The mesmerizing imagery in Syd Hoff’s classic children’s books Danny and the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal (and Herschel the Hero!) may evoke a bygone era, but the storylines remain perennially popular. Born in The Bronx, NY, on September 4, 1912, (original name Sydney Hoffberg), Hoff’s acclaim as a children’s author was parallel to his fame as a cartoonist.
Hoff was inspired to become a cartoonist after he met Milt Gross (1895-1953), who was known as “America’s Great Yiddish Humorist.” At the time, Hoff was studying at the National Academy of Design. Shortly after meeting Gross, who would become his lifelong friend, Hoff had his first cartoon accepted by The New Yorker. His work was later also published in The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire, and was syndicated in Hearst newspapers across the country.
Like many Jewish cartoonists of the early twentieth century, Hoff’s drawings were considered to have a particularly Jewish flavor. Hoff used the world around him to inspire his cartoons, and so, in his early years, he brought to life the Jewish immigrant families of The Bronx. After he married his wife, Dora “Dutch” Berman, and following the birth of their two daughters, Hoff moved to Miami Beach, Florida—once again centering himself in a thriving Jewish community.
Hoff’s cartoons expressed adult themes and humorous satire. A good number of his cartoons were published in “leftist” newspapers and magazines under the pseudonym A. Redfield to avoid controversy, but he always remained concerned about being accused of being a communist. His newspaper comic strips were family oriented and served to boost the nation’s morale during the second world war. His children’s books were known for their gentle messages of uniqueness and acceptance.
Syd Hoff died on May 12, 2004.
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