"More, More, More," Said the Baby. Indeed: after reading Vera B. Williams' ode to parent-child love, is there a single parent or child who doesn't want more? Her cozy, bright gouache paintings and equally bright hand-lettered text practically reach out and squeeze readers as hard as Little Guy's daddy, Little Pumpkin's grandma, and Little Bird's mama do their respective babies.
Williams brought that level of love and intimacy to all of her books, from "More, More, More" for babies and toddlers, to her beloved A Chair for My Mother for preschoolers and early-elementary-age children, in which the child narrator saves her coins to buy the titular chair for her mother, on her feet all day long at the diner, to Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart for middle-graders, an illustrated novel in poems about two sisters whose father is in jail.
A child of Jewish leftist activists, Williams grew up in the Depression-era Bronx, taking advantage of the WPA arts classes at the local community center and imbibing her parents' values. In her life outside of books, she established an experimental community of artists and spent time in jail for participating in a blockade of the Pentagon. It's perhaps no wonder that the books she created for children breathed compassion and a sense of common humanity: she followed in Ezra Jack Keats' footsteps in celebrating urban children of little means and many hues.
She died on October 16 after a life lived with total integrity. Her books will ensure she will be remembered, but how sad to think there will be no "More, More, More."
Vicky Smith is children's & teen editor.