Philippa Pearce, the author of Tom’s Midnight Garden, one of England’s most-beloved books for children, died on December 21, 2006.
Born January 13, 1920, to a family of long-time flour millers, Ms. Pearce grew up in Mill House, Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England. She loved her childhood on the river and wrote about it often. In her books the real river Cam became the river Say, her hometown became Great Barley, and Cambridge was renamed Castleford, although she chose not include a university in her fictional town.
Ms. Pearce worked for the BBC in their school broadcasting department for thirteen years. In 1950, while recovering from tuberculosis in a Cambridge hospital, she thought she would try her hand at writing to relieve her boredom. She wrote her first book, Minnow on the Say, which was published in 1954. Her second book was Tom’s Midnight Garden, which readers, particularly in England, consider one of the best novels ever written. It won the Carnegie Medal in 1959. In her lifetime, she wrote more than 30 books.
In 1959, to supplement her writing income, she took a job as editor at Clarendon Press, an academic publisher, but found it “exquisitely boring.” On the advice of her book editor, Grace Hogarth of Constable & Co., she joined Andre Deutsch as their children’s editor. Ms. Pearce married Martin Christie in 1963, became pregnant, and then Mr. Christie died when Sally was eight weeks old. The couple had been married for only two years. Ms. Pearce resigned from her editing position in 1967 to write full-time.
She was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an honorary doctor of letters, and was awarded the OBE in 1997 for services to children’s literature.
When Ms. Pearce died, she was living in a cottage across the street from her family home, near the garden in which both she and her father once played, and where she set Tom’s Midnight Garden.
Readers remember her stories as unsentimental. “There is very much unpleasantness in childhood that we adults forget—and much that some simply dare not remember,” Pearce wrote in The Horn Book. “For, let’s face it, a good deal of childhood is strong stuff for adults and totally unsuitable for children.”
John Rowe Townsend said of Philippa Pearce “she was the most brilliant of us all.”
Mary Stolz, one of the first of the young adult novelists, died on December 15, 2006 at the age of 86. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 24, 1920, she attended school at Birch Wathen in New York City, Columbia University, and the Katherine Gibbs School. She loved to write from a very early age, served as assistant editor of her school magazine, but stopped writing when she married in 1938 and worked at raising her little boy, Bill.
A prolific writer, she didn’t begin writing until 1949, when she was 39 years old. She was disabled by chronic pain, which intensified after her marriage, until she was housebound. Her doctor advised her to begin writing again. This resulted in her first novel, To Tell Your Love, published in 1950 by Ursula Nordstrom at Harper. She credited her doctor when her illness disappeared. In 1956, she divorced her husband and, in 1965, she married her doctor, Thomas C. Jaleski.
Of her many book, Belling the Tiger (1961) and The Noonday Friends (1965) were Newbery Honor books. The Edge of Next Year (1974) was a finalist for the National Book Award. The Bully of Barkham Street is often listed on “bully book lists,” offering the intriguing viewpoint of the bully.
Ms. Stolz and her husband were long-time residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast, where they were active environmentalists.
Hilda van Stockum, children’s book author and illustrator whose books were very popular from the 1930s through the 1950s, passed away on November 1, 2006, at the age of 98. Born in Rotterdam, Holland, on February 9, 1908, her father was a Naval officer and her mother one of the initial proponents of the Montessori educational method. At age five, she wrote and illustrated her first book, making a gift for her younger brother Willem. She studied at the Dublin School of Art, the Amsterdam Academy of Art, and the Corcoran School of Art. In the 1920s, Ms. Van Stockum worked as an illustrator for Browne & Nolan, an Irish publisher. She married her brother’s college roommate, Ervin Ross Marlin, in 1932. He was American and returned with his bride to Washington, DC, where he had a distinguished career with the United Nations and the State Department.
In 1935, May Massee at Viking published Ms. van Stockum’s first children’s book, A Day on Skates: the Story of a Dutch Picnic. This book contained an introduction by Ms. van Stockum’s aunt, Edna St. Vincent Millay. It also received a Newbery Honor.
Her children’s books were well-known throughout the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. The Cottage at Bantry Bay (1938) and its two sequels were set in Ireland, where the author spent a good share of her childhood. The first of the three books about The Mitchells appeared in 1948. It was based on the lives of her own six children and took place in Washington, DC, and Canada. In the 1960s, Ms. Van Stockum wrote two books about the Dutch Resistance during World War II: The Winged Watchman and The Borrowed House were widely read.
Often illustrating her own books, Ms. van Stockum also illustrated versions of classics such as Hans Brinker, Little Women, and Little Men. In 1993, one of Ms. van Stockum’s still lifes, “Pears in a Copper Pot,” was chosen to appear on an Irish postage stamp.
From her first published book in 1935 to her last published book in 2001, Ms. van Stockum had a rich and varied career. Her husband of 62 years passed away in 1994. She is survived by her six children and numerous grandchildren. Many of her books are available from Bethlehem Books in North Dakota and on Amazon.com.
For more information about Ms. Van Stockum, please visit her family’s tribute site.
In 1942, when Dodd, Mead & Company published Seventeenth Summer, the terms “teen books” and “young adult literature” didn’t exist because books for teens didn’t exist. Authors had written about teens, but this book about Angie and Jack, two teens who fall in love during a Wisconsin summer, was written by a teen. For decades, it has been a must-read for young readers, a coming-of-age story filled with love and growing up, trying on wings and learning about life. Teen literature would come into its own in the 1960s, but Seventeenth Summer was the herald for books published specifically for this audience.
Maureen Daly was born in 1921 in Castlecaulfield, Ireland. Her family moved to Fond du lac, Wisconsin, when she was quite young. When she was fifteen, she entered a short story in Scholastic’s contest. The story, entitled “Fifteen,” was published in Scholastic magazine. The next year, she wrote a story entitled “Sixteen,” which was included in the O. Henry compilation that year. It was the following year that she began work on Seventeenth Summer, finishing it when she was a senior in college. She entered Dodd, Mead’s first intercollegiate literary competition and won first place. First published in 1942, the book has been in print ever since.
Having written an immediate bestseller, Ms. Daly enjoyed the notoriety and reputation that national attention can bring. She wrote for magazines, newspapers, and published several more books. She married William P. McGivern, a crime novelist, in 1946. They raised three children. After Ms. Daly’s husband died in 1982, her only daughter died in 1983—both of them lost to cancer. It was then that Ms. Daly wrote another young adult novel, Acts of Love, published in 1986.
She passed away in Palm Desert, California, on September 25, 2006, of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 85.
We are sad to announce that CLN member Frances Wilbur passed away quietly in her sleep on August 4, 2006, after a long and protracted illness. She was passionate about writing for children and about literature right to the end. Born in Mankato, Minnesota, she graduated from Beloit College with a degree in English. Employed as a cryptanalyst in the Signal Intelligence Service, she later married a diplomat and lived with her family in Spain and Italy. The mother of four children, she raised six children when she married for the second time to a physician in California. They ran a summer horsemanship camp in Southern California. Her first book, A Guide for Parents of Horse-Crazy Kids, was published in 1990, followed in 1992 by A Horse Called Holiday, a book about life with her own special horse. Frances and Holiday were members of the Rose Bowl Riders Club. Then, in 1998, Frances won the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature, which saw the publication of The Dog With Golden Eyes. Her literary legacy lives on in her daughter, Margo Sorenson, CLN member and author of many fiction and nonfiction books for children. Read more about Frances Wilbur.