Working with a Legend
Antonia Markiet, Chief Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Remembers Esphyr Slobodkina
My first and only meeting with Esphyr Slobodkina was a memorable and singular experience. At that time, Ms. Slobodkina was in her nineties. Still, it was clear that the remarkable intelligence, will, and talent she had been noted for her whole life had not dimmed one bit. She was, as I suspect she had always been, unusual and remarkable.
We spent over two years working together on various projects based on her classic bestseller, Caps for Sale. During that time, there was no detail too small or too inconsequential for her eagle eye and her sharp brain. In business, she was not fond of negotiation. She knew what she wanted.
On her work, she was interestingly more collaborative. She was always open to suggestions and thought carefully about all the ramifications. Sometimes she agreed, and at other times she did not. I felt she was always most careful that her work not be compromised in any way. I respected that. But even more, I respected her.
Quite frankly, she terrified me at first. The woman was a legend in the art world and a forceful presence personally. But she was funny as well, and playful, and by the end of our meeting it was clear I would be a fan for life. Her innovative approach to illustration still amuses and inspires.
Caps for Sale, first published in 1940, has been translated into thirteen languages and continues to be read by millions of readers.
Esphyr Slobodkina was very much a force extraordinaire… focused, determined, fierce, and immensely talented. I miss her spirit but find it again every time I look at her work.