Children’s author Lila Perl, who earned warm praise and several awards in a career that produced more than 60 works of both fiction and nonfiction, has died. She was 92.
Perl was born in Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn College, where she earned her B.A., and pursued additional studies at both Columbia University and New York University. She was a voracious reader as a child, but, as she wrote in her own words in the biography used by several of her publishers, “...it never occurred to me that I would one day become a writer.” It wasn’t until her two children (with husband Charles Yerkow) were in elementary school that Perl decided to follow her own curiosities and embark on a writing career.
Among her best known novels are a quartet of books about Fat Glenda. The first title, Me and Fat Glenda, originally published by Seabury Press in 1972, is scheduled to be reissued next month by Ig Publishing under its Lizzie Skurnick imprint. Ig editor-in-chief Robert Lasner notes that the title had just gone to the printer when he heard the news of Perl’s death.
Such issues as a teenager’s struggle with weight held special appeal for Perl, as she noted in an interview for Contemporary Authors: “I feel that the times in which we are living are too complex, too challenging to be ignored, particularly by the writer of young people’s literature. Contemporary settings and characters, situations and problems, in both fiction and nonfiction, lay claim to me. My concern is to sort out some of the turmoil, evoke, elucidate, and enrich the life of the imagination within that frame of reference.”
Perl also wrote a number of nonfiction books on a variety of subjects, including Mummies, Tombs, and Treasure: Secrets of Ancient Egypt (Clarion, 1987) and The Great Ancestor Hunt: The Fun of Finding Out Who You Are (Clarion, 1989). In 1996, Perl co-authored the widely lauded memoir Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story with Marion Bluementhal Lazan. Perl described her inspiration for that work: “When I met Marion Blumenthal Lazan and heard her speak about her experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust, I knew that there was a story that had to be put into book form.”
“Lila was a client and a dear friend,” Perl’s literary agent, Wendy Schmalz, told PW. “I loved her caustic humor and her liberal politics. At 92, her career was still thriving.” Lasner at Ig Publishing offered some words about Perl’s latest projects. “One of the wonderful things about working with Lila was that, even at the age of 92, she wasn’t resting on her laurels. Isabel’s War, the new novel we are publishing by her next fall, was actually to be the first book in a trilogy. While we are saddened that she didn’t live to see the book’s publication, or to see the new edition of Fat Glenda, we are happy that her work will live on for future generations to enjoy.”
Lizzie Skurnick, who edited Perl’s most recent titles, noted, “She was a wonderful, smart lady – great to talk to – and an inspiration for writing widely, humorously, and with great verve.” She added, “We hope to publish Lilli’s Quest [the sequel to Isabel’s War], as soon as possible. Lila turned it in just before she died.” The two books tell the story of a girl and her cousin, a Holocaust survivor, in 1950s New York.