Barbara Juster Esbensen was born on April 28, 1925, in Madison, Wisconsin. Throughout her life, it was the center of her personal universe. Barbara began to think of herself as a writer when, at age ten, she realized she could not stand to be without a book to read.
Her first book, Swing Around the Sun, a book of poetry for the seasons, was published in 1965. It was republished by Lerner, using four illustrators, one for each season of the year.
The biggest influence in Barbara’s life of writing was her high school English teacher, Miss Eulalie Beffel, herself a published poet and journalist. In 1941, under the tutelage of Miss Beffel, Barbara read the poetry of Amy Lowell, Stephen Vincent Benet, and Sara Teasdale. The way these writers used words astonished her. Thomas Wolfe had her in a state of shock! From that point on, she was off and running with language.
Said Barbara, “The way words looked when placed next to each other was deeply important to me. When put together in fresh, unexpected ways, they could generate quiet explosions of delight for the reader. Whether it was poetry or prose, placing images in the minds of my readers became a central focus of everything I wrote. I wanted to find those word combinations that make sentences catch fire and shower down sparks!”
Barbara was an excellent teacher. Her book, A Celebration of Bees, was written for teachers and parents who want to help children write creatively. As she often told her students, children and adults alike, you can’t just think. It doesn’t do any good just to think. You must see your words.
At the time of her death, on October 25, 1996, Barbara had published twenty-one books.