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Betsy Byars, Who Wrote of Deserted Children, Is Dead at 91


Ms. Byars’s other books include “Wanted … Mud Blossom” (1991), the last in a series of books about the Blossom family, which won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1992; and “The Two-Thousand-Pound Goldfish” (1982), about a boy named Warren who daydreams about horror movies about a gigantic goldfish to escape the pain caused by his absent mother, who is on the run from the F.B.I.

“Ms. Byars’s straightforward narration lets pure gut feelings come through,” the children’s book author Marilyn Kaye wrote about “The Two-Thousand-Pound Goldfish” in The New York Times Book Review in 1982. “The rationale for the mother’s behavior and her actual motives are never really explored, but that’s not important. The impact of Warren’s having to cope with the fact that he’s not the No. 1 priority in his mother’s life is important. It’s not an easy concept to grasp, but he will eventually accept it, and survive.”

Betsy Alice Cromer was born on Aug. 7, 1928, in Charlotte, N.C., to George Cromer, a textile executive, and Nan (Rugheimer) Cromer, a homemaker.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from what was then Queens College of Charlotte, now Queens University of Charlotte, in 1950, the same year she married Edward Byars. She was an avid reader from a young age, but said she never considered writing until after she and Mr. Byars moved to Illinois, where he pursued a graduate degree in engineering.

“I didn’t know anyone, I had two little kids, I had to do something,” Ms. Byars said in 1984.

She began to write, contributing articles to The Saturday Evening Post, Look and other publications before attempting books. She endured many rejections before her first, “Clementine,” was published in 1962.

Ms. Byars’s other books include the Herculeah Jones mysteries; a memoir, “The Moon and I” (1991); and the Bingo Brown series, which followed the adventures of a boy by that name and addressed contemporary issues.

She collaborated with two of her daughters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, on animal-themed books like “My Dog, My Hero” (2000).

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