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I first heard of Floyd Cooper through Patricia Lee Gauch. She had his paintings on her wall, and she spoke lovingly of the young artist she'd met early in his career -- whose work could capture a story's emotional arc and take the reader on a very special journey. 

Years later, I had the pleasure of meeting Floyd Cooper when he illustrated my most recent picture book Sprouting Wings, which I co-wrote with my friend Louisa Jaggar. Sprouting Wings had been Louisa's labor of love - a gift to her grandchildren, a story about the kind of hero she wanted them to see. Floyd read the manuscript and fell in love with it. Like James Herman Banning he had grown up in Oklahoma. He understood the history and he understood the importance of Banning's story. Floyd was delightful to work with. He chuckled as we sent him numerous historical notes that often involved minor changes to his art. The most important thing that Floyd Cooper did was bring Banning to life and let readers see the deep love Banning had of flight. There are things that words can't convey that only pictures can, and Floyd brought Banning's joy and passion to life. Floyd was extremely generous with his process and shared his early illustrations with us. That probably was one of the most glorious experiences - to see the book come alive through its various stages. Louisa and I are deeply honored that Floyd Cooper fell in love with Banning the same way we had. Words can't describe how heartbroken we feel this week. 

- Shari