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Big Picture

Dr. Betsy Hearne
The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books

The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

So Long, Farewell:  Betsy Hearne Retires

“How do you thank the one,” says the song “To Sir with Love,” “who has taken you from crayons to perfume?”  Except with Betsy Hearne, it’s really the other way; she’s taken multitudes of us to crayons as she’s mentored our professional development in youth services and children’s literature. 
Her professional achievements and history are a matter of public record (at, for a start), from her youth services days to her longterm prominence in reviewing and journal editing, from her eloquent speaking engagements to her extensive writing for young people (a selection appears in this month’s Dozen.  Then there’s also the extensive service, whether it be the public work on award committees ranging from the Caldecott to the Boston Globe/Horn Book, or her tireless and often behind-the-scene labors on behalf of youth services and students at the University of Illinois and, before that, the University of Chicago.
I suspect that last may be her proudest legacy; it’s certainly her most broad and wide-ranging.  It’s telling that, at her retirement party following graduation this spring, we found that our stories about Betsy really were stories about ourselves, and what Betsy had done for us, and how we wouldn’t be where we were without her.  It could mean that she’s mentored a group of raving egocentrics, but I like to think that that’s actually the outcome she prefers:  her legacy will continue in the work done by her former students, which will be passed on to their students, and so on, becoming a part of the children’s literature heritage of generations of devoted professionals.
We will miss her daily presence terribly.  I’ve already encountered several situations where there’s a small silence at the juncture where usually we’d plan to ask Betsy, or where we say hopefully that we think we could just quickly get her advice on a matter.  Our seeing her less probably means your seeing her more, since she’ll be spending more time writing and traveling and will doubtless be as ferociously productive as ever.  But wonderful as it is that Betsy’s retirement is the world’s gain, it’s still going to be a more daunting workday around here without her.

Deborah Stevenson, Editor, and former PhD advisee and employee of Betsy Hearne


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Dr. Betsy Hearne

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This page was last updated on August 1, 2007.