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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Archive | Authors Emeritus

Authors Emeritus: Virginia Lee Burton

ph_VirginiaLeeBurtonVirginia Lee Burton was born on August 30, 1909 in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. She studied art at the California School of Fine Arts and the Boston Museum School. One of her earliest jobs was as a “sketcher” for the arts section of the Boston Transcript.

She married George Demetrios, a sculptor and her teacher at the Museum School, in 1931. They settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where they had two sons. “I literally draw my books first and write down the text after “I pin the sketched pages in sequence on the walls of my studio so I can see the books as a whole. Then I make a rough dummy and then the final drawings, and at last when I can put it off no longer, I type out the text and paste it in the bk_mikedummy.”

Thirteen publishers rejected her first manuscript about a dust particle, Joniffer Lint. When her three-year-old son fell asleep on her lap while she read it to him, she stopped sending it to publishers, and thereafter relied on children as her primary critics.

Her classic books have never been out of print and are currently embraced by a fourth generation of early readers. She won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for The Little House. Virginia Lee Burton died October 15, 1968.

For more information on the author, her books, and her design work, please visit Virginia Lee Burton, The Film.



Authors Emeritus: Lynd Ward

ph_LyndWardBorn in Chicago on June 26, 1905, Lynd Ward, the son of a Methodist minister, grew up moving around and living close to new immigrants. Ward was a sickly baby and the family moved to northern Canada for several months hoping his health would improve.

Upon the family’s return, Ward, now a healthier child, never lost his bond with the wilderness. While at college he met and married his wife, May McNeer, and left for Leipzig, Germany with her shortly after graduation.

bk_BiggestBearWard’s illustrations show his respect for all people and the effects of his stay in the Canadian wilderness. Among his books are Caldecott Medal winner, The Biggest Bear (1952), The Silver Pony: A Story in Pictures (1973), a wordless picture book, several biographies of famous Americans, and one of Martin Luther. A number of these books were written by his wife, May McNeer.

Among the awards received by Ward are the Regina Award in 1975, the Carteret Book Club award for illustration, and others. Two Newbery winners were illustrated by Ward and another six books with Ward’s illustrations were named Newbery Honor books.

bk_GodsManWard was also an innovative creator of books for adults. He made the first American wordless novel, Gods’ Man, which was published in 1929. He made five more such works: Madman’s Drum (1930), Wild Pilgrimage (1932), Prelude to a Million Years (1933), Song Without Words (1936), and Vertigo (1937).

The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, sponsored by Penn State University Libraries, is presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident.

Lynd Ward died in 1985.


Authors Emeritus: Tom Feelings and Virginia Hamilton

Authors Emeritus, a compilation of short biographies of deceased children’s literature creators, is a Bookology Children’s Literature resource.  When a Bookstorm™ includes books by authors and illustrators in the index we like to highlight those biographies. This month: Tom Feelings (The Middle Passage) and Virginia Hamilton (Many Thousand Gone).



ph_feelingsTom Feelings, born on May 19, 1933, was a native of Brooklyn, NY. He attended the School of Visual Arts for two years before joining the Air Force, working as a staff artist. He then worked as a freelance artist, published in Look magazine, traveled to Ghana to work for the African Review, and returned to the U.S. in 1966 to concentrate on illustrating books with African and African-American themes.

He created the comic strip “Tommy Traveler in the World of Negro History” in 1958 for New York Age, a newspaper based in Harlem. He collaborated with talented black writers such as Julius Lester, Eloise Greenfield, Nikki Grimes, and Maya Angelou.

bk_MiddlePassageIn his life and work he tried to portray the reality of life for African Americans while depicting the beauty and warmth of black culture. Feelings won numerous awards for his work. Moja Means One, a Swahili counting book, and Jambo Means Hello, a Swahili alphabet book, were chosen as Caldecott Honor Books in 1972 and 1974. Something On My Mind won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1978. The Middle Passage was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrators and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Feelings referred to himself as a storyteller in picture form.

Mr. Feelings died August 25, 2003 at the age of 70.


ph_HamiltonVirginia Hamilton was born on March 12th, 1936, on a farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio. As a writer, she achieved critical success from the start with the publication of her first book, Zeely.

Her 1974 novel M.C. Higgins the Great won the Newbery Medal, making Virginia the first African American author ever to receive this honor. In addition, the book won the National Book Award, Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, the Peace Prize of Germany, New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year and Hans Christian Andersen Honor Book, among others. This marked the first time a book had won the grand slam of Newbery Medal, National Book Award, and Boston Globe–Horn Book Award.

In 1992 she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, the highest international recognition bestowed on an author or illustrator of children’s literature. At the time she was only the fourth American to win the award, which has been presented every other year since 1956.

In addition to the awards for M.C. Higgins the Great, her work has won Newbery Honors, Coretta Scott King awards and honors, an Edgar Allen Poe award, and has been on multiple “best of the year” lists.

Hamilton said of her work:

bk_ManyThousand“I see my books and the language I use in them as empowering me to give utterance to the dreams, the wishes, of African Americans. I see the imaginative use of language and ideas as a way to illuminate the human condition. All of my work, as a novelist, a biographer, creator and compiler of stories, has been to portray the essence of a people who are a parallel-culture society in America. I’ve attempted to mark the history and traditions of African Americans, a parallel culture people, through my writing, while bringing readers strong stories and memorable characters living nearly the best they know how. I want readers, both adults and children, to care about who the characters are. I want readers to feel, to understand, and to empathize. I want the books to make a world in which the characters are real.”

She died on Feb. 19, 2002


Authors Emeritus: Arna Bontemps

Arna BontempsBorn on October 13, 1902 in Louisiana, Arna Bontemps grew up and was educated in California. Upon graduating from college he accepted a teaching position in New York City, where he became friends with several other writers and educators, including Langston Hughes.

Bontemps would become, along with Hughes, one of the influential artists of the Harlem Renaissance who would expand the presence of African American writers in children’s literature. From 1932 until his death in 1973 Bontemps was one of the most prolific African American children’s authors, publishing contemporary, historical, and fantasy fiction as well as picture books, biographies, tall tales, and a poetry anthology. His 1948 nonfiction book, The Story of the Negro, won a Newbery Honor.

bk_PopoBontemps’ first book for children, Popo and Fifina, was a collaboration with Hughes, and was illustrated by E. Simms Campbell, an African American artist. Upon the publication of Bontremps’ 1937 novel, Sad-Faced Boy, Bontemps wrote to Hughes that he believed he’d written the “first Harlem story for children.”

In 1941 Bontemps published Golden Slippers, the first comprehensive anthology of poetry for children featuring Black poets. His 1951 novel Chariot in the Sky is a fictionalized story of the first Fisk Jubilee Singers, who introduced Negro spirituals to the concert stage. At the time he wrote the novel, Bontemps was a librarian at Fisk University.

bk_StoryNegroBontemps also wrote poetry and fiction for adults.

His family’s old Louisiana home is now the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center.

Arna Bontremps died from a heart attack on June 4, 1973.

—Marsha Qualey

For more Authors Emeritus bios please visit the AE index.



Authors Emeritus: Syd Hoff

author photo

Syd Hoff, 1912-2004

His illustrations best characterized as simplistic and humorous, Syd Hoff has held a warm place in children’s hearts through more than 200 books. Born on September 4th, Syd Hoff grew up in New York City. He went to the National Academy of Design as a fine arts student, but his teachers didn’t appreciate the humor that pervaded his work.

Hoff sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker at the age of eighteen. He drew many single-panel cartoons for that and other magazines, as well as his own cartoon feature, Laugh It Off, which ran in syndication for almost twenty years.

cover imageIn 1958, he published his first children’s book, Danny and the Dinosaur, which is a classic for beginning readers. It was also one of the first. He has written several fine books about cartooning, all of which are worth finding in a used bookstore.

Syracuse University in New York state houses the original drawings for his comic strip and magazine art, while the deGrummond Collection in Mississippi holds original materials for forty-six of his books for children.

Mr. Hoff died May 12, 2004, at the age of 91.

—Vicki Palmquist

For more Authors Emeritus biographies please visit the AE index.



Author Emeritus: Eleanor Cameron


bk_wondrEleanor Frances Butler Cameron in was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on March 23, 1912. She attended UCLA and the LA Art Center School for three years before marrying Ian Stuart Cameron, a printer, in 1934. Mrs. Cameron worked as a reference librarian for many years before beginning to write full time, and was fascinated by the way the mind took fragments of a writer’s life and rearranged them for writing material. “Situations … are like usable places—mysterious in their ability to arouse the writer’s creative response.”

One day her son David told her of a dream he’d had that would inspire the five Mushroom Planet books, including The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet. She wrote of bk_plantCalifornia, which she knew well, in The Terrible Churnadryne and The Mysterious Christmas Shell; The Court of the Stone Children, for which she won a National Book Award; and in A Room Made of Windows, part of a realistic fiction series about Julia Redfern, a twelve-year-old writer. Mrs. Cameron died in 1996, leaving a legacy of delightful children’s books. She also wrote extensively about the field of children’s literature and analyzed her own creative process in such essays as “The Seed and The Vision: on the Writing and Appreciation of Children’s Books,” which is a part of the Kerlan Collection.

— Julie Schuster

For more Authors Emeritus biographies please visit the AE index.



Author Emeritus: Rosemary Sutcliffe

Rosemary Sutcliff photoRosemary Sutcliff, author of children’s historical novels, was born on December 14, 1920, in Surrey, England. She wrote children’s books, novels, short stories, and scripts for radio, TV, and film.

In childhood, Still’s disease kept her in a wheelchair and close to home. Her mother homeschooled her and first introduced her to Saxon and Celtic legends. She didn’t learn to read until the age of ten. In her autobiography, Blue Hills Remembered, Ms. Sutcliff wrote, “I had a lonely childhood and growing-up time. My parents loved me and I loved them, but I could never talk to them about the problems and fears and aching hopes inside me that I had most need to talk about to someone. And there was no one else.”

The Lantern BearersSutcliff attended Bidford Art School at the age of 14. She began to write for publication in 1946 and was commissioned to write a children’s version of Robin Hood. She went on to write 46 novels for young people, several of which were ALA notable books. The Lantern Bearers was awarded the 1959 Carnegie Medal.

In 1975, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to children’s literature. In 1992, Ms. Sutcliff was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

She described her style as immersing herself in an era, letting history guide her plot development. She is remembered for her sense of historical detail.

Rosemary Sutcliff died in 1992.

—Vicki Palmquist

For more Authors Emeritus biographies, please visit the AE index.