Joan Walsh Anglund — a poet and children’s author who sold over 50 million books worldwide, and was a longtime Westport resident — died this month, surrounded by 3 generations of family. She was 95.
Three years ago, Tim Jackson — like Anglund’s daughter Joy a 1967 Staples High School graduate — made a documentary film about her.
The other day, he posted this remembrance on the Arts Fuse blog:
Joan Walsh Anglund’s words and delicate pen and ink illustrations of dot-eyed waifs were the source of poetic observations on love, nature, family, friendship, and faith for children and adults around the world for 60 years.
Her gentle drawings were filled with small details. She often wove the names of children of friends and family into the leaves and branches of trees. Beyond children, she had legions of admirers, from Queen Elizabeth to Midwest housewives.
Beyond her artistic achievements, Joan possessed an inner light that inspired all who met her. I knew her and the family for 60 years and, in 2015, produced a documentary of her life called Joan Walsh Anglund: Life in Story and Poem.
Joan learned her craft from her artist parents, Her grandmother instilled a passion for language.
Joan’s love of drawing and poetic language, of spirituality and family remained central to her life and an inspiration for her art. Prior to the success of her own books she had been a literary illustrator, most memorably for The Golden Treasury of Poetry by Louis Untermeyer.
For more than 50 years she was married to producer and actor Bob Anglund, who passed away in 2009. They met when Joan was a student at The Art Institute of Chicago and he was a student at the Goodman Theater….
They had a radio show together in Los Angeles in 1948. In 1959, after moving to Connecticut, unbeknownst to her, Bob brought the manuscript for her first book to Harcourt, Brace, and World. She later read in the newspapers that the book, A Friend is Someone Who Likes You, had sold over one million copies. Her career was born.
When her children were young, they scrambled about under her father’s original drawing board as she worked on illustrations, just as she had done with her father. Her 120 books went on to sell 50 million copies around the world in multiple languages. With the books came an array of figurines, calendars, dolls, and Joan Walsh Anglund accessories. She and her husband had numerous friendships in the theater and literary world but she remained humbled and amazed by her success, maintaining a quiet and private life….
In the film she confides: “I realize I can’t stay here forever but I feel that I can. I don’t have any sense of being old and sensible. Because every day the world is so new to me.” She spent 60 idyllic summers with the extended family at her small beach house on Nantucket. Days before she passed she said to her daughter Joy: “I’m going into the deep, deep waves. I’m going to a homecoming.”
She was pre-deceased by her husband Bob and son Todd. She is survived by her daughter Joy Anglund and husband Seth Harvey; grandson Thaddeus Harvey, granddaughter Emily Anglund-Nellen and her husband, Gregory Martin, and their twin daughters, Rose and Elizabeth.
The family requests any donations be made in the form of a children’s book to The Jonestown Family Center. PO Box 248, 401 Main Street, Jonestown, MS 38369.
(Click here for the full Arts Fuse link.)
In 2016, I posted this tribute for her 90th birthday:
The poet/author/illustrator — who spent many years in Westport, and raised her children here — wrote over 120 children’s and inspirational books. They’ve sold more than 50 million copies, and been translated into 17 languages.
Among her most famous quotes:
- Do not be sad that you have suffered. Be glad that you have lived.
- Life is in the living. Love is in the giving.
- Where is the yesterday that worried us so
Wikipedia says that last year, a US Postal Service stamp commemorating Maya Angelou contained Anglund’s quote “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” — seemingly tying it to Angelou.
That’s not the first time. President Obama wrongly attributed the sentence to Angelou when he presented the 2013 National Medal of Arts and Humanities to her.
“I hope it’s successful,” Anglund said of the stamp when it was issued.
In the 1960s and early ’70s, Staples High School principal James Calkins — who spoke often of the importance of love — frequently quoted Anglund to the student body.
When Calkins left Staples, Anglund’s daughter — a student there — thanked him using her mother’s words: “I did not hear the words you said. Instead, I heard the love.”
A website dedicated to Anglund lists a few of her famous fans: Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth, Cary Grant, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Ethel Kennedy, Carol Burnett, Helen Hayes, Phyllis Diller, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Rosemary Clooney, Shirley Jones, the Emperor of Japan and Elizabeth Taylor.
And, it adds helpfully, “etc.”
“06880” joins Joan Walsh Anglund’s many admirers — in Westport, and the world — in saying: “Happy 90th birthday!”
Or, to quote herself: “A (person’s) health can be judged by which he takes two at a time: pills or stairs.”