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Friday, May 04, 2012

Happy Birthday Leo Lionni (May 5, 1910 - October 11, 1999)

May 5, 2012 is the 102nd anniversary of Leo Lionni's birthday.

Leo Lionni is the highly regarded author of such favorites as Little Blue, Little Yellow and  Frederick; I always thought Lionni was Italian but he was actually born on May 5, 1910 in Amsterdam. The family was Dutch.   Lionni's father, Louis worked in the diamond industry and his mother was an opera singer. When Lionni was five his father became a certified public accountant (CPA). The family lived in a middle-class neighborhood in Amsterdam.

In 1922 his parents traveled to America and left Lionni behind with a grandmother/step-grandfather in Brussels. Lionni joined his parents in Philadelphia two years later. During his years in Amsterdam and Brussels, Lionni had much interaction with uncles and an aunt who greatly influenced his love of art.

 Once in America, Lionni learned English and attended school. But then his father was promoted and the family moved to Italy -- He already knew Dutch, German, French, and English - now Italian would be his fifth language. It was in Italy that Leo met his future wife, Nora. Lionni married Nora and their two children were born in Italy. Then World War II came and the family Leo, Nora and their two sons, Louis "Mannie" and Paolo soon ended up back in the United States - Nora and the children got their visas to the USA on the day the Germans marched into Poland, and Italy declared war. Europe was not a safe place for a Jewish family.

The Lionnis lived in the USA for many years. It is quite easy to find information about Leo Lionni and his books - but there are two interesting facts about Lionni that I rather enjoy:

1) Leo Lionni is responsible for the use of "Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman" as a slogan for Ladies` Home Journal`s - a campaign that began in 1940 and continues today.
2) After a successful career in commercial art (around the age of 59) Leo Lionni and his wife, Nora, decided to pursue other interests and to move to the Tuscany region of Italy where Lionni lived the rest of his life. In his yard he had installed a sculpture by his friend Alexander Calder - the subject of Sandy's Circus by Tonya Lee Stone. I loved the connection between Calder and Lionni. It makes the information about Lionni and the sculpture he created and which the family and friends recently donated to the Eric Carle Museum more interesting.

Read more about Leo Lionni 100 Years of Leo Lionni -
Eric Carle Museum Blog - with entries tagged with Leo Lionni -

Leo Lionni Biography - bibliography on Wee Web — biography of Leonard Lionni

 Tucker, Nicholas.  (03 Nov 1999) Obituary: Leo LionniThe Independent.  Leo Lionni was survived by his wife, Nora (nee' Maffi); a son, Louis Mannie; four grandchildren, Pippo Lionni, Annie Lionni, Gina Zucker and Sylvan Lionni, and six great-grandchildren.  Paolo*, one of his sons preceded him in death in April of 1985 at the age of 46.
Note: At least three of the grandchildren seem to be children of Mannie -- Pippo and Annie are children of Mannie and his first wife, Naomi (died of cancer); Gina Zucker is the daughter of Mannie's second wife, Barbara Zucker; Sylvan  (child of Mannie or Paolo - not sure).  Mannie is an architect in Burlington, Vermont.

Video and Picture Gallery: 100 Years of Leo Lionni.  Random House Library

About Paolo Lionni: "Paolo Lionni was born in Switzerland in 1938 and was educated there, in Italy, and in the U.S. (Brandeis University). During his lifetime he served as art director of several national magazines and his drawings, poetry, essays, and translations have been published in Europe, the U.S., and Mexico. For the last 15 years of his life, he was very active in the field of education promoting an alternative to the educational philosophies described in "The Leipzig Connection." -- from

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