Award-winning children's author, CT resident Patricia Reilly Giff dies at 86

Despite her decades as a beloved and awarding-winning children’s book author, Patricia Reilly Giff was almost unfailingly modest. She wasn’t the kind of person who would draw attention to herself when she was out and about, said Lynne Perrigo, a children’s librarian at the Westport Library.

“She was just a lovely person,” Perrigo said. “She would come in here to look things up and would hardly ask any questions. But she would always stop and chat. She was very inspiring and such a great author.”

Giff, who lived in Weston for many years, died Tuesday at age 86. According to her publishing house, she was a Trumbull resident at the time of her death.

She wrote more than 100 books and was well-known for the Kids of the Polk Street School books, the Polka Dot Private Eye Books and many others. According to a release from Penguin Random House, Giff’s novels “Lily’s Crossing” and “Pictures of Hollis Woods” are Newbery Honor Books. In addition, her books have won numerous awards and accolades from educators, parents and kids.

Locally, Perrigo and others remembered Giff as someone who loved books and cared deeply about providing the best books for young readers. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Giff received a bachelor of the arts from Marymount College and became a teacher.

Perrigo said she had heard Giff got into writing because she was disappointed in the types of books that were available to children. “She told me she would wake up in the morning and write before school and write after school,” Perrigo said.

The statement from Penguin Random House quoted Giff as saying that she always tried to write books “that say ordinary people are special. All of my books are based in some way on my personal experiences, or the experiences of members of my family, or the stories kids would tell me in school.”

According to Penguin Random House, Giff and her husband were longtime residents of Connecticut. They had three children and seven grandchildren, and were great-grandparents as well.

In addition to being a regular patron of the Westport Library, Perrigo said Giff sometimes appeared at events there, including a children’s literacy festival the library hosted in the early 2000s.

“She wasn’t a flamboyant person,” Perrigo said. “She was modest and quiet and kind.”

Others who paid tribute included Turning the Page bookstore in Monroe, which posted about Giff on its Facebook page. “Her stellar contributions to children’s literature will live on, but she will be so deeply missed,” the post read.