Illustrator Leo Dillon, first African-American Caldecott Medal winner, dead at 79
NEW YORK — Leo Dillon, the groundbreaking illustrator who collaborated with his wife, Diane, on dozens of books for kids and adults and became the first African-American to win the Caldecott Medal for children’s books, has died. He was 79.
Dillon died May 26 at Long Island College Hospital from complications after lung surgery, publisher Scholastic Inc. announced Wednesday. Harlan Ellison, a close friend, wrote on his website that “Half my soul for 50 years went with him.”
Weigh InCorrections?Recommend Tweet Personal Post .Leo and Diane Dillon met at the Parsons School of Design in 1953 and married four years later. An interracial couple, they worked on a wide range of children’s projects, mastering a bold, colorful style that helped introduce kids 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” and again won Caldecott the following year for “Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions.”
The Dillons received awards as diverse as their books, including a Hugo Award for science fiction illustration and an NAACP Image Award.