Remembering Illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler

We are sad to share the news that illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler has passed away. Sadler is the illustrator of, among other titles, Seeds of Change, for which she won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2011.

Sonia Lynn Sadler
Sonia Lynn Sadler with Lee & Low Publisher Jason Low after accepting her Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans in 2011

Sonia was a passionate and immensely talented artist as well as a cheerful and kind person. She worked in many different types of media, as a fine artist, a designer, and an illustrator. Her words and artwork speak for themselves: here are a few quotes from Sonia from an interview she did with Education Insider in 2011:

“The way that I approach my work is like storytelling. There’s more than one thing going on in the pictures, more than just one simple subject. Sometimes a painting is like a little story within itself.”

Seeds of Change 1“Sometimes there are stories you see or you want to tell a story of something that happened so it’s not forgotten. That’s also what a lot of my work is about. I started getting deeper into artwork after some of my older relatives passed away. I had a bevy of great-aunts and uncles and they were these lively feisty people who lived through a lot and they were storytellers in themselves. Rather than just let these stories fade away, I started putting them into my artwork.”

Seeds of Change 2“[My career as an illustrator] has been a real joy….Sometimes being an artist is just about who you are inside. I cannot imagine doing something that’s not creative because that’s just how my brain works. I want to use my talent to the best of my abilities, and I’m really happy that I’ve been able to have the career that I’ve had for the last 15 years.”

Seeds of Change
Wangari holding the “seeds of change”

Author Jen Cullerton Johnson, who worked with Sonia on Seeds of Change, remembered her this way:

I was, am and always will be in awe of her vibrant use of color, her intuition about composition, and her trust in young people’s engagement with art, especially her art. I respected Sonia’s work immensely. She uplifted and empowered all who interacted with her and her art.I’d like to tell you a little bit about Sonia’s wit. There is an illustration in the book where Sonia depicted Wangari holding the seeds of change. The seeds bloomed into faces. When I saw the page and the faces, I thought did this Sonia L. Sadler draw faces of President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Incredible! Later I told her Each reading I give I ask the young people to pick out our champions of Civil Rights and they do! Did you mean to do that? And in the way only Sonia could pull off, she broke into a smile, shrugged her shoulders and said, what are you talking about? I wasn’t sure if she was joking with me or telling me the truth. Sonia’s sense of social justice was great.

Talking with her, I learned about her family’s sense of history and struggle, but I also glimpsed her playfulness when we hung out eating sushi. Whether it is true or not about the illustrations, I still do not know. What I can tell you is that on that page there have been hundreds of young children pointing to President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.!

Thank you for inspiring us with your gorgeous artwork and bright imagination, Sonia. You will be missed.

3 thoughts on “Remembering Illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler”

  1. My heart goes out to Ms. Sadler’s family, I pray the God grants them peace through this period in their lives. He gifted us with her presence long enough to enjoy and appreciate her talent.

  2. The world has lost a beautiful storyteller. Sonia’s illustrations will continue to captivate and inspire anyone who sees them. My thoughts are with the Sadler family.

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