David McKee author of Elmer and Mr. Benn died at age of 87

David McKee author of Elmer and Mr. Benn died at age of 87

Synopsis

Bernard, the author and artist of children's books such as Elmer, Mr Benn, and Not Now, died after a brief illness.

David McKee author of Elmer and Mr. Benn died at age of 87

David McKee author of Elmer and Mr. Benn died at age of 87

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Bernard, the author and artist of children’s books such as Elmer, Mr Benn, and Not Now, died after a brief illness.

According to his publisher, David McKee, the author and artist of the beloved children’s books Elmer, Not Now, Bernard, and Mr. Benn, died at the age of 87.

Following a brief illness, the author and illustrator died in the company of their family in the south of France. He and his companion, Bakhta, a French-Algerian art dealer, had been spending their time between London and Provence in recent years after a lifetime of travel.

Klaus Flugge, his longtime publisher, expressed his shock at the news. “His was a singular voice and a shining light in children’s books that highlighted inclusivity, diversity and parts of our world that are not always present in publishing for children.”

He added: “Not only was I fortunate to be his publisher, he was also a wonderful friend, and he will be missed by many more people than he could ever imagine.”

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McKee studied at Plymouth Art College after being born in Tavistock, Devon. When he was working at Abelard-Schuman, his debut novel, Two Can Toucan, was published by Flugge in 1964. McKee joined Flugge when he launched Andersen Press in 1976, and went on to write more than 50 books for the publisher.

McKee created 29 unique stories about Elmer, the popular multi-colored patchwork elephant, the first of which was published in 1968. The novels have sold over 10 million copies and have been translated into over 60 languages, making it one of the most popular children’s book series of all time.

Elmer was hailed as an LGBT hero by the Guardian because of the stories’ themes of inclusion, joy, and camaraderie.

In 2014, a hero emerged. “I never intended to do that,” McKee said in an interview at the time, “but I suspect there are subconscious processes at work I only discover later.”

McKee had a successful career as a fine artist and as a co-creator of animated TV shows, notably Mr. Benn, based on his series of novels about an explorer’s fantastical experiences, in addition to writing and illustrating children’s books. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the series.

In 2020, McKee was honoured with the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award. “David McKee understands the importance of always paying attention to children and what he gives them is first-rate,” said chair of judges Nicolette Jones when announcing his win.

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