Award-winning children’s book designer and art director Atha Tehon died on February 15, at the age of 86. As art director at Dial Books for Young Readers for 32 years, and as a freelance designer for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, she worked with many of the top authors and artists in the business, including Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Jerry Pinkney, and Stephen Kellogg. Her award-winning books include Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, which won the 1976 Caldecott Medal; Ashanti to Zulu, which won the 1977 Caldecott Medal; and Moja Means One and Jambo Means Hello, which won Caldecott Honors in 1972 and 1975. Tehon retired from Dial in 2001.
Regina Hayes, who worked with Tehon while executive editor at Dial from 1973 to 1982, said, “Atha had the most refined and elegant design sense of anyone I know. James Marshall once remarked that Atha’s taste was so exquisite she thought beige was too loud! Her goal always was to enhance the artist’s work, rather than to call attention to her design. In her retirement, after guiding other artists for her whole career, Atha was able to spend her time exploring her own photography and painting.