Steve Jenkins, the author and illustrator who introduced children to the world of animals, nature, and science, has died, Publishers Weekly reports. He was 69.

Jenkins, a North Carolina native, grew up around the United States and in Panama. Like his father, a physicist and astronomer, he had an abiding interest in all things scientific, which he parlayed into a career as an artist and writer of nonfiction books for young readers.

He wrote and/or illustrated dozens of books about the natural world, including Looking Down, What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?, Flying Frogs and Walking Fish, and Mama Dug a Little Den. His most recent book, Disasters by the Numbers, was published last October.

In a 2008 interview with the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Jenkins reflected on his career writing nonfiction for young readers.

“I also think fiction and nonfiction elicit different kinds of passion in readers,” he said. “The themes of fiction—love, fear, adventure, triumph over adversity—are universal…The pleasures of nonfiction are more subtle.”

Readers and admirers paid tribute to Jenkins on social media. Author Jess Keating wrote, “I remember being a young [nonfiction] writer and thinking ‘how could I possibly add to this world of books when Steve Jenkins has already done so much, so well?’ Looking up to him challenged me, and it made me a better writer.”

And writer Miranda Paul tweeted, “Thank you, Steve Jenkins, for delighting us and our children, and leaving a legacy that will inspire children to love science and nature. Such an unexpected and devastating loss.”

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.