May 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm #449
At the end of last week, we lost a dear friend to the M. E. Kerr site, Peter D. Sieruta. He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. His family and friends were surprised and devastated. Peter was passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about all things related to children’s literature. His job was as a librarian at Wayne State University. His calling was to share his love and wealth of memories and knowledge of children’s books with everyone. I started this website dedicated to M. E. Kerr and Mary James in 1998. In 2002, Peter made his first contact with us. He asked an obscure question and we were both intrigued.
Here is an early note to Marijane Meaker uncovering a fact I did not know yet! He discovered her first choice for a pseudonym for her YA author and revealed his endearing enthusiasm and deep fascination with, respect for and desire to know everything about children’s literature:
M. E. Kerr wrote to me:
I bet you didn’t know that Lisa Ballesteros was my first choice of a pseudonym. Kerr came after my agent told me LB was bad. Liza, after my cat. And Ballesteros after my landlady….I’d forgotten all about it. Look what your website produced!
Peter wrote the following [abridged]:
Dear M.E. Kerr:
Do I win the Kerr trivia contest with my Liza Ballesteros question? I didn’t read it in an interview, though. A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Kerlan collection at the University of Minnesota. I called ahead and got a list of all the manuscripts and archival materials in the collection and was excited to see Dinky Hocker on the list (at that time it was the only Kerr title they owned; don’t know if they have acquired more since then.) Anyway, I couldn’t wait to see the original manuscript of Dinky Hocker, curious about missing scenes, cut lines, editorial notes, etc. I even brought a paperback copy of your book with me, so I could compare the typescript with the published copy. Imagine my surprise when the librarian brought the box to my table, I opened the lid and saw the first page: DINKY HOCKER SHOOTS SMACK! by Liza Ballesteros. WHO? I then figured this was probably a pseudonym that you had planned to use at some point, then changed your mind. Of course I didn’t know the derivation of the name until you told me just now. But I’m sure that even Liza-the-cat (after getting over the slight) would agree that M.E. Kerr is a purr-fect choice for a pen name: bold, memorable, and, because of the initials, containing a hint of mystery. Incidentally, I was so impressed to see the original manuscript of this book. With the exception of a couple cut lines about Sonny and Cher and Mama Cass Eliot, there were basically zero changes. In fact the margins were filled with nothing but praise: “Wonderful!” “Lovely!” “Great!” “Terrific!” At one point there’s a note that says: “UN: I love this ms!” and beneath it “CZ: I do too!” which I’m sure came from Ursula Nordstrom and Charlotte Zolotow. I had the opportunity to look at several dozen manuscripts by other authors on my visit. Most of them were marked up beyond recognition by editors, making me even more impressed by how little work your manuscript required.
I love hearing that you visit the library so often. Me too. Often, on my way home from working at the library, I will stop and visit the public library. And if it’s not a library, it’s a bookstore.
I will send my books to you this weekend. You can write anything you like in them, and I’ll include a note to that effect with the books. Thanks again!
Peter D. Sieruta
Since then, Peter was a frequent contributor to the forum (we have since re-hauled the site but you can imagine his loving and informational posts). He also sent me factoids, book cover images and ideas for the website. He created the Fan Photo page. He always let me know his concerns about the state of the site related to broken links, hinky looking forum visitors (spammers) and other crucial feedback. The three of us corresponded through the site and otherwise. He and Marijane became friends. I viewed Peter as a co-webmaster. I was very pleased for him when he started his blog Collecting Children’s Books. He soon learned that the children’s book world was starving for what he had to offer. He filled a big gap with his heartfelt essays about his passion for collecting, loving, analyzing and remembering fondly the role of children’s books in all of our lives.
Here is a collection of other tributes to Peter by his friends and fans. He was a wonderful friend to the site and his eagle eye, sparkle and revelations will be missed!
Friend of his posted a link to an article by Peter in The Horn Book:
I recommend reading all of these posts to get an idea of how Peter left his indelible impression on so many of us. I thought I was an M. E. Kerr fan until Peter showed up. Thank you, Peter for discovering the site and sharing your friendship and fandom!
- This topic was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by Michelle Koh.
May 29, 2012 at 10:26 am #451
M. E. KerrParticipant
All I can say right now is how much Peter Sieruta meant in my life. He
took such trouble finding things for me, like an ancient wooden box
marked C.G.Meaker that belonged to my grandfather. He used it
promoting his grocery stores which he owned most of in Auburn,N.Y.
in the thirties. Peter would come up with things from my past I couldn’t
believe. He was a gentle, kind, thoughtful man and I was privleged to
know him. He went way too soon. Goodbye,dear Peter. Marijane.
June 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm #452
December 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm #515
Here’s a very nice remembrance of Peter Sieruta at School Library Journal by Jonathan Hunt. Peter was a frequent contributor to mekerr.com and is greatly missed. He passed away about 8 months ago from complications following a fall. A librarian, author and aficionado of all things related to children’s an YA literature, he made his mark on the world.
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