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Sharon Smith Kane – RIP

Cartoonist and children’s book author/illustrator Sharon Smith Kane has passed away.


Sharon Kane (neé Smith)
February 18, 1932 – November 3, 2021

From Andrew Farago’s obituary at The Comics Journal:

Children’s book author and cartoonist Sharon Kane (née Smith) passed away on November 3, 2021 at the age of 89. Her newspaper panel Buttons an’ Beaux, launched while she was still in high school, established her as one of the nation’s youngest syndicated cartoonists.

During her junior year of high school, Kane’s class elected her editor of the Mishawaka High School student newspaper, the AllTold, for which she penned a humorous teen advice column. At her mother’s suggestion, Kane added illustrations to her articles. Positive reader response led her to create a single-panel cartoon for the AllTold. “[My mother] suggested that I send my early cartoons to the editor of the South Bend Tribune, which I did, and that was the beginning,” recalled Kane. The Tribune published Kane’s cartoons on its teenage page under the title Atomic Teens.

During Kane’s senior year of high school, her South Bend Tribune editor, Frederick A. Miller, understandably proud of the Tribune’s teenage cartoonist, reached out to professional cartoonists on her behalf. Several responded with advice on cartooning and suggestions on refining her work for newspaper publication. Miller also took the liberty of submitting Atomic Teens to newspaper syndicates. The McNaught Syndicate, based in New York City, responded positively, and ten weeks after the debut of Atomic Teens, McNaught signed Kane to a syndication contract. She was 17 at the time.

After her graduation from the University of Wisconsin, Kane worked briefly for a fashion catalog house in Chicago before marrying artist Russell Koester in March 1955. Koester, then a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, was designated for assignment in Seattle, Washington, and the pair lived there for two years. Kane occupied her time with art classes and freelance work, including features for Children’s Activities and design work for children’s programs at the local television station. “I found myself more and more intrigued with children’s book illustration,” she recalled in her 2014 author profile. “I began submitting samples of my artwork to various publishers with encouraging responses from editors but with no actual assignments.”

Unable to get the children’s illustration assignments she wanted, Kane wrote and illustrated a picture book manuscript of her own and sent it to her mother for feedback. Without telling Kane, her mother passed it along to a publisher she knew, Albert Whitman & Company, which accepted it. Where Are You Going Today? was published under the name Sharon Smith Koester in 1957.

 


From Eric Agena and Comic Strip Fan:

Sharon Kane grew up in Indiana, the child of an artist-writer mother and engineer father.  She began her art career at the age of nine when she had a drawing published in Children’s Activities Magazine (now Highlights For Children) and the thrill of seeing her work in print got in her blood.

Soon many more of her pictures, stories and poems found their way to that and other children’s magazines.  She was a steady contributor to Child Life and The Christian Science Monitor.

As a teen her art was published in Scholastic Magazine and Seventeen Magazine and The South Bend Tribune.  At 17 she stepped into the professional arena when she created a teenage cartoon, Buttons An’ Beaux, which was syndicated in newspapers across the country.  Through this she was able to finance her college education and graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1954.

 

At age 25 she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, Where Are  You Going Today?, published by Albert Whitman & Co. Chicago.

Over the next twenty years, while being married and raising children, she illustrated more than 25 picture books for Golden Press and Rand McNally

 

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