The SCBWI is saddened to report the passing of the talented and prolific children’s book author Jean Marzollo. A resident of Cold Spring, New York, Ms. Marzollo served for 20 years as editor of Scholastic’s magazine for kindergartners, Let’s Find Out. As an author she wrote nearly 150 books, and became best known for her I Spy series. The eight books in the series have been translated into twelve languages and have sold more than 42 million copies worldwide.
In 1986, a photographer named Walter Wick sent the art director of Let’s Find Out a promotional photo of hardware store objects seemingly floating in space.
“Walter’s photo was perfect for kindergarten because it was fun to look at, beautiful and clear,” Marzollo later wrote. Another editor, Grace Maccarone, mentioned the children’s game, “I Spy with My Little Eye,” which inspired Marzollo to use the words “I spy…” to begin each of the riddles she wrote to accompany Wick’s photographic assemblages.
“Those two little words are very powerful because they establish the main character and the story of the book,” she wrote. “The main character is the reader — or the child being read to. The story is about the main character becoming a hero by finding everything in the riddle. I am grateful that I was in a kindergarten frame of mind.”
The world is grateful as well for the joy and adventure Jean Marzollo brought to generations of young readers.