy embedded in her post — just a walking tour, nominally about his collection at the time he uploaded it, silent except for the music — says SO much to me about the kind of person he must have been, and how much he must have meant to those who knew him.

    Thanks so much for sharing Peter with those of us who didn’t.

  28. I cannot process this. I have been exchanging emails with PDS for five years His heart was only surpassed by his humor. Few people could make truly laugh out loud. This sucks!

  29. Rest in peace, Peter. Your words have long been an inspiration to me, and your life a lasting example. I had always hoped we’d meet in person, but I am glad we encountered each other through our work.

    may’s green library
    is riffled by winds and turned
    like leaves of a book

  30. So glad Peter’s passion and love for children’s books will live on in the pages of your upcoming book. Take care, Jules.

  31. Jules, I feel such deep sadness for you, for Betsy, for Peter’s family, for all who knew and loved him. It’s difficult to accept such a loss. I didn’t know Peter, but I knew him as a fine fine person from hearing you speak of him. I liked what Eisha said — “thank goodness for the book.”

  32. So very sorry to hear this. Oh gosh.

  33. This is so very sad. Like so many people who love both children’s lit and Peter’s work, I never met him, but corresponded with him a few times. I wish he had lived to see your book published. I wish he had lived, period. What a loss. I’m so sorry.

  34. I am so sorry. Peter came to a talk of mine at Book Beat once, but we didn’t speak. I really only know him through his blog and facebook but cyber or not, I too will miss him.

  35. Jules, so very very sorry for the loss of your friend. You and his family are in my thoughts.

  36. Jules,
    What sad and shocking news. I’m so sorry you’ve lost a dream collaborator as well as a good friend. And I’m sorry for the kidlit world that we’ve lost a thoughtful and worthy champion.

  37. Jules,
    I am so, so sorry for your loss. And Betsy’s and Peter’s family as well. Sending hugs.

  38. Such a terrible and sad loss for our entire community. All best wishes –

  39. Sad for you and Betsy, and Peter’s family, of course. Thinking of all of you.

  40. Hi Jules,
    I still feel pretty new to the blogging world…still ‘discovering’ wonderful new (to me) blogs. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, and I wish I had come across his blog in another way, but wow, what a writer…what a resource! I’m going to add him to my favourites, and spend some time getting to know Mr Sieruta, and his books.
    Take care,

  41. I am just so sad he did not live to see the book. His pride and pleasure in working with you and Betsy was so obvious and endearing.

  42. […] wonderful voice this weekend. I didn’t know Peter D. Sieruta personally at all, but these posts about him are very […]

  43. That was a beautiful tribute.

  44. I’m shocked. Peter’s blog was such a treasure trove for anyone passionate about children’s books. He will be missed. My heart goes out to all of you who knew him well.

  45. So sorry Jules. It sounds like he was wonderful.

  46. What sad news, indeed. My thoughts are with Peter’s family and all of you who knew him better than I. Though we were only online acquaintances, I know I’ll miss him, too.

  47. When someone we care about leaves, we treasure their words, and we turn to them again and again. In the last year, Peter and I had started talking on facebook and blog comments. I enjoyed those conversations and returned to them in the last few days. I compiled them in a single place on my blog, for myself, but for others, too, who find comfort and inspiration in his words. Here’s the link:


  48. Just heard the news from my husband who saw a Free Press obit site. We’d lost touch with Peter since we moved to NJ in 1983. Our son Brendan had been in a play at the Attic Theater and Peter wrote such a kind letter about his reaction to the play at the time. He went on to write his own play which was presented in Lansing and our other son, Peter, had a chance to be a part of that one.
    Again, it was Peter Sieruta who was very generous with his comments. What a very kind soul he was.

  49. Unlike a lot of you, I did know him personally. I met him when he was in high school. He was a friend of my sister’s and she still corresponded with him via e-mail. I saw his play “None of the Above” in Lansing, MI and attended a party for “Heartbeats and Other Stories” when the book came out in 1989. The personally autographed copy still sits in my bookcase. He was such a gifted writer and kind spirit. Although I haven’t seen him in many years, I still find it hard to believe he is gone.

  50. We children’s booksellers read Peter’s blog regularly – his insights were always wonderful.

  51. We are so sad and we miss Peter so much.

    Peter Sieruta loved Betty MacDonald’s books and it was so wonderful to be in contact with Peter.

    You can read Peter Sieruta’s comments on Betty MacDonald Fan Club wesite.

    Waht a loss!

  52. […] for Horn Book Magazine. At the time of his death he was collaborating with Elizabeth Bird and Jules Danielson for a book, Wild Things!: Untold Stories Behind the Most Beloved Children’s Books and Their […]

  53. […] still here to see the book’s publication, still scheduled for this Fall. I miss him. I wrote this on May 26th, after first hearing the news — and later wrote this tribute over at the Kirkus […]

  54. […] was one year ago this weekend that Peter D. Sieruta passed away. For those of you who knew Peter and plan to attend this summer’s annual conference of the […]

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