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The Reverend Dr. Lawrence Sipe, R.I.P.

March 11, 2011

Today has been a sad day in many respects. The crisis in Japan is weighing heavily on my mind. You really cannot take a single moment of your life --or the lives of your loved ones-- for granted. Then, this evening, that message was acutely reinforced when I learned that my adviser at school passed away today. Dr. Lawrence Sipe was not only my adviser, but my favorite professor at UPenn. He was the first professor I contacted when I was thinking of applying to the Graduate School of Education. I took his course, Picturebooks and the Practice of Literacy, in my second semester and I'm currently taking his Young Adult Fiction course. I can't believe I won't see him in class next week!

Last summer, I was often in his office, arranging the picturebooks on the shelves and talking to him about Caribbean children's literature. He was so interested in Caribbean children's books and I often showed him books I was reading. I still have the packet of pretty origami paper he gave me when I was tidying his desk one day. He was a reader of my blog and expressed a lot of interest when I told him I had started Anansesem.

Dr. Sipe's areas of expertise lay in children's and young adult literature, early childhood education and emergent literacy. He was an avid reader of children's and young adult books and dedicated his professional life to studying the ways children develop literary understanding as they talk about and respond to books. He has certainly inspired me on a vocational level. I don't think he even knew how much I valued him being my adviser.

Dr. Sipe was also such an amiable little man. He always had a smile and a compliment ready for you. He was quite a character in the Graduate School of Education and often made us laugh because of the witty, off-the-wall or sarcastic things he would say in class. GSE students often talked about his children's and young adult literature classes as being the "fun" classes offered at the School. It still hasn't fully registered to me that he is gone. I know many of us on campus will be mourning his death and sharing memories of him in the upcoming days.

I am once again reminded to be thankful to God for life. I have to trust that despite the painful things that happen, there is always reason to be hopeful and much to celebrate. My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Sipe's family and with the people of Japan.

Follow-up blog post: The Lawrence R. Sipe Collection at the International Youth Library.

When I wrote the above tribute to the late Dr. Lawrence Sipe, professor, children's literature scholar, and priest, I had no idea just how much his pioneering research on children's books and the impact he personally made on my life would continue to resonate over a decade later. May the work of all who learned from him honor his legacy and reflect well on our time spent as his students.