Image Source: nancygarden.comIn Memory of Nancy Garden (1938-2014), a steadfast defender of the intellectual freedom of young readers, whose writings thoughtfully addressed the questions of young readers about their place in the world.






About Nancy Garden All open in new window

Nancy Garden - In Her Own Words

Obituaries All open in new window


Gene Balloun, Founder and ex officio member, Johnson County First Amendment Foundation, Partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP

Fortunate is the person who even once during a lifetime meets someone who profoundly influences their life.  I had that good fortune with Nancy Garden.  Although I knew her for more than a decade, we did not have significant time together.  But from the outset, I knew she was an incredibly bright, warm, loving, vibrant and inspirational person.  More importantly, she made you want to be alive, achieving and helping others.

I first met Nancy in 1995.  A Johnson County, Kansas school district had ordered her award-winning book, Annie On My Mind, removed from the school library.  The heart-warming and inspirational book was banned because it contained gay and lesbian themes.  Our law firm was asked to help right this wrong.  After the school board refused to replace copies of the book in the school libraries, we filed suit in Federal Court on behalf of students who protested this infringement of their First Amendment right of free speech.

I decided to contact the author on the off chance she would be willing to appear as a witness.  She quickly agreed.

Nancy traveled from Boston to Kansas City, and our meeting to prepare for the trial was memorable.  She was such a remarkable person, and a joy to work with.  I felt we had been friends for years.  I had sent her a list of more than thirty books from the school library with gay and lesbian themes.  The school board had argued this proved they were not censoring.  She told me she read all of them, and was ready to explain why none was as essential or relevant as Annie.  Her book conveyed a message of understanding, hope and affirmation that could not be matched.  As Nancy said, she wrote Annie “because I like children and teens so much and feel they are important, special people.”  Her loving and caring spirit bubbles from the pages of Annie.

When Nancy testified in Federal Court in defense of Annie, the courtroom was spellbound.  She was such an incredibly effective witness.  Judge Van Bebber’s decision ordering Annie’s return to the school libraries was a resounding affirmation of not only the First Amendment, but of the literary quality of Annie.  Being in that courtroom with Nancy was a profound and memorable experience for me.

When I first met Nancy and her life partner, Sandy Scott, their devotion to each other was something to behold.  My times with them during the trial, and in the years that followed, are precious memories.

All of us lost a wonderful talent and human being when Nancy died.  She made me so glad I am a lawyer, and I burst with pride at having been allowed to help defend Annie and the First Amendment.  I miss my dear friend more than you can imagine.


In Remembrance: Nancy Garden

Victoria Brownsworth, Lambda Literary celebrating excellence in LGBT literature since 1989, posted June 24, 2014

She wrote the book all lesbians wanted to have as teenagers. She wrote the books kids of lesbian and gay parents needed to read. She was an icon and a treasure and every other over-used cliché about writers who are larger than life—except of course in her case it was all true.

Her heart was so big, so full of love for women and for kids who needed books about their own lives, it’s not surprising that her heart finally gave out. Nancy Garden, author, editor, LGBT activist, former theater maven and teacher, died suddenly on the morning of June 23 of a massive heart attack. She was 76.

Garden was that rarity: the consummate children’s book author. It was her metier and she had refined it to a soaring art. There was no sub-genre of the children’s book Garden hadn’t mastered. She did picture books, middle-grade books and books for teens and the work ranged from humorous picture books, serious literary fiction, horror, mystery, historical fiction to non-fiction.



In Memory: Nancy Garden

Cynthia Leitch Smith, Cynsations, a source for conversations, publishing, information, writer resources & inspiration, bookseller-librarian-teacher appreciation, children’s-YA book news & author outreach, posted June 24, 2014

The youth literature community is deeply saddened by the sudden death of Nancy Garden, age 76, on June 23.

Nancy was a groundbreaking author, perhaps best known for her YA love story, Annie On My Mind (FSG, 1982).


Let's celebrate her memory and revisit her thoughts:

Tell us a bit about your writing background. How did you get started writing for children? What were your earliest influences?

I come from a family of book lovers, especially on my mother's side. I was read to as a child, and my favorite Christmas and birthday presents were always books — well, maybe except for the Christmas I got my first puppy!

When I was around eight years old, I started writing for my own pleasure outside of school, and I never stopped, no matter what else I did or what else I was interested in.

When I was little, I wanted to be a veterinarian, and when I was older I wanted to be in theater (and was for awhile), but I continued to write.

I think I'm one of those people who has to write.

Read more >> 


Nancy Garden - In Her Own Words

“An Interview with Nancy Garden,” ALSC Blog—The Official Blog of the Association for Library Service to Children, June 15, 2013

“[T]he major challenge to my YA novel Annie on My Mind in Kansas and Missouri in 1993-1995 led to my speaking about censorship, the First Amendment, and LGBT rights in conferences, etc., in addition to testifying in the First Amendment trial about the banning attempt.  From the experience, I learned a great deal about speaking in public and about the people who attempt to ban books.  Although some of those people appear to have less than lofty motives, I discovered that others are very sincere, troubled, and afraid that books can do great harm to children, and that they truly believe some ideas are too dangerous for the public to have free access to them.”

Letter from Nancy Garden to Gene Balloun, October 19, 2009:

Reflecting on a “glass sculpture of a blue flame captured within a transparent one,” she writes: . . .“Sometimes it makes me think of how transparent the efforts are of those who would subvert the First Amendment, and how persistently the efforts of people like those who work in the First Amendment Foundation to protect it shine through them.  At other times I think of how clear and powerful the First Amendment itself is, and how the efforts of those who would protect it…capture its foes, keeping them at bay.”

Quotes from Annie on My Mind

"The thing about mountains is that you have to keep on climbing them, and that it's always hard, but there's a view from top every time when you finally get there.”
Nancy Garden, Annie on My Mind

“Don't let ignorance win. Let love.”
Nancy Garden, Annie on My Mind

“But what really is immorality? And what does helping someone really mean? Helping them to be like everyone else, or helping them to be themselves?”
Nancy Garden, Annie on My Mind