Bette Greene, whose ground breaking YA novel, Summer of My German Soldier, won the initial SCBWI Golden Kite Award in 1972 has died. She was 86.
Summer of My German Soldier, which was widely censored at the time, tells the tale of a 12 year old Jewish girl in rural Arkansas being raised by an African American housekeeper while her parents were busy at their general store. In the story, the girl befriends and aids an escaped German soldier from a nearby internment camp. Some forty years later Ms. Greene revealed the story was true, and that she was that young girl.
Among her other titles was another often censored book, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, which told the story of the murder of a young gay man by teenage bullies. In 1975 she won Newbery Honors for her classic Phillip Hall Likes Me I Reckon Maybe (Dial).
In a Publisher’s Weekly interview, Beverly Horowitz, senior v-p and publisher of Delacorte Press, who edited The Drowning of Stephan Jones, paid tribute with these words: “Bette Greene’s novels have a common thread: her characters showed empathy for those treated unjustly. During the years her books were published, so many decades ago, she depicted horrific bully behavior and readers felt how wrong those actions were. This was courageous writing especially at that time. When Bantam published her books in paperback editions, they were constantly censored, but were also embraced for classroom discussion that made kids think. I bet that many adults today remember the impact of reading Summer of My German Soldier in school. Bette’s hard-hitting exploration of prejudice still rings true”
The SCBWI is proud to have recognized this extraordinary author with our very first Golden Kite Award as we join the wider world in celebrating her life, and mourning her passing.