Patricia McKissack, award-winning author of more than 100 books for children, died at the age of 72 in her hometown of Chesterfield, a suburb of St. Louis. Born on August 9, 1944 in Smyrna, Tennessee, Patricia was inspired by her mother’s poetry reading and her grandparents’ storytelling to become a writer. Her family moved to Nashville where she graduated high school at age 16. She studied English at Tennessee A&I State University and also met her future husband and writing partner, Fredrick.
The pair shared a “missionary zeal” to write about African American characters “where there hadn’t been any before,” their eldest son Fredrick McKissack Jr. said yesterday. The McKissacks were at the forefront of creating diversity in children’s literature in race, geographical setting and social consciousness. Young readers of all ages are able to travel the world with Patricia’s books, which take children from the Deep South in America to Africa and span centuries. McKissack wrote in a wide range of genres, from historical fiction to science fiction, poetry to biography, all in an attempt to provide every young reader with a book which would spark interest and appeal.
Patricia’s work was popular with readers and also critically lauded. Her awards included a Newbery Honor and nine Coretta Scott King Author and Honor awards. In 2014, Patricia and Fredrick’s work was recognized for its lasting contribution to literature with the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. A lifelong library lover, Patricia’s picture book Goin’ Someplace Special is a semi-autobiographical story of her weekly visits to her public library as a girl. In an interview about this beautiful book, she reflected, “The library was the doorway to freedom, to free thought when you're being told, ‘You can't, you can't, you can't, you can't.’ The library said, ‘You can, you can, you can, you can,’ and I did!” Be sure to check out some of her memorable books from this dedicated and important author in children’s literature.