Hardie Gramatky was born on April 12, 1907 in Dallas, Texas. His father died when he was young, and his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California in search of work. While in school, one of Gramatky’s teachers suggested that he show his art work to the Los Angeles Times newspaper. Consequently, they hired him to do a Captain Kidd Jr.comic strip. From 1930 to 1936 Gramatky worked as head animator for the Walt Disney Studio. In 1937, he moved to New York City and set up his own studio. His studio overlooked the East River where he could watch the boats. They seemed to take on a personality of their own. One day a tugboat caught his attention. It became the idea for his first book, Little Toot (1939). Gramatky won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1969 for Little Toot. The Library of Congress named it a classic in children’s literature. Walt Disney made it into a movie.
Hardie Gramatky wrote and illustrated thirteen books for children. Creeper’s Jeep (1948) is about a boy and his new jeep. They try to be helpful around the farm, but cause problems instead. Sparky, the Story of a Little Trolley Car (1952) is the story of Sparky’s efforts to avoid being turned into a diner. Homer and the Circus Train (1957) tells of a little caboose saving the circus animals when the train speeds out of control. Bolivar (1961) is about a playful donkey who saves a town from a fierce bull. Little Toot on the Mississippi (1973) tells how Little Toot finds old steamboats of the Mississippi River, and uses them to rescue swamp animals from a flood. Do you remember Hercules being read on Captain Kangaroo?
Hardie Gramatky was working on a book about Little Toot and the Loch Ness Monster when he died on April 29, 1979.