Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Remembering Arnold Adoff 1935-2021

The SCBWI is saddened to report the passing, on May 7th, of author, anthologist, and poet Arnold Adoff. 



A supporter of the SCBWI from its earliest days, Arnold, along with his late wife, Virginia Hamilton, were compelling storytellers, whose words illuminated and broadened the lives of their young readers.


Mr. Adoff, the son of immigrants from the Polish Russian border, first began writing poetry at the age of 16 before earning degrees at the City University of New York, Columbia University, and The New School for Social Research. In 1960 he married Virginia Hamilton, a young African-American writer, a marriage that, at the time, was illegal in 28 states.


As a young teacher at a public school in Harlem he focused on the importance of multiculturalism, a theme that carried over to his 1968  groundbreaking anthology, “I Am The Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by Negro Americans”.  A few years later he also broke ground in the field of children’s books with “It Is The Poem Singing In Your Eyes” (1971) and “Black Is Brown Is Tan” (1973), which was the first children’s book published that featured a Black mother, white father, and their children.  Both early books were recipients of the School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year awards.  Numerous other awards and praise was to follow including for a collection honoring the memory of his wife Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, and Conversations, which spanned 30 years of her career.


The SCBWI is grateful for the support and friendship of the entire Adoff family over the decades and sends condolences to the Adoff children, Jaime and Leigh.


Arnold Adoff and Virginia Hamilton, were, together, not just legendary in the wider world of children’s books, but were truly transformative. They are missed, and will be long remembered.