Leonard Kessler, Colorful Children’s Book Author, Dies at 101

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Mr. Kessler often found inspiration in the everyday. The hungry feelings of a small boy on a trip to the supermarket, for example, are magnified in “Crunch Crunch” (1955), the sequel to “Plink Plink,” a book about feeling thirsty.

He once told an interviewer that he did a lot of crawling around on the floor to get a child’s perspective on things. When his young son Paul asked him, “Do baby bears sit in chairs?” Mr. Kessler replied, “I don’t know, but that’s a great title for a book.” (“Do Baby Bears Sit in Chairs?” was published in 1961.)

“The Big Red Bus,” about a bus that lands in a pothole, snarling traffic, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the best illustrated children’s books of 1957. In 1990, it was a Times crossword puzzle clue (“‘Big Red Bus’ Author,” 5 Down).

Credit…via Kessler family

Leonard Cecil Kessler was born on Oct. 28, 1920, in Akron, Ohio. His father, Albert Lewis Kessler, was a plumber; his mother, Lillian (Rabinowitz) Kessler, was a nursing assistant.

Leonard grew up in Pittsburgh, in a neighborhood of European immigrants, and met his future wife, Ethel Gerson, there. They married in 1946, when he returned from World War II. In France and Germany, he had served as an intelligence scout, crawling behind enemy lines after dark to report on positions, which he delivered in atmospheric sketches.

Planning to be an artist, he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pitsburgh, now Carnegie Mellon University, on the G.I. Bill, sharing studio space with fellow returning servicemen and a very shy 18-year old named Andy Warhola. After graduating with a B.F.A. in 1949, Mr. Kessler and his wife moved to Manhattan.


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