The founding art director of Walker Books, Amelia Edwards, who helped create Five Minutes’ Peace and Owl Babies, has died.
The 77-year-old died on Wednesday (22nd November) and had been unwell for some time, the publisher said.
Walker said Edwards' “empathy and vision” had helped support many illustrators such as Chris Riddell and Barbara Firth, and that the firm would “never see her like again”.
Many of the hundreds of picture books that Edwards art-directed “remain at the core of Walker’s picture book list” including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, Jill Murphy’s Five Minutes’ Peace, Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? By Martin Waddell and illustrated by Barbara Firth along with Owl Babies and all of Oxenbury’s baby board books. Other credits include Maurice Sendak’s I Saw Esaum Iona Opie, Rosemary Wells’ My Very First Mother Goose, Inga Moore’s Wind in the Willows, Gulliver’s Travels by Chris Riddell, as well as Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram.
Born Amelia Santaromita in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she came to London in the late 1960’s and was the first person that Walker founder Sebastian Walker employed to establish the children’s publisher. A spokesperson for the press described how “her unique vision remains central to the heart of the picture books made at Walker”.
The spokesperson said: “Amelia’s empathy and vision supported many fledgling illustrators on the first steps of their publishing careers, including such luminaries as Chris Riddell, Patrick Benson, Charlotte Voake, Barbara Firth, PJ Lynch, Lucy Cousins and Anita Jeram." She also worked closely with Oxenbury to design the Walker Bear logo, "the iconic bear that is instantly recognizable the world over".
Walker’s picture book publisher, Deirdre McDermott, described Edwards as the “most generous mentor and friend” and that the “picture book world owes her so much, her influence is simply immeasurable and we will never see her like again”.
McDermott said: “She enthused those of us who were privileged enough to have worked alongside her with her energy, her humour - she really loved to laugh, which she did often and loudly - and her sharing, inclusive nature.
“We learned everything about typography and great picture book illustration from Amelia. She used to say that she was 'in charge of the white space’.”
She added: “She taught us that sometimes feeling was more important in a picture than perfect draughtsmanship, that the carrot was more productive than the stick and that you should never, ever tell any artist what to do.”
Walker Books’ art department manager Louise Power died aged 63, in May. Power had worked at Walker for more than 25 years. She began her career at Walker in 1991 as the PA to Edwards.