Nancy Willard, a prolific author whose 70 books of poems and fiction enchanted children and adults alike with a lyrical blend of fanciful illusion and stark reality, died on Feb. 19 at her home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She was 80.Ms. Willard’s 1982 picture book, “A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers,” illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, was the first volume of poetry to receive the Newbery Medal and also a Caldecott Honor as one of the best illustrated books of the year. It was the first time a Newbery winner was also named a Caldecott book.
“Nancy Willard’s imagination — in verse or prose, for children or adults — builds castles stranger than any mad King of Bavaria ever built,” the poet Donald Hall wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1981. “She imagines with a wonderful concreteness. But also, she takes real language and by literal-mindedness turns it into the structure of dream.”(The New York Times).
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