Jan Boyer Wahl was born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 1, 1931, the oldest of six sons of Russell and Nina (Boyer) Wahl. His father was a doctor, his mother a homemaker. Jan grew up mostly in Toledo, and after graduating from Thomas A. DeVilbiss High School there in 1949 he attended Cornell University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1953.
After college he went to Denmark to study on a Fulbright Scholarship, working for a time for Karen Blixen, the Danish writer who wrote “Out of Africa” and other books under the pen name Isak Dinesen. He earned a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing from the University of Michigan in the late 1950s.
In his memoir, “Through a Lens Darkly” (2008), Mr. Wahl wrote that he had submitted the manuscript for “Pleasant Fieldmouse” to more than a dozen publishers before Harper & Row accepted it and paired him with Mr. Sendak.
Mr. Wahl’s many other books include “Runaway Jonah and Other Tales” (1968), originally illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, and “Sylvester Bear Overslept” (1979), illustrated by Lee Lorenz. His most recent book, “Hedy & Her Amazing Invention,” was published this month by Penny Candy Books. Illustrated by Morgana Wallace, it tells the life story of the actress Hedy Lamarr, emphasizing her work as a scientist and inventor.
In addition to his brother Rob, Mr. Wahl is survived by two other brothers, Michael and Douglas.
Mr. Wahl told The Toledo Blade in 2006 that as he grew older he recognized two different ways to view aging, only one of which made it easy for an adult to write for children.
“I think that for many people, it’s like going from train station to train station, leaving things behind,” he said. “But for me, it’s more like a tree, adding rings every year. So it’s not that difficult to suddenly go back to being age 4.”