Tribute to Jonny Zucker

All of us in the Haringey Chapter were saddened to learn of the recent death of Jonny Zucker. Jonny was a founder member of our group – being already Patron of Reading at Rhodes Avenue Primary School. We are truly grateful that Jonny brought his huge experience and enthusiasm to our efforts to develop our Patron of Reading network in Haringey.

His death is a huge loss to the Haringey Chapter, to all the schools he worked with and to the wider world of children’s literature. We have gathered together some of the tributes to Jonny that people across the country have sent us. We join with them in expressing our condolences to Jonny’s family and friends and we thank Jonny for all he has done for us and for the thousands of people he has inspired.

Patron of Reading: Haringey Chapter and Big Green Bookshop Education CIC

I met Jonny quite early on in my career as an author. We had a lot in common – both Jewish, both living in Haringey, both published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. We shared a lot of friends. But it wasn’t this that made me immediately feel that I had a new friend. It was Jonny’s warmth and humour, his wit and imagination and, when I heard him speak at an event organised by Haringey libraries, the way that children so obviously found him inspiring and infinitely entertaining.

Keren David, author – read Keren’s full tribute to Jonny HERE

I only met Jonny once but he’s not the kind of guy that you forget. It was my first ever author event and he would have had every right to just roll his eyes at my inexperience. But instead, he put me completely at ease with his friendliness and his sense of humour. I will be forever grateful to him for that and he will always remind me of the joyful soul of children’s writing. I’m so sad that I won’t get to work with him again. My condolences to his family and friends.

Matt Oldfield, co-author of the Heroes Football series

Jonny was a big heart of my local community and the whole of the children’s book community. He was a person of great warmth and empathy. I will truly miss his high fives and road side chats about stories being written and anecdotes of latest school events or his work as Patron of Reading. These catch up chats we had mostly outside our local library where he often wrote. We once held a shared event there where he talked about his story while doing magic tricks. He delighted many thousands of children and young people he spoke to. He was especially proud that he had been successful in getting boys enthusiastic about reading, my own son loved Jonny’s football stories, reading them again and again. He will be so greatly missed by so many.

Sita Brahmachari, author 

I spent several summer retreats at Charney Manor with Jonny. He was always one of the warmest and most engaging writers there, with time for everyone. Passionate about reading and sharing his love for it, he was a natural showman, a dedicated and talented writer and a lovely, warm man. His death is a big loss to the children’s reading and writing community.

Sheena Wilkinson, author

I only met Jonny last winter when we tutored together on an Arvon course at The Hurst. He was so friendly and inventive and supportive – I am so sad to hear of his death.  What a loss.  My warmest sympathies to his family at this hard time.

Jean Atkin, poet & writer in education & community

I spent two writing retreats in the company of Jonny Zucker and had a whale of a time. He was incredibly generous with his support and encouragement to other writers and very modest about his own (considerable) achievements. He was reluctant to blow his own trumpet but first in line to big up another author! He was also very, very dry, to the point that it was hard to know if he was joking or not. I thought he was hilarious, and very much enjoyed spending time with him. He also talked through a plot problem I was having with one of my books (Electrigirl, published by OUP) which really helped. Jonny is a big loss to the children’s publishing community and I send my condolences to his family and friends. A big-hearted man who leaves a big hole.

Jo Cotterill, author

I did several joint author events with Jonny over the years. They were AWFUL. Awful, because we’d always start with an assembly together, and I’d stand there while he was so funny that he’d have the kids, the staff and ME howling. And then how on earth was I supposed to follow that?! I wanted to gather my classes, and take them to join Jonny’s, just so I could sit back and enjoy the wonderfully enthusiastic and entertaining Mr Z too…

Karen McCombie, author

I first met Jonny a few years ago when he came to my school to do several author visits. He was always so down to earth and seemed to naturally connect well with everyone in school. The kids adored his sense of humour and of course, his books! When we first considered having a patron of reading the first name that came into my mind was Jonny Zucker! No other author that we had in school was as good or as passionate about their work as Jonny was. I can recall several assemblies he did at our school, he had all of the children hanging on his every word as he told them stories about his job and growing up. Jonny was so captivating, that there was never any clock watching or fidgeting when he was around. I was really sad to hear news about Jonny and will never forget the impact he had at our school.

Jess Nicholson, teacher

Amazing man and a literacy hero!

Jim Sells, Programme Manager, Premier League Reading Stars

Jonny was a star at my school and he inspired 100s of students, over a number of years, to sign up to creative writing modules which resulted in the students becoming published authors. He delivered twelve workshops in two days in 2014 and 2015 to try to get as many students as possible to sign up to a number of modules that local authors were offering students after school. Boy was it a big ask! But he delivered above and beyond what myself and my colleague ever expected. Who knew, in Year 8, that signing up to after-school, creative writing modules could be so cool?

He also did a lot of work for the school and its community when I co-ordinated the Mega Read activity for our partner primaries back in 2007. He was quiz master for the 2nd Mega Read Book Award quiz which Ellis hosted for the primaries back in 2012. One of his books (Max Flash: Game On) won the first Mega Read book award. On more than one of his author visits Jonny delivered a session for staff at the end of the day which supported literacy development. He always threw in a few magic tricks as well.

I remember him as the sort of person who would always maximise every minute of his time with us and whenever I booked Jonny I could relax and enjoy the visits because the students were in such safe and capable hands. One ex-member of staff remembers him “being amazing with lower ability groups as he told them to write what they imagined in their head and not to worry about spelling and grammar”.

He kept it real for the students and they loved his visits.

Katherine, school librarian