NEW YORK (AP) – Sam McBratney, Irish children’s author whose storyline of ever-broadening and higher dedication “Guess How I Love You” was read to millions of families before bed, has passed away.
Candlewick Press announced that McBratney died at the age of 77 on Friday. Additional details were not immediately available. His death comes less than two weeks before the release of “Will You Be My Friend?”, An addition to his 1994 classic, which has sold more than 50 million copies and been translated into 57 languages.
“Sam McBratney was an exceptionally lovely person,” Karen Lotz, group director of Candlewick’s parent company Walker Books Group, said in a statement Monday. You recognized his voice in the blink of an eye – he was an extremely talented vocabulary and always knew exactly what kids would enjoy hearing the most. Amazingly humble, he was also a hilarious storyteller and sociable companion. “
McBratney called his famous book “a light-hearted tale designed to help one big and one small enjoy the joys of being together.” Featuring illustrations by Anita Jeram, ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ tells of older and younger nut-brown hares – believed to be father and son – and their play of one-upmanship as each explains his feelings for the other, titled a question which is repeated over and over.
How Much Does a Tiring Little Nutbrown Hare Love His Dad? “As far as I can reach.” Large nut brown hare extends its longer arms even wider. The son raises his arms “as high as I can reach”. The father’s arms go higher, and the little brown hare gets sleepier.
“I love you to the moon,” says the little brown hare finally, falling asleep.
“I love you to the moon – and back again,” his father tells him as he puts the little nut-brown hare in a bed of leaves and kisses him goodnight.
McBratney is survived by his 56-year-old wife, Marilyn; three children and six grandchildren
Born in Belfast and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, McBratney was a history teacher who wrote more than 50 books, although he did not become a full-time writer until his retirement in middle age. His other works include the historical novel ‘The Chieftain’s Daughter’, ‘The Lough Neah Monster’ and ‘School Trip to the Stars’.
Many of his books are inspired by his children, grandchildren, history or his local community: his debut novel “Mark Time” was a pre-adolescent love story set in Northern Ireland. He wrote “Guess How Much I Love You” after his publisher suggested he try a photo story.
“I went back to a little snippet of an idea that I had used in a previous book and I thought I would really like that little episode that would make a nice picture book,” he later told readingrockets.org. ‘And so I developed that into a picture book. And I expected that picture book to go like any other, all other books, you know, maybe five years get out, maybe six, and then you can’t buy it in the stores, you know. “