Proud academic and children’s literature critic Karl Kroeber passed away today after a long struggle with cancer. Kroeber had a 50+ year career in education, working on eclectic subjects across literature, but most significantly American Indian literature. In recent years, he railed with a lovable grumpiness against the dumbing down of books and films aimed at the under-12 set. When interviewed by the Blue and White in 2007, he put it this way:
The other side of it, what goes with [my opinion of] Disney, is [my reaction to] this grade-level business, this idea that you must not write a book for a 7-year-old that includes words a 7-year-old might not understand. This is how you encourage dumbing down.
Regrettably, I was never able to fit one of his classes into my schedule, but a single lecture and all the google searching had to suffice for consuming his really brilliant work. The rest of his family is equally distinguished, with an anthropologist father and mother, and celebrated author for a sister (the K. In Ursula K. Le Guin is for Kroeber).
He was also that kind of professor that garnered a large cult following, due in no small part to his open love of scotch and his cat, Mr. Underfoot. Oh, he was also an incredibly nice and generous man. He will be missed.