Pat Hutchins, author-illustrator of such beloved picture books as Rosie’s Walk and Good-Night, Owl!, died on November 8 at age 75, at her home in London.
Hutchins was born in Yorkshire, England, on June 18, 1942, and grew up in the surrounding countryside with her six siblings. Her passion for art was fostered from an early age by a local couple, the Bruces, who gave Hutchins her first sketchbook and rewarded her with chocolate in return for her drawings. At the age of 16, Hutchins received a scholarship to attend a nearby art school, Darlington School of Art, where she trained for three years. She went on to enroll at Leeds Arts University, studying illustration.
Following graduation, Hutchins moved to London in hopes of launching her career in children’s books, but she was met with rejection by publishers. Discouraged, she began work as a junior art director at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. It was there that she met her husband, Laurence Hutchins, a fellow artist. When Laurence was offered a job at the company’s New York office, the two married and relocated to the U.S.
The move turned out to be a fortuitous one. In New York, Hutchins met Susan Hirschman, then editor-in-chief of the children’s department at Macmillan. Hirschman encouraged her to write and illustrate her own story, and in 1968 Hutchins published her debut picture book, Rosie’s Walk, which garnered international acclaim. Hutchins later returned to England with her family, but continued to publish with Hirschman, who in 1974 had launched Greenwillow Books at William Morrow (in 1999, the imprint was absorbed into HarperCollins with its purchase of Morrow).
In all, Hutchins created more than 40 books for young readers, many of which are considered classics and six of which were named ALA Notable Books. Titch (1971), which stars a boy inspired by the author’s sons Morgan and Sam, was adapted into a popular television series in the U.K. Hutchins earned the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1974 for The Wind Blew. Other titles by Hutchins, including Don’t Forget the Bacon! (1976), 1 Hunter (1982), and The Doorbell Rang (1986) have become staples in classrooms around the world.
In an interview with Communication Arts, Hutchins said of her writing, “I like to build my stories up, so the reader can understand what is happening and, in some cases, anticipate what is likely to happen on the next page. I think one can get quite complicated ideas across to small children as long as they are presented in a simple, satisfying way.”
Throughout her career, Hutchins frequently visited the Greenwillow offices in New York City, along with her husband. Virginia Duncan, v-p and publisher at Greenwillow, said, “We loved working with Pat; her visits were lively and memorable, and her carefully constructed and irresistible books were a joy to work on and publish.”