CLAVERACK—Joan Steiner, illustrator and creator of the Look-Alikes series of books, died Wednesday, September 8, of cancer at her home in Claverack.
She was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the daughter of Emery and Klara Steiner, both of whom immigrated from Hungary at the beginning of World War II.
Following Barnard College and graduate work in philosophy at the University of Chicago, she began her career in the arts by creating one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces, described by the New York Times as “design originals”. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Craftsman’s Fellowship, her hand-sewn clothes for women were shown primarily at Julie: Artisans’ Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City. Her Brooklyn Bridge Cape was featured on the cover of Fiber Arts Magazine.
She then turned to three-dimensional illustration for magazine covers and editorial work, winning numerous gold, silver and bronze awards from Dimensional Illustrators, the Society of Illustrators, the Educational Press Association and other organizations for excellence in illustration. The images she created for the New York Times, Games Magazine, Nicklelodian and other magazines, catalogues and posters led to the development of her first book, Look-Alikes, which took over three years to complete.
Look-Alikes was named one of Time Magazine’s best children’s books and one of the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Children’s Books of 1998. It was named best book of the year by Parenting Magazine, Publishers Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Her four books, Look-Alikes, Look-Alikes Jr., Look-Alikes Christmas, and Look-Alikes Around the World, have sold over a million copies world-wide and been translated into sixteen languages.
Her books have been used by teachers in many countries to encourage children to look closely at common objects to find hidden dimensions and to use imagination to create new images out of those objects. She received fan mail from children around the world and attempted to answer every letter, even when each member of a class sent individual notes of appreciation.
Ms. Steiner served for many years as vice-president of the Claverack Free Library and as co-chair of its Building Committee. She chaired the library’s poetry series, bringing internationally known poets to Claverack each year to read their work. She dedicated herself over 10 years to finding an affordable way to increase the size of the library and to expand its programs to better serve the larger Claverack community. She helped negotiate the agreement for the library to purchase the AB Shaw firehouse upon the completion of the new firehouse. For many years it was her practice to sell her books in her Hudson studio during the annual Arts Walk and to donate the profit to the Arts Walk and the Claverack Library.
Ms. Steiner was a member of the Alan Devoe Bird Club and an avid birder. Her many birding trips with her husband took her throughout the United States and Canada, and to Europe, South America, the Carribbean and Africa. She was an active member of the Claverack Democratic Committee, serving for many years as its treasurer. Her other passions included scrabble, crosswords and the great English novels of the nineteenth century.
She is survived by her husband, George Rodenhausen, and her daughter, Holly Allen, both of Claverack, her step-sons, George and Derek Rodenhausen, of New York City and her brother, Tom Steiner, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Contributions may be made to the Claverack Free Library in her memory.
The family welcomes visitors at their home in Claverack from 7 to 9 pm each night this week through Sunday night. A memorial service will be held in the CE Building next to the Dutch Reformed Church, Route 9H in Claverack, Saturday, October 9, 2010, at 3 pm.