Noah Karp Cohen’s favorite children’s book is Danny and the Dinosaur by prolific author Syd Hoff.
And Noah, 7, and his brother, Adam, 11, learned how to read through Hoff’s tales of dinosaurs, seals and bears in their family’s modest Miami Beach home — the same house at 4335 Post Ave, where Hoff lived and wrote more than 60 books of his HarperCollins “I Can Read” series.
“We feel very blessed to be living around the aura of Syd and his creativity,” said Carol Karp, the boys’ mother, who along with her husband, Jonathan Cohen, owns the home.
The house was named a historic literary landmark Sunday by the American Library Association and the Florida Center for the Book, receiving a bronze plaque that recognizes Hoff’s legacy as a children’s book writer and cartoonist.
The Betsy Hotel, which hosts writers at its South Beach location year-round, also announced at the dedication ceremony that it will be helping other children’s authors by launching the Syd Hoff Children’s Writer Residency program. The residency offers a 10-day stay at The Betsy for writers to further develop their novels for kids.
“Today’s child readers are tomorrow’s adult readers,” said Deborah Briggs, vice president of marketing, philanthropy and programs at the hotel. “This residency seemed like the best opportunity for us to celebrate one of Miami Beach’s greatest writers.”
Dina Weinstein, who created an exhibition of Hoff’s work and led the initiative to dedicate the house as Florida’s 18th literary landmark, said preserving the structure is important so that others can remember Hoff.
“It is a pleasure to know that Syd lived here and to note that today at his home,” said Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, who attended the ceremony.
Historic literary landmarks, according to Jillian Kalonick, spokeswoman at United for Libraries, are not always the birthplaces of the authors; the site could be where they once lived, wrote or considered significant in their lives as writers.
Hoff, who was born in the Bronx in 1912, lived more than 40 years in Miami Beach, penning several of his greatest works like Sammy the Seal, Danny and the Dinosaur, Grizzwold and Stanley. He died in 2004.
Hoff’s niece, Carol Edmonston, said she always gets asked what it was like growing up in Hoff’s family.
“To me, he was always ‘Uncle Syd’ before anything,” Edmonston said. “He was an incredibly humble man.”
She created a website dedicated to her late uncle and continues to archive his life’s work, which spans almost a century.
Amada Eagon, a graphic artist from the Caribbean, lived next door to Hoff during his final years and remembers the cartoonist more as a good friend who would always called her “babe.”
“We use to draw together all the time in his house,” said Eagon, who learned about Hoff’s extensive career only after he died. “I would draw the things that I enjoyed like fashion and he would sit there doodling dinosaurs and funny cartoons.”
More than 550 of Hoff’s humorous doodles were published in The New Yorker between 1931 to 1975, drawing upon his own experiences, the immigrant Jewish population and the Depression.
But for many readers, Hoff’s characters in children’s literature remain timeless, still influencing today’s generation of children and children’s book writers alike.
“To this day, kids still send letters to my uncle,” Edmonston said.