The Canadian children’s literature community is mourning Children’s Book Store founder and kidlit advocate Judy Sarick, who died in Toronto on Feb. 15.
“I have an ache in my heart knowing that Judy has died,” says author and librarian Ken Setterington, a longtime friend of Sarick’s. “She was a huge force in the world of children’s books. Not just in Canada but all around the world. The Children’s Book Store was a destination for visitors to Toronto.”
Sarick was a beloved and revered fixture of the early days of Canadian kidlit, “one of the pioneers in the coming-of-age of Canadian children’s literature in the 1970s and ′80s,” says Judith Saltman, who interviewed Sarick for her book (co-written with Gail Edwards), Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing.
“She was warm, witty, and a grand storyteller. The early years came to life as she recounted such legendary moments as the extraordinary book launch of Alligator Pie at the Children’s Book Store,” says Saltman. “A great figure in Canadian children’s literature and the book trade.”
Sarick – a librarian with the Toronto Public Library and head of school services for the Toronto School Board – opened the Children’s Book Store with her husband, Hy, in 1974. The store, which hosted author events, signings, and school visits, became a meeting place for members of the burgeoning Canadian kidlit scene, encouraged by Sarick’s passion for the genre. That passion, paired with Sarick’s exacting standards, was reflected by the books she chose to stock. Many credit Sarick’s uncompromising belief in quality with influencing Canadian publishers to produce better books.
“Judy pushed everyone to do their best – teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, writers, and illustrators,” says Setterington. “The Canadian children’s book industry simply wouldn’t have developed to be as strong as it is if it wasn’t for Judy and her passion.”
Saltman notes that Sarick “forcefully encouraged Canadian publishers and creators to work towards stronger and more internationally competitive books.”
In addition to her efforts at the Children’s Book Store (which closed in 2000), Sarick also influenced listeners of CBC’s Morningside with Peter Gzowski as a founding member of the Children’s Book Panel, served on numerous awards juries, spoke at conferences, and was the recipient of IBBY Canada’s Claude Aubry Award for distinguished service within the field of children’s literature.
A funeral is scheduled to take place at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel Feb. 17 .