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This weekend we lost a great children’s author, illustrator, and educator. Anna Dewdney, whose toddler-centric picture books starring wildly expressive Baby Llama are multi-million-copy bestsellers, died at her home in Vermont on Saturday, September 3, after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. She’s requested that in lieu of a funeral service that people read to a child instead.

In 2013, Anna wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, highlighting that “empathy is as important as literacy” when it comes to educating children. “When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language,” she wrote. “We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human.”

In a release from her publisher, Jen Loja, president of Penguin Young Readers, said, “The entire Penguin Young Readers family is heartbroken. And as we grieve, we also celebrate Anna’s life, in dedicating ourselves to carrying forward her mission of putting books into as many little hands as possible. We will miss her so, but consider ourselves so lucky to be her publishing family and her partner in her legacy.”

Video: Penguin Teen via YouTube

Anna had recently completed a new picture book, Little Excavator, which is scheduled for June 2017.

H/T: Publishers Weekly