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African American Children’s Book Illustrator, Leo Dillon dead at 79

Leo Dillon, the groundbreaking illustrator who became the first African-American to win the Caldecott Medal for children’s books, has died in New York at 79.

Publisher Scholastic Inc. announced today that Dillon died May 26 at Long Island College Hospital from complications after lung surgery.

Dillon and his wife and fellow illustrator, Diane Dillon, collaborated on a wide range of children’s projects that helped introduce kids of all races to stories of black people worldwide. They won the Caldecott for best illustration in 1976 for “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Folktale.” They won a Caldecott the following year for “Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions.”

The interracial couple worked on more than 40 books together. A new work, “If Kids Ran the World,” is scheduled for 2014.


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One Response to African American Children’s Book Illustrator, Leo Dillon dead at 79

  1. arnold Adoff Reply

    May 31, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    leo and his collaborator genius wife, diane…were dear friend for over 40 years….along with my own wife, the african american novelist and folklorist, virginia hamilton….
    i urge all readers to go to the story collections of virginia hamilton illustrated by leo dillon: “Her stories”… “The people could fly” “Many thousand gone….”
    as well as to the many superb books of each of them…conserving and reconstructing african american history and folk lore and culture….these books for young readers and their older allies are the very sustinence that will help this next generation not just survive…but prevail….
    arnold adoff

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