Obituaries
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    Patricia Hermes, 82, whose children’s books had serious side

    Patricia Hermes, an author whose books for children and young adults often dealt with serious subjects, including death, incest, war, famine, and slavery, died July 11 at her home in Phoenix. She was 82.

    Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Jennifer Hermes Natsu.

    Ms. Hermes was the author of some 50 books during her four-decade writing career. Among them were contributions to the “My Side of the Story” series, which recounts historic events from two points of view. They include “Salem Witch” (2006), written from the viewpoints of two children living through the 17th-century Massachusetts witch trials, and “The Brothers’ War” (2005), about Virginia cousins on opposite sides of the Civil War.

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    From 2000 to 2003, she wrote six books in the “My America” series, including “Our Strange New Land” and “The Starving Time,” both subtitled “Elizabeth’s Jamestown Colony Diary.” Her narrators were most often girls or young women, but not always. “Freedom’s Wings: Corey’s Underground Railroad Diary” (2001), for instance, was narrated by a young black man.

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    One of her favorite series, she once said, was the seven Emma Dilemma books, about a trouble-prone girl with four siblings and numerous pets. Reviewing “Emma Dilemma and the Soccer Nanny” in 2008, Booklist noted the title character’s “desire to be best at something” and the book’s “messages about the importance of honesty and communication as well as the challenges and unexpected rewards of compromise.”

    Mary Patricia Martin was born on Feb. 21, 1936, in Brooklyn, the third of four children of Fred and Jessie (Gould) Martin. As a child, she had rheumatic fever. During the required months of bed rest, she recalled, she fell in love with both reading and music.

    She graduated from St. John’s University in New York in 1957 as a speech and English major and began teaching junior high school English and social studies. After raising five children, she returned to teaching but no longer found it satisfying. So she took a course in nonfiction writing at the New School in Manhattan.

    “I was a terrible teacher,” she told an interviewer for a Connecticut television station decades later, because she enjoyed being part of the gang.

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    “I remember what it was like to be a kid,” she explained. And while the details of young lives (like technology, communication, and transportation) evolve, she acknowledged, “I don’t think childhood changes.”

    She and Matthew Hermes married in 1957 and divorced 28 years later. In addition to her daughter, Ms. Hermes leaves four sons, Paul, Mark, Timothy, and Matthew Jr.; two sisters, Joan Mary Martin Sweeney and Diane Martin Nash; and eight grandchildren. Another daughter, Mary Beth Hermes, died in infancy.

    Ms. Hermes’s book-writing career could be traced to 1977, when she wrote an op-ed in The New York Times about visiting her grandparents’ home, where she had spent time as a girl. It was about to be demolished.

    “With the key that’s been in my pocket all these years, I quietly let myself in,” she wrote. “Surely, I thought, if I’m silent enough some shadow will show itself, a long-ago echo will be heard.”

    An agent contacted her afterward, and her first book — “What if They Knew?” about a young girl with epilepsy — was published in 1980.