Joan M. Sweeney, the writer of children’s books, is no more. She died on February 8, 2017, of complications arising from multiple sclerosis at a nursing home in Oak Brook.
Sweeney, who used to be a resident of Evanston for 24 years, had been living in Oak Brook from 2009. She has written 10 children’s books besides working as a journalist for a weekly.
In 1952, Sweeney received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Toledo. A year later, she became a catalog copywriter for Montgomery Ward in Chicago. Later, she worked for Schwimmer & Scott and Grey Advertising, which was the former North Advertising.
In the mid-seventies, she wrote Deerfield, USA, a human interest column for Deerfield Review, a weekly newspaper. In the mid-eighties, she moved to Evanston and worked for Graham Hayward & Associates, a marketing and advertising agency.
She started writing for children in the early nineties. Her most popular children’s book is “Me on the Map,” which gets children interested in reading maps. This book led to a series of books titled “Me Counting Time,” Me and My Place in Space,” “Me and My Amazing Body,” “Me and the Measure of Things,” “Me and My Family Tree,” and “Me and My Senses.”
Tracy Gates, who edited her books at Crown Books for Young Readers recalls that it was a pleasure working with Sweeney as she graciously and humbly received editorial feedback and guidance. Her literary agent Danielle Egan-Miller says, “She was a lovely woman and a very talented author.”
Sweeney also wrote books for the young with the aim of introducing them to great artists. “Suzette and the Puppy” is all about a girl meeting Mary Cassatt, the painter. “Bijou, Bonbon, and Beau: The Kittens who Danced for Degas” is about a cat and her kittens hiding in a theater in Paris where Edgar Degas, the artist, is working on his sketches. “Once Upon a Lily Pad: Froggy Love in Monet’s Garden” is a story of two frogs who live in a pond in the garden of Claude Monet, the painter.
Gates said: “What was wonderful about the books is that there weren’t a lot of very young nonfiction books at the time, and I think she saw a way to help children see the world.”
Isabel Warren-Lynch, who was the art director for Sweeney’s books, says: “She was tuned into what appealed to kids in that age group of preschool through kindergarten. She really had a good sense for kids that age. And her books were a nice collaboration between editor, illustrator, and Joan.”
Sweeney has left behind two sons, a daughter, a brother, and ten grandchildren.