Winfield author imagined ‘storytelling through a child’s eyes’

In 2013, children’s book author Jennifer Bartoli-Kalina recalled how, at an authors’ meeting, “I sat next to Alzina Stone Dale, who was rocking in an antique chair before a blazing fire and telling us of a biography she had written about a so-called obscure English author. Ignorant, I kept quiet and went home to meet GK Chesterton in an old poetry collection.”

Mrs. Bartoli-Kalina went on to become the local group leader of the Midwest Chesterton Society, whose members discuss and read books, mostly those by Chesterton, who also was a writer, philosopher and literary and art critic. The local group meets at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park.

Mrs. Bartoli-Kalina, also a former board member of the Society of Midland Authors, died of cancer on Oct. 18 at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield. She was 77.

She had started feeling ill about five weeks before she died, her husband, Daniel Kalina, said.

Mrs. Bartoli-Kalina, a longtime resident of west suburban Winfield, was the author of “Snow on Bear’s Nose: A Story of a Japanese Moon Bear Cub” (Albert Whitman & Co., Jan. 1, 1977); “The Story of the Grateful Crane” (Albert Whitman & Co., Jan 1, 1977); “Nonna” (Harvey House, Jan. 1, 1975), and “In a Meadow, Two Hares Hide” (Gakken Co Ltd., 1978).

Her family recalled she was a passionate reader and enjoyed travel, theatre, music, cooking and gardening.

Mrs. Bartoli-Kalina was born on May 13, 1945, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She grew up on Chicago’s North Shore, in Michigan and in Australia. She graduated from the University of Michigan and was an active member of the former Children’s Reading Round Table. She also was a Benedictine Oblate of St. Procopius in Lisle.

She got her love of writing and literature from her father, who was an English professor at the University of Michigan, her daughter, Amelia Hanrahan, said.

Hanrahan also recalled when she was taking a reading comprehension test in grade school, one of the selections she unexpectedly had to read and answer questions about was from her mother’s book “Nonna.” Hanrahan said she aced that part of the test, partly because her mother often read to her and her brother, Pietro, from her books.

Mrs. Bartoli-Kalina was a successful children’s writer because she “embraced imagination and frivolity, and it was easy for her to imagine storytelling through a child’s eyes,” Hanrahan said. “Much of her writing could be characterized as very precise and pastoral and maternal — not quite feminist but a persistent theme nonetheless.”

Children’s book author Charlotte Herman of Lincolnwood said, “I met Jennifer at a Children’s Reading Round Table dinner in the early 1970s. She was super friendly, warm, and soft-spoken. We became instant friends. After that first dinner, we attended most of the CRRT and Society of Midland Authors events together.

“We celebrated Jennifer’s two books that came out around that time: ‘Snow on Bear’s Nose,’ and ‘Nonna,’ a tender story about the death of a grandmother. Jennifer also wrote poetry. She had the heart of a poet, the soul of a poet.

“One day Jennifer decided that we should write a book together. So we came up with ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Social Climbing.’ We actually wrote a few chapters and received positive feedback from a publisher. But we never got to finish the book, because whenever we got together, we had tea and cookies and laughed ourselves silly over what we were writing.”

Mrs. Bartoli-Kalina was preceded in death by her first husband, Peter Bartoli. She is also survived by a sister, Alison Mutter, and six grandchildren.

Services have been held.

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