Author and illustrator Jill Pinkwater, best known for the humorous line drawings she created for many quirky chapter and picture books by her husband Daniel, died peacefully in Rhinebeck, N.Y. on October 4. She was 81.
Pinkwater was born May 29, 1941 in the Bronx, N.Y. In 1969, she was working as an artist and teacher in New York when she and Daniel Pinkwater were introduced by mutual friends. Daniel Pinkwater recalled their meeting: “We spoke on the phone and
arranged to meet at her apartment. I knocked on her door, and a skinny redhead wearing big goggles and black pajamas opened the door. I thought, ‘Oh my God, if I step through this doorway, I’m going to marry that woman.’ Then I thought, ‘Well,
this is easy, I just won’t step through.’ Then, I took a big step into the apartment. Six weeks later, I’m driving, and she has flowers in her hair. I never had a chance to think about why I should marry her, it was just obvious that it had to
During the early years of their marriage the Pinkwaters lived in Hoboken, N.J., where, inspired by their own rambunctious Malamute, they ran a dog obedience training program from the ground floor of their apartment building. That experience later
translated to one of their first book collaborations, Superpuppy: How to Choose, Raise, and Train the Best Possible Dog for You (Seabury Press, 1977). The duo would eventually team up for more than 50 titles for young readers. Among the warmly received
entries in their catalog are the Werewolf Club early chapter books following werewolves navigating elementary school; the Irving and Muktuk picture books starring two polar bears who readily scam and scheme to obtain blueberry muffins; and two titles
featuring Beautiful Yetta, a kosher Yiddish-speaking chicken who escapes the butcher shop for exploits in Brooklyn with the local Spanish-speaking parrots.
In addition to her illustration work, Pinkwater wrote several novels for young people, including Buffalo Brenda (Macmillan, 1989) and Tails of the Bronx: A Tale of the Bronx (Macmillan, 1991).
Pinkwater’s agent, Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, offered this remembrance: “I’ve been honored to work with the Pinkwaters for 15 years. Daniel has always said that of the two, she was the better writer, but her gifts were also
clearly demonstrated in her brilliant and deceptively simple marker illustrations. Jill Pinkwater's talent, warmth, sharp intelligence, and humor shone through everything she did. She had a remarkable affinity for animals, a garden that rivaled Eden, and
a comeback for every wisecrack, but more than all that, she was a perceptive listener and generous friend. Jill even had a certain amount of success teaching Daniel to be a mensch. I too learned a lot from her, and I’m better for having known her.”
On the Pinkwaters’ official website, Daniel Pinkwater shared this tribute: “I just want to say… not just that I love her, that’s obvious, but that she is the single greatest person I have met, ever. And quite a few things that people tend to like
and/or respect about me are actually Jill. I don’t feel grief, I feel gratitude.”