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Patricia C. McKissack dead; children’s book author was 72

Fredrick and Patricia McKissack pose for a portrait

Fredrick and Patricia McKissack pose for a portrait behind their home in Chesterfield, Mo. on June 12, 2009. Patricia C. McKissack, a prolific author of children's books on African-American history, folklore and stories, died Friday, April 7, 2017. Credit: AP / John L. White

Patricia C. McKissack, a children’s author who chronicled African American history and Southern folklore in more than 100 early-reader and picture books, including award-winning works about chicken-coop monsters and a girl’s attempt to catch the wind, died Friday at a hospital in Bridgeton, Missouri. She was 72.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said a son, Fredrick McKissack Jr.

McKissack was diagnosed several years ago with myotonic dystrophy, a muscle disorder, her son said, and was “really weakened” by the death in 2013 of her husband and frequent collaborator, Fredrick L. McKissack.

With Fredrick McKissack handling the historical research and McKissack focused on the writing, the couple crafted nonfiction works that sought to expose elementary- and middle-school readers to varied aspects of African American history.

Their books included “The Civil Rights Movement in America” (1987) and “A Long Hard Journey” (1989), about the organizing efforts of black Pullman railroad porters, as well as short biographies of black luminaries.

Her most acclaimed work of fiction, “The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural” (1992), was awarded a Newbery Honor, the runner-up to a medal considered the Pulitzer Prize of children’s literature. The book was an anthology of spooky stories named for the half-hour period just before night when the ghosts of former slaves are prone to walk the Earth and mayhem is never far away.


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