Simms Taback: Award-winning children's author

Simms Taback was an award-winning children's author and illustrator.

In a career spanning over five decades Taback wrote or illustrated about 50 books for children as well as working for the likes of American Express, Pepsi, Kentucky Fried Chicken, NBC and McDonald's, for whom he designed and illustrated their first Happy Meal box in 1976. In 2000 his book Joseph had a Little Overcoat, an adaptation of a Yiddish folk song, won the Caldecott Medal. His original sketches are now held by the Smithsonian Institute.

Taback's breakthrough book as an author-illustrator came with his interpretation of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," which was later described as "a tour de force in innovative book illustration and design" and was a 1998 Caldecott Honour Book. The book had been declined by 12 other publishers before Taback sent interactive versions to Viking's editor Regina Hayes.

Hayes recalled, "When the art came in, everybody was so dazzled." Taback wanted it to be a novelty book but upon seeing the quality of the artistry, Hayes decided it would be a trade book with the highest production values.

It received great acclaim,full of details and humorous touches, from the names of different types of birds, to a recipe for spider soup, to the rhyming asides from the animals not yet swallowed. As for the old lady, a die-cut hole allowed readers to see inside her belly, with the animals already devoured and, with the turn of the page, the new animal that will be devoured in her ever-expanding stomach. The text was handwritten on vivid strips of paper that were loosely placed on the patterned page, thus creating a lively interplay between the meaning of the words and their visual power.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat continued the die-cut approach. One critic wrote, "In today's throwaway world, Joseph's old-fashioned frugality is a welcome change." Based on Taback's Jewish upbringing and research in museums, the book follows Joseph, who frugally creates new uses for his deteriorating overcoat, which, with thrifty industry, reduces from a jacket to a vest, a scarf, a tie, a handkerchief and, finally, a button. As more and more holes appear in Joseph's coat, die-cut holes appear on the pages, hinting at the next manifestation. Ever resourceful, he then makes a book about his coat: the moral of the story – "You can always make something from nothing."

Simms Taback, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, was born in 1932 and grew up in the Bronx. He attended New York's High School of Music and Art, then entered the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art. Graduating in 1953, he served in the US army for two years before becoming a graphic designer.

Taback worked as art director at CBS Records and the New York Times, before joining William Douglas McAdams, a leading healthcare advertising and marketing services company. He then went freelance, working for AmEx and Eastern Air Lines among others.

In 1963, he formed a successful design studio in partnership with Push Pin Studios co-founder Reynold Ruffins, and in the late 1980s launched a greeting card company. He later worked as an illustrator, writer, art director and graphic designer, while also teaching at the School of Visual Arts and Syracuse University.

Taback received a number of awards including the August Saint Gaudens Award for professional achievement in art in 2001, and he was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at The Cooper Union College in 2009. He was a founding president of The Illustrators Guild, which later merged and became the New York Graphic Artists Guild.

His most recent children's book, published last June, was Postcards from Camp, recounting the hilarious correspondence between a reluctant first-time camper and his father.

In his free time, Taback enjoyed walking and was an avid movie-goer with his wife. He fulfilled his dream of visiting Israel and London before dying of pancreatic cancer.

Simms Taback, author and illustrator: born New York 13 February 1932; married (one son, two daughters); died Ventura, California 25 December 2011.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?