If you write for kids, you might someday join this list of
children’s authors who lived to be 100.
Nan Hayden Agle (1905–2006) died just two months short of her 101st birthday. She published her first children’s book at age 46 (co-authored with her friend, Ellen Wilson). Three Boys and a Lighthouse, became the first in her series of adventure books about fictional triplets, Abercrombie, Benjamin and Christopher.
Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, winner of the 1933 Newbery medal, was a family friend while Nan Hayden grew up on her family’s farm, “Nancy’s Fancy on Nunnery Lane”. Lewis encouraged Nan to observe the farm animals and write down what they did. That inspiration led Nan to a lifetime interest in writing. She authored more than 20 books, averaging one a year.
Beverly Cleary (1916–) Age 102. Who doesn’t recognize her name and celebrate that she’s still with us in 2018? Cleary, a children’s librarian turned author, penned her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950 at age 34. She went on to write many well-known children’s books including her Ramona series, Runaway Ralph, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and others. During her long and prolific career, Cleary wrote more than 35 books, many award-winning, for children and young adults. Praised for her lively, humorous portrayals of problems and events of real-life kids, Beverly Cleary treats children’s concerns with both seriousness and gentle humor.
Neta Lohnes Frazier (1890–1990), died at 100, published her first book at age 57 and wrote a total of 14 books between 1947 and 1973. Most of her books were historical fiction set in the Pacific Northwest. Four received Junior Literary Guild Awards.
Her most well-known book, Stout-Hearted Seven, is based on the true story of children orphaned when they lost their adoptive parents, missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, in the Whitman Massacre near what is now Walla Walla, WA.
Jean Fritz (1915–2017) Died at 101. Known for her historical nonfiction, Jean Fritz was born in China to American missionary parents. She said in interviews that she felt like “a girl without a country”, so writing about American history was not only a solace, but also an attempt at discovering her roots. Fritz first published at age 39 and wrote more than 45 books always digging deep for facts and approaching her writing like a journalist. She was a Newbery Honor winner, a recipient of the American Book Award, and, in 2003, received a National Humanities Medal from then President George W. Bush. Readers describe her books as fun, factual and full of adventure. A few of her most well-known titles: And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? ;Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?; and Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?
Edith Ballinger Price (1897–1997) Died at 100. You might not recognize her name or the books she wrote in the first half of the 20th century, but you do know the famous American organization which she helped start—the Girl Scouts’ program for younger girls, the “Brownies”. Price wrote their first handbook and many stories for Girl Scouts magazines. She was national chairwoman of the Brownies from 1925–1932 and was known as the “Great Brown Owl”.
Ellen Tarry (1906–2008) Died at age 101, three days before her 102nd birthday. Tarry was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama during the days of segregation and the Great Depression. Her writing career began in the 1920s as a reporter for The Birmingham Truth, an African-American newspaper. After receiving a teaching degree, she taught in the Birmingham schools for African-American children. A friendship with poet Claude McKay led Tarry to a children’s literature fellowship with education reformer, Lucy Sprague Mitchell. By the late 1940s, Ellen Tarry had written three children’s books: Janie Belle, Hezekiah Horton, and My Dog Rinty. She became the first African-American children’s book author.
Phyllis A. Whitney (1903–2008) Died at 104. If you love mysteries, you’ve likely read a Phyllis Whitney book. This prolific author wrote more than 70 novels, 39 for adults, 14 for young adults, 20 children’s mysteries and several books on writing. Her career spanned more than half a century. Whitney published her first book, a young adult novel, A Place for Ann, in 1941 when she was 38 years old She completed her last novel at age 94.
Whitney wrote in her Guide to Fiction Writing “Never mind the rejections, the discouragement, the voices of ridicule (there can be those too). Work and wait and learn, and that train will come by. If you give up, you’ll never have a chance to climb aboard.”
Listen to her advice. Don’t give up.
Who knows, you might live to be 100
(And, along the way, become a published author).
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