MURPHY–Jim. Jim Murphy, Award-Winning Children’s Book Author. Beloved children’s book author Jim Murphy, 74, died suddenly on May 1, 2022, at his home in Woodstock, NY. As writer, editor, husband, parent, and friend, Jim’s warmth, wit, and humor impacted everyone who encountered him. Profoundly modest by nature, many who knew him were unaware of the many awards and accolades he and his books received, including being a two-time Newbery Honor Book award winner, a National Book Award Finalist, and a winner of the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal, as well as a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime contribution to young adult literature. Born in Kearny, NJ, Jim (James John Patrick) was an inveterate storyteller. Reflecting on his childhood, Jim captivated listeners by spinning tales of adventure—whether of tramping through the vast acreage of New Jersey’s Meadowlands or of challenging the authority of the Catholic school nuns who tried to tame his independent spirit. While attending Rutgers University, where he set records in track-and-field, Jim attended a summer publishing program at Radcliffe College. That program, along with a chance encounter with a book banned by a teacher, set him on a lifetime of writing and the pursuit of a publishing career. And, after a brief and scary detour as a construction worker, Jim returned his sights to children’s books and never looked back. These same storytelling gifts that Jim shared with family and friends he also brought to his carefully crafted, rigorously researched nonfiction books. Studded with rich detail and deep history and containing the voices and experiences of eyewitnesses, Jim wrote about many historical subjects and published with Scholastic Books, Clarion/ HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. His books by him include: The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War (Clarion, 1990); The Great Fire (Scholastic, 2001); An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (Clarion, 2003); and Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever (Clarion, 2015). Many of his books by him are now considered classics. Of Jim’s book Truce (Scholastic, 2009), which explored the Christmas truce of World War I, Kirkus said: “Spectacular.” Of his work in general, The Washington Post said, “No one does children’s nonfiction like Jim Murphy.” Jim was devoted to his family of him: his two grown sons of him, Michael Blank Murphy of South Amboy, New Jersey, and Ben Blank Murphy, of Jersey City, New Jersey, and his wife of him, writer and children’s TV producer Alison Blank. In addition to his immediate family, Jim is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Jerry and Lorraine Murphy of Fort Bragg, CA, Elaine Murphy, his first wife, and two cats and a dog. Jim’s intelligence, generosity, and warm smile will be missed by all who knew him. Memorials will be held in both Maplewood, NJ and Woodstock, NY. Donations may be made in his name from him to First Book or Doctors Without Borders.
Published by New York Times on May 29, 2022.