Remembering Caldecott Winner Mordicai Gerstein

Prolific, award-winning author and illustrator Mordicai Gerstein has died.

Photo credit: Jerome Renault

Caldecott winner Mordicai Gerstein died Tuesday, his publisher, Holiday House, confirmed.

"Mordicai Gerstein was a genius, a master of both art and text," said Grace Maccarone, executive editor at Holiday House. "Mordicai wrote with humor and insight, and he painted with skill and with all his heart.

"What was it like to work with him? Thrilling. Especially when he delivered art for I Am Hermes! Mordicai was full of energy, enthusiasm, and goodwill. Just like the newborn Hermes who exclaimed: 'THE WORLD! It’s even better than I expected! I love it! I want it all!'"

Gerstein wrote and illustrated many children's books, including The Boy and the Whale, The Night World, Sleeping Gypsy, and I Am Pan! He won the Caldecott Medal in 2004 for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, a picture book he wrote and illustrated. He illustrated the cover of SLJ's Best Books issue in December 2003.  

Gerstein began his artistic career animating television movies and broke into publishing when he met author Elizabeth Levy in the early 1970s. For years, the two collaborated on the mystery series “Something Queer is Going On.”

As the news of his death spread, Gerstein was remembered by the industry and his peers.

“Our deepest sympathies to Mordicai Gerstein’s family,” read a tweet from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. “Mordicai was a brilliant illustrator, and a true gentleman—and will be missed by all of us in the children’s literature community.”

Fellow illustrators shared their memories on social media.

“I had the honor of meeting him early in my career and I will never forget [his] kindness and generosity,” Pura Belpre winner Raúl the Third wrote. “His books are masterpieces and should be read by all. R.I.P.”

Gerstein’s graphic novel I Am Hermes!: Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods received a starred review from SLJ earlier this year.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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