Steve Jenkins, the author and illustrator who introduced children to the world of animals, nature and science, has passed away. Publishers Weekly reports† He was 69.

Born in North Carolina, Jenkins grew up in the United States and Panama. Like his father, a physicist and astronomer, he had an abiding interest in all things scientific, which he translated into a career as an artist and writer of non-fiction books for young readers.

He wrote and/or illustrated dozens of books on the natural world, including: To look downWhat do you do when something wants to eat you?Flying frogs and walking fishand Mommy did a little digging† His most recent book, Disasters in the numberswas published last October.

In a 2008 interview with the blog Seven Impossible Things for BreakfastJenkins reflected on his career writing nonfiction for young readers.

“I also think that fiction and non-fiction evoke different kinds of passion in readers,” he said. “The themes of fiction – love, fear, adventure, triumph over adversity – are universal…The joys of nonfiction are more subtle.”

Readers and admirers paid tribute to Jenkins on social media. Author Jess Keating wrote“I remember when I was young” [nonfiction] writer and thinking ‘how could I add anything to this world of books when Steve Jenkins has already done so much, so well?’ Looking up to him challenged me, and it made me a better writer.”

And writer Miranda Paul tweeted“Thank you, Steve Jenkins, for bringing us and our children the pleasure, and for leaving a legacy that will inspire children to love science and nature. What an unexpected and devastating loss.”

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.