George and Martha, those infamous hippopotami who loved to kick up their heavy heels, will revel no more: Last week, their creator, prolific children’s author and illustrator James Marshall, died of a brain tumor at the age of 50.
Marshall, whose plans to be a concert violist were thwarted by nerve damage in his hands, developed a scribbly drawing style in his mid-20s. Generous in both attitude and output, he said he delighted in his ability to make children ”scream with laughter.”
Marshall left behind a legacy of more than 70 illustrated works, including retellings of ”Cinderella,” ”Red Riding Hood,” and Mother Goose tales, as well as his original ”Stupid Family” series, books whose characters make Homer Simpson look like a Rhodes scholar.
Embraced by critics as well as young readers, Marshall received the Caldecott Honor award in 1989 for Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and his work was included on The New York Times Book Review’s best-illustrated-book-of-the-year list three times. ”No one around,” the review’s editors wrote, ”can match Mr. Marshall’s witty way with words and pictures.”