Mr. Kessler often found inspiration in everyday life. A little boy’s feelings of hunger on a trip to the supermarket, for example, are amplified in “Crunch Crunch” (1955), the sequel to “Plink Plink”, a book about the feeling of thirst.
He once told an interviewer that he crawled on the floor a lot to get a child’s perspective on things. When her young son Paul asked her, “Do baby bears sit on chairs?” Mr. Kessler replied, “I don’t know, but that’s a great title for a book.” (“Do Baby Bears Sit in Chairs?” appeared in 1961.)
“The Big Red Bus”, about a bus that lands in a pothole, clogging up traffic, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the best illustrated children’s books of 1957. 1990, it was a Times crossword clue (“‘Author of Big Red Bus,’ 5 down).
Leonard Cecil Kessler was born on October 28, 1920 in Akron, Ohio. His father, Albert Lewis Kessler, was a plumber; his mother, Lillian (Rabinowitz) Kessler, was a nursing assistant. Leonard grew up in Pittsburgh, a neighborhood of European immigrants, and met his future wife, Ethel Gerson, there. They married in 1946, when he returned from World War II. In France and Germany, he had served as an intelligence scout, crawling behind enemy lines after dark to report on his positions, which he delivered in atmospheric sketches.
Planning to be an artist, he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, now Carnegie Mellon University, on the GI Bill, sharing a studio with fellow returning servicemen and a very shy 18-year-old named Andy. Warhola. After earning a BFA in 1949, Mr. Kessler and his wife moved to Manhattan.
A few years later, in 1953, the Kesslers decided to sublet their apartment to Mr. Warhola (who had by then changed his surname to Warhol), who needed a bigger place: his mother, Julia, was coming live with him, with his 25 cats, all named Sam.