Robert San Souci, children's author, dies at 68
By Lou Fancher
Acclaimed children's author Robert D. San Souci, who wrote the story for the Disney film "Mulan" and more than 100 books for young readers, died unexpectedly Dec. 19. He was 68.
After suffering a fall and sustaining a head injury that sent him to San Francisco General Hospital earlier in the week, San Souci was released from the hospital, but failed to appear for a lunch appointment Dec. 19. He was discovered unresponsive later that day in his Noe Valley home.
San Souci, who was born in San Francisco, raised in Berkeley and attended college at St. Mary's College in Moraga, knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer. His award-winning books were often spirited retellings of folk tales, fairy tales, myths and legends from around the world.
"I think I never outgrew my love of fairy tales when I was growing up. I'd save my allowance money and buy used editions of books like 'The Wizard of Oz' and the Rainbow Colored Fairy books. I love science fiction and ghost stories," he said in a 1998 interview.
Among the many celebrated titles, 12 books written by San Souci and illustrated by his younger brother, Daniel San Souci, stood out as his favorites.
The two brothers, who shared a birth date of Oct. 10, had their first published book in 1978. "Legend of Scarface" was a New York Times selection for best illustrated book.
From 1994 to 1999, the San Souci brothers created an East Bay tradition by annually writing and illustrating an original holiday story for the Contra Costa Times.
San Souci was an American Library Association notable author whose work has also been recognized by American Bookseller and the International Reading Association.
"When we were young, my parents always said Bob would be the writer and I'd be the artist," Daniel San Souci said in an interview. "When we graduated from college, we decided kids books would be the perfect medium. Our first book in 1978 won awards and opened the door for us. Anytime we worked together it was special."
San Souci said when they spoke Dec. 16, his brother reassured him he was fine and the fall wasn't critical. They made plans to meet at BART so that "Uncle Bob," as he was known by his extended family of siblings, nieces and nephews, could spend the Christmas holiday at Daniel San Souci's home in the Oakland hills.
"It's a shock, of course," San Souci said. "We loved him to pieces."
Turning his thoughts to his brother's legacy, San Souci said: "The first thing that pops out is that Bob was kind and humble. He'd help people with manuscripts and write big notes when personalizing books. He had no ego."
San Souci said his brother was one of the first children's book authors to highlight folk tales from other cultures featuring strong female characters. The prolific author was fond of haunted houses, and books such as "Cinderella Skeleton" revealed his alternatively carefree, kid-like exuberance.
To recognize his brother's "dynamic, giant literary presence," San Souci said a special memorial will be held in February or March.
In addition to Daniel, Robert San Souci is survived by another brother, Mike San Souci, of Bozeman, Montana, and a sister, Ellen Diamond, of Walnut Creek.
A coroner is expected to conduct an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.