David McKee Dies at Age 87: Remembering the 'Mr Benn' and 'Elmer' Author and Illustrator

"His was a singular voice that highlighted inclusivity, diversity and parts of our world that are not always present," said Klaus Flugge, McKee's best friend and longtime publisher on Instagram

British author and illustrator David McKee
Photo: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty

David McKee, the children's author and illustrator known for the Mr Benn series, has died at the age of 87.

The announcement of his passing was made by McKee's publisher, Andersen Press, on Instagram Thursday. "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of David McKee — beloved author and illustrator for children, and creator of iconic children's books Elmer, Not Now, Bernard and Mr Benn," the caption read.

"David died surrounded by his family, following a short illness in the South of France, where he has spent a lot of time in recent years; he was 87," it continued. "All at Andersen Press hope his spirit lives on for many more generations through his joyful, heartfelt stories."

The Devon-born writer sold more than 10 million books around the world.

Tributes to the author came in after death, including one from Klaus Flugge, Andersen Press publisher and founder. "I am devastated by the sudden death of my best friend David McKee," wrote Flugge, "his was a singular voice and a shining light in children's books that highlighted inclusivity, diversity and parts of our world that are not always present in publishing for children."

"His classic books have become part of the canon of children's literature, and we hope will be enjoyed by children for many more generations to come. Not only was I fortunate to be his publisher, he was also a wonderful friend, and he will be missed by many more people than he could ever imagine. My thoughts, and those of everyone at Andersen Press, are with his family and many friends around the world."

During his early career, McKee sold comic drawings to magazines and newspapers such as The Times Educational Supplement, Punch and the Reader's Digest.

His debut book, Two Can Toucan, was published in 1964.

McKee's most famous character, Mr Benn, was known for his fashionable adventures. The character, equipped with his signature black suit and bowler hat, would visit a clothing store in each adventure, picking out a different ensemble before traveling through a magic door on a journey related to said outfit.

The concept was later adapted as an animated television series, originally transmitted by the BBC in the early 1970s.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant was also made into a TV series, as well as a stage play. McKee wrote and illustrated 29 original Elmer books, which have collectively been translated into more than 60 languages.

McKee also illustrated books written by other authors, such as some of the later Paddington Bear books and Forrest Wilson's Super Gran.

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