Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Simms Taback

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Simms Taback (1932-2011) was a prolific illustrator and writer who pushed the conventions and form of children's books. His pen, ink, and watercolor images grace the pages of over 40 books, and Taback's best-known books are notable for their use of innovative production techniques including die-cuts, flaps, and inserts.

Taback's 1977 design for the first McDonald's Happy Meal is housed in the Smithsonian, and he cofounded a successful greeting card company in the late 1980s. Throughout the course of his career, Taback was an educator and activist. He taught at Syracuse University and the School of Visual Arts, and his efforts to organize freelance illustrators culminated with the formation of the Illustrators Guild with Taback as founding president.

Taback was a two-time Caldecott Medal recipient, first in 1998 for There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and again in 2000 for Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. He illustrated books about virtually everything, but Taback, whose first language was Yiddish, had a real soft spot for Yiddishkayt, a Jewish way of life. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat was based on a Yiddish folk song, Taback's 1967 collaboration with Ann McGovern, Too Much Noise, was based on a Yiddish folk tale, and in 2005 Taback published Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me.

With beautiful, bold board books for toddlers like Colors and Zoom, and books for older readers like the epistolary Postcards From Camp, Taback demonstrated an aesthetic and sensibility that appealed to children of all ages and their parents. You can learn more about Simms Taback on the website devoted to his life and work, where you will also find a selection of his beautiful posters available for purchase.

→ Visit the Official Simms Taback website

→ Profile and slideshow by Tablet Magazine

(Image credits: Simms Taback)

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