Leonard Kessler wrote and illustrated hundreds of children’s books that celebrate the joy of being yourself. His self-portrait graces the republished edition of Mr. Pine’s Purple House.

Our longtime supporter and friend Leonard Kessler, author and illustrator of beloved children’s books, died in February at age 101. We celebrate his creative legacy, as generations of readers treasure his message of inclusivity and acceptance.

When he was 6 years old, Lennie’s grandmother gave him a box of crayons so he could paint his own world. He went on to find his calling in writing and illustrating books for beginning readers that featured his open-hearted perspective on their lives and on the wider world.

Of his hundreds of books, Lennie wrote more than 45 with his wife, Ethel, a social worker and kindergarten teacher. In all his works, he brought not only his artistry but also his ability to relate to children, sharing their curiosity and taking interest in their concerns — even getting down on the floor to see things from their point of view.

The Children’s Book Project is honored by Lennie’s support of our mission during his lifetime, and now to be chosen by his family as the recipient of donations dedicated in his memory. Lennie’s legacy lives on in the lifelong readers who found themselves in the pages of his books.