Greenfield, Eloise 1929-
GREENFIELD, Eloise 1929-
Born May 17, 1929, in Parmele, NC; daughter of Weston W. (a federal government worker and truck driver) and Lessie (a clerk-typist and writer; maiden name, Jones) Little; married Robert J. Greenfield (a procurement specialist), April 29, 1950 (divorced); children: Steven, Monica. Education: Attended Miner Teachers College (now University of the District of Columbia), 1947-49. Hobbies and other interests: Listening to music, playing the piano.
Office— P.O. Box 29077, Washington, DC 20017. Agent— Marie Brown, Marie Brown Associates, 412 West 154th St., New York, NY 10032.
Author and poet. U.S. Patent Office, Washington, DC, clerk-typist, 1949-56, supervisory patent assistant, 1956-60; worked variously as a secretary, case-control technician, and administrative assistant, 1964-68; writer-in-residence, District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, 1973 and 1985-87. Participant in numerous school and library programs and workshops for children and adults.
African American Writers Guild, Authors Guild, Black Literary Umbrella, District of Columbia Black Writers' Workshop (co-director of adult fiction, 1971-73; director of children's literature, 1973-74).
Irma Simonton Black Award, Bank Street College of Education, 1974, for She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl; Carter G. Woodson Book Award, National Council for the Social Studies, 1974, for Rosa Parks; Council on Interracial Books for Children citation, 1975; Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Jane Addams Peace Association, 1976, for Paul Robeson; citations from District of Columbia Association of School Librarians and Celebrations in Learning, both 1977; Classroom Choice book citation, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, 1978, for Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems; Coretta Scott King Award, American Library Association, 1978, for Africa Dream, 1990, for Nathaniel Talking (honor book), and 1992, for Night on Neighborhood Street; Boston Globe-Horn Book Award nonfiction honor, and Carter G. Woodson Award, both 1980, both for Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir; National Black Child Development Institute award, 1981; Mills College Award, and Washington, DC Mayor's Art Award in literature, both 1983; Black Women in Sisterhood for Action Award, 1983; District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities grant, 1985; Parents' Choice Foundation Silver Seal Award, 1988, for Under the Sunday Tree; Hope Dean Award, Foundation for Children's Literature, 1998; National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, 1998; inducted into National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, 1999. Greenfield's works have been named notable books by the American Library Association and have been named outstanding books of the year, children's books of the year, and notable children's trade books of the year by such organizations as the Child Study Association of America, the New York Public Library, the National Council for Social Studies, the Children's Book Council, the New York Times, and School Library Journal.
Bubbles, illustrated by Eric Marlow, Drum and Spear Press (Washington, DC), 1972, published as Good News, illustrated by Pat Cummings, Coward (New York, NY), 1977.
She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl, illustrated by John Steptoe, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1974.
Me and Neesie, illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Crowell (New York, NY), 1975, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
First Pink Light, illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Crowell, 1976, revised edition, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1991.
Africa Dream, illustrated by Carole Byard, John Day, 1977.
(With mother, Lessie Jones Little) I Can Do It by Myself, illustrated by Carole Byard, Harper (New York, NY), 1978.
Darlene, illustrated by George Ford, Methuen, 1980.
Grandmama's Joy, illustrated by Carole Byard, Putnam (New York, NY), 1980.
Daydreamers, illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
Grandpa's Face, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Putnam (New York, NY), 1988.
William and the Good Old Days, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Lisa's Daddy and Daughter Day, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Sundance (Littleton, MA), 1993.
On My Horse, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Harper-Festival (New York, NY), 1995.
For the Love of the Game: Michael Jordan and Me, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Easter Parade, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (also see below), illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, Crowell (New York, NY), 1978.
Daydreamers, illustrated by Tom Feelings, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
Nathaniel Talking, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1988.
Under the Sunday Tree, illustrated by Amos Ferguson, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1988.
Night on Neighborhood Street, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.
Angels, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
I Can Draw a Weeposaur and Other Dinosaurs, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2001.
Honey, I Love, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Harper-Festival (New York, NY), 1995, twenty-fifth anniversary edition, 2003.
In the Land of Words: New and Selected Peoms, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Rosa Parks, illustrated by Eric Marlow, Harper (New York, NY), 1973.
Paul Robeson, illustrated by George Ford, Harper (New York, NY), 1975.
Mary McLeod Bethune, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.
(With Lessie Jones Little; additional material by Patricia Ridley Jones) Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir (autobiography; for young people), illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and with family photographs, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
(With Alesia Revis) Alesia, illustrated by George Ford, and with photographs by Sandra Turner Bond), Putnam (New York, NY), 1981.
How They Got Over: African Americans and the Call of the Sea, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2003.
BOARD BOOKS; ILLUSTRATED BY JAN SPIVEY GILCHRIST
My Doll, Keshia, Black Butterfly, 1991.
I Make Music, Black Butterfly, 1991.
My Daddy and I, Black Butterfly, 1991.
Big Friend, Little Friend, Black Butterfly, 1991.
Aaron and Gayla's Alphabet Book, Black Butterfly, 1992.
Aaron and Gayla's Counting Book, Black Butterfly, 1992.
Sweet Baby Coming, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Kia Tanisha, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Kia Tanisha Drives Her Car, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Sister (for young people), illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Harper (New York, NY), 1974.
Talk about a Family, illustrated by James Calvin, Harper (New York, NY), 1978.
Koya DeLaney and the Good Girl Blues, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.
Also author of bookmark poem for the Children's Book Council, 1979. Contributor to anthologies, including The Journey: Scholastic Black Literature, edited by Alma Murray and Robert Thomas, New Treasury of Children's Poetry, edited by Joanna Cole, and Scott, Foresman Anthology of Children's Literature, edited by Zena Sutherland and Myra Cohn Livingston. Contributor to Friends Are like That: Stories to Read to Yourself, Crowell, 1974; Pass It On: African-American Poetry for Children, selected by Wade Hudson, Scholastic, 1993; Stick to It, Open Court, 1995; Finding Friends, Open Court, 1995; and African-American Poets, edited by Michael R. Strickland, Enslow, 1996. Contributor to the World Book Encyclopedia, and to periodicals, including Black World, Cricket, Ebony, Jr.!, Horn Book, Negro Digest, Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Ms., Negro History Bulletin, Scholastic Scope, and Washington Post.
Honey, I Love was recorded for album and audiocassette with music by Byron Morris, Honey Productions, 1982. Daydreamers was dramatized for the Public Broadcasting System television series Reading Rainbow. Lisa's Daddy and Daughter Day was adapted as an audiocassette by Sundance Publishing.
African-American author Eloise Greenfield is celebrated as a gifted writer with a profound sensitivity. Her works, which include the award-winning poetry collections Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems and Nathaniel Talking, reflect the many positive attributes of the black American experience in a way children of many ages can relate to. In addition to her stories for primary and middle graders, her books for young adults, and easy readers, she has authored a number of picture books, board books, and concept books that feature African-American children involved in familiar activities. These titles, which include a volume about the arrival of a new sibling, and several stories with rhyming text about a lively little girl named Kia Tanisha, have been widely credited with filling a need for simple but effective works about and for black preschoolers.
Greenfield inspires young readers by focusing on strong protagonists drawn from both historical and contemporary periods, and by stressing the power of love and the importance of family and friends. Several of her books are considered groundbreaking titles in their respective genres, and she is often praised for her understanding of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the young as well as for her lyrical prose style. By depicting positive role models and solid family relationships, Greenfield's books help to foster confidence and self-esteem in her readers while providing them with balanced overviews of African-American life.
Although her works contain death, illness, divorce, disability, and racism as well as poverty and loneliness, Greenfield is consistently hopeful in her message to the young: they can find hope and strength in knowledge of the past, in the closeness of family ties, and within themselves. While she has sometimes been criticized for being preachy, Greenfield is regarded by most observers as a major figure in the field of twentieth-century juvenile literature as well as an influential black author. The recipient of numerous awards for her work, and praised as the creator of "good, solid, serious, soulful books" by Interracial Books for Children Bulletin contributor Geraldine L. Wilson, Greenfield "integrates a strong commitment to minority experience with an impassioned love of words," according to Sheila McMorrow Geraty of Children's Books and Their Creators. Writing in the Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Beryle Banfield dubbed Greenfield a "national treasure! This extremely gifted and sensitive writer consistently produces exquisitely wrought works which illumine key aspects of the Black experience in ways that underline both its uniqueness and universality."
Born in Parmele, North Carolina, Greenfield moved to Washington, D.C., with her family at the age of four months. Writing in Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, a reminiscence she wrote with her mother, Lessie Jones Little, Greenfield remembered, "I'm three years old, sitting on the floor with Mama. Cutting out a picture for my scrapbook, a picture of a loaf of bread. Cutting it out and pasting it in my book with the flourand-water paste I had helped to make. As far as I know, that was the day my life began." Greenfield learned to read as a kindergartner by sitting next to her older brother Wilbur in the evenings while their mother, a former teacher, went over Wilbur's first-grade reading lessons with him. "For the most part," Greenfield later recalled in an essay for Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS ), "I liked school. I enjoyed being with friends and was a very good student."
In Washington, D.C., Greenfield attended segregated schools where often there were not enough materials to go around. Throughout her school years, she was consistently shy, a quality that sometimes affected her grades. At Cardozo High School, the author noted in her SAAS essay, "some of my grades dropped a little, depending on how much credit was given to participation in class discussion." "Shyness followed me far into my life," she added, noting that she "didn't conquer it until I was well into adulthood, middle age, actually." Rather than group activities, Greenfield found solace in reading, which "took me to faraway places, some of them magical, and to earlier times"—and in music. She learned to play the piano, sang in the glee club and in a harmony group, and attended concerts and shows. Writing in Childtimes, the author commented that music is "so much a part of me that if you could somehow subtract it from who I am, I would be a stranger to myself."
When she was nine years old, Greenfield and her family moved to Langston Terrace, a public housing project in northeastern Washington that was one of the first such developments in the nation. For her and her siblings, Langston Terrace was, as she recalled in Child-times, "a good growing-up place. Neighbors who cared, family and friends, and a lot of fun. Life was good. Not perfect, but good. We knew about problems, heard about them, saw them, lived through some hard times ourselves, but our community wrapped itself around us, put itself between us and the hard knocks, to cushion the blows." Among the major difficulties faced by the residents of Langston Terrace was racism. For example, most of the pools in the city were only for white children; instead of waiting in long lines at one of the city's few pools for blacks, some children would go swim in the city's Kingman Lake. "Almost every summer," Greenfield recalled in SAAS, "the police would drag nearby Kingman Lake—we called it a river—and bring up the body of a boy who had drowned. He would be a black boy, most likely from some part of northeast Washington. He would be a boy for whom fireplug showers were not enough. And because he wanted to swim, he would have died in the filthy water of Kingman Lake."
The Washington, D.C., where Greenfield did her growing up, "was a city for white people," as she later wrote in her SAAS entry. "But inside that city, there was another city. It didn't have a name and it wasn't all in one area, but it was where black people lived. As with all places, there were both good and bad things about our city within a city. We had all the problems that the other Washington had, plus the problems caused by racism." However, Greenfield concluded, there "was always, in my Washington, a sense of people trying to make things better."
After graduating from high school, Greenfield attended Miner Teacher's College—now part of the University of the District of Columbia—with plans to become an elementary school teacher. "I had always enjoyed explaining things to little children," she wrote in SAAS. "I would be happy as a teacher. I didn't know about the spotlight that came with that." After two years of battling her shyness in standing up in front of rows of students, Greenfield decided to leave college. In 1949 the twenty-year-old student became a clerk-typist at the U.S. Patent Office, where she was later promoted to supervisory patent assistant. She married Robert Greenfield, a young man she had known from Langston Terrace, in 1950, and the couple would have two children, Steven and Monica, before divorcing.
While working and raising her family, Greenfield also began writing rhymes in her spare time. She then moved on to songs, some of which she submitted to television programs such as Songs for Sale, The Perry Como Show, and The Fred Waring Show. Although none of them were accepted, Greenfield looks upon these songs as important in her development as a writer, writing in SAAS: "In fact, they were awful. But I'm glad I wrote them. They … helped to put me on the right track." As she also explained to Something about the Author (SATA ), "Writing was the farthest thing from my mind when I was growing up. I loved words, but I loved to read them, not write them. I loved their sounds and rhythms, and even some of their aberrations, such as homonyms and silent letters. … I wish I could re member just what it was that made me sit down one day and write my very first rhyme. But I can't. I remember only that I was a young wife and mother working full-time as a clerk-typist, and that for some reason I began to write."
After experimenting with songs, Greenfield began writing short stories. "I wrote three," she admitted to SATA, "and they were promptly rejected. It was obvious that I had no talent, so I gave up writing forever. Forever lasted five or six years, during which time I learned what writing was—that it was not the result of talent alone, but of talent combined with skills that had to be developed. So I set about practicing them." Frequenting the library, Greenfield brought home two or three books a week on the craft of writing and, as she noted in her SAAS essay, "studied and wrote, and studied and wrote, and submitted my work to publishers." In 1960 she retired from the Patent Office, and two years later she published her first poem, "To a Violin," in Connecticut's Hartford Times. "That was the beginning," she maintained, noting that during the 1960s she was able to find publishers for one or two poems each year.
Seeing value in networking with other writers, Greenfield joined the D.C. Black Writers' Workshop in 1971, later becoming director of its children's literature division and co-director of its adult fiction division. She also became friends with Sharon Bell Mathis, a highly respected writer for young people who was then head of the Workshop's children's literature division. As Greenfield told Rosalie Black Kiah of Language Arts, Mathis "talked so passionately about the need for good black books that it was contagious. Once I realized the full extent of the problems, it became urgent for me to try, along with others, to build a large collection of books for children. It has been inspiring for me to be a part of this struggle."
Greenfield published her first book for children, Bubbles —later reprinted as Good News —in 1972. A picture book about a small boy who cannot find anyone to share his joy in learning to read until his baby sister laughs with him, Bubbles was rejected by ten publishers before being accepted by Drum and Spear Press in Washington, D.C. A reviewer for Interracial Books for Children Bulletin noted that Greenfield's debut picture book "can help children deal with the times when adults are unable to give them the attention they want. It can also help youngsters understand that families adopt different lifestyles for survival."
When Mathis suggested to Greenfield that she write a biography in picture-book form, the author recreated the life of Rosa Parks for young children as her second contribution to juvenile literature. In Rosa Parks Greenfield depicts Parks's childhood, her refusal to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, because of a "Jim Crow" law requiring blacks to sit at the back of the bus, and the resulting U.S. Supreme Court decision that ultimately ended segregation in public transportation; in addition, she outlines the social situation that contributed to Parks's action. Rosa Parks was generally praised by critics: Judy Richardson, writing in the Journal of Negro Education, commented that the biography "beautifully captures the sense of urgency" that existed during the first years of the civil rights era "and gives young readers a good feeling for the early movement days of the Montgomery bus boycott." Betty Lanier Jenkins, writing in School Library Journal, called Rosa Parks "a valuable addition for elementary school and public libraries needing supplementary material on the Civil Rights Movement."
After the success of Rosa Parks, which received the first Carter G. Woodson Award in 1974, Greenfield was faced with a dilemma. As she wrote in SAAS, "Could I hold to my plan to be a reclusive writer while other people were speaking out about racism, and some were putting their lives on the line? The answer was 'No.' Not if I wanted to face myself in the mirror and respect the person I saw there." Greenfield now began making public appearances, including television interviews; by telling herself to concentrate on the things that needed to be said and by acting as if she was a person who was not shy, she was able to conquer her fear of public speaking. Since publishing Rosa Parks, Greenfield has authored biographies of other notable contemporary African Americans, including actor Robeson, Mary McLeod Bethune, and, in the collective volume How They Got Over: African Americans and the Call of the Sea, black men and women who have made their career on the sea. The goal of such writing, she told Kiah in Language Arts, is to make "children aware of the people who have contributed to the struggle for black liberation." Written in simple but expressive language and noted for their objectivity, Greenfield's biographies have been acknowledged as important contributions to black literature for children. Writing in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, Denise M. Wilms described such works as "in a sense, groundbreaking books, for they present … strong black men and women little written about in a format easily accessible to younger readers. They were a significant contribution toward easing the dearth of black history material available for young readers." Praising How They Got Over for profiling not only blacks who spent their lives on the sea but also those who made "distinguished contributions to nautical history," Horn Book contributor Betty Carter added that Greenfield's "engaging text … neatly provides historical context" for young researchers.
While writing her biographies, Greenfield also continued to publish well-received picture books, and her work in this area is considered equally valuable to young children. She has worked with a number of distinguished artists, including frequent collaborator Jan Spivey Gilchrist, John Steptoe, Moneta Barnett, Tom Feelings, Leo and Diane Dillon, Carole Byard, Jerry Pinkney, Pat Cummings, and Floyd Cooper. Greenfield's second contribution to the picture-book genre, She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl, describes how little Kevin, disappointed because his new sibling is a sister instead of a brother, changes his attitude when his mother tells him that she needs his help in caring for the new arrival and describes how her own older brother protected her when she was a baby. Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Zena Sutherland noted, "There have been many books like this … but there's always room for another when it's well done, and this is: the story catches the wistful pathos of the child who is feeling displaced." Africa Dream, a book published in 1977, is a prose poem that depicts a child's dream of going back to long-ago Africa and being welcomed by relatives and friends. Writing in the Negro History Bulletin, Thelma D. Perry called Africa Dream "a fantastic book" and noted that it "is a pure delight to recommend this lovely book of poignant text."
In Talk about a Family Greenfield describes an African-American family facing the pain of divorce. With the help of her relatives and neighbors, small Genny realizes that families come in all shapes and that the concept of family is always changing. A critic in Kirkus Reviews noted that Genny's feelings, the interactions of her relatives, and her conversations with an old neighbor are "sensitive enough to make this one of the more honest and effective entries in its limited, problem/consolation genre," while Christine McDonnell commented in School Library Journal that the book's characters "are remarkably well developed, especially considering the confines of 64 pages." In her review of the revised edition of Talk about a Family, Beryle Banfield wrote in Interracial Books for Children Bulletin: "You have to care about the people Eloise Greenfield writes about. You have to feel about them."
Perhaps Greenfield's most highly regarded book is Childtimes, the memoir that she wrote with her mother Lessie Jones Little. An autobiography written as a collaboration between both authors and including dictations from the memoirs of Greenfield's grandmother, Patricia Ridley Jones, Childtimes links three individual childhoods to represent the challenges facing African Americans and to demonstrate how such challenges can be transcended by love, loyalty, and family support. In her essay in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, Denise M. Wilms called Childtimes "Greenfield's most ambitious and mature work," adding that its "intimacy, pride, and reverence are compelling. It's a moving story that embodies all of its author's aims in a manner that qualifies as both art and living history." Quoting Greenfield herself, Mary M. Burns commented in Horn Book that "'There's a lot of crying in this book, and there's dying, too, but there's also new life and laughter. It's all part of living.' Few books have conveyed that message more memorably or more artistically." Geraldine L. Wilson, reviewing the book for Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, urged: "Parents, teachers, family members, get this book into classrooms, homes, churches. Read it yourselves, read it to young children; older children will read it by themselves. Then bow down, low! And to the writers, continue to 'Speak the Truth to the people,' about the importance of child-times."
Greenfield published her first collection of poetry, Honey, I Love, and Other Love Poems, in 1978. In sixteen poems written in rhyme and blank verse, the author explores the warm and loving relationships that a young African-American girl shares with her family, friends, and schoolmates. The title poem, which was reissued as a picture book with illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist in 1995 and again in a twenty-fifth anniversary edition in 2003, finds the girl reviewing the many people and things that make her life so treasured. Noting that the child in the poems loves both others and herself and is confident in the expression of her love, Banfield wrote in Interracial Books for Children Bulletin that Greenfield's manner "gives a definite Afro-American emphasis on universal experience" and called the book "a must for classroom and school libraries."
One of Greenfield's most popular books of verse for children is Nathaniel Talking, a volume that delineates the philosophy, observations, and opinions of nine-year-old Nathaniel B. Free. While his mother has just died, Nathaniel nonetheless presents a thoughtful, positive world view. He describes each member of his extended family in a poetic tribute written in the musical style of a form associated with their generation: for instance, his father is depicted in a twelve-bar blues, while his grandmother is sketched in a form that imitates the sound of bones, a folk instrument with African origins.
Nathaniel himself is characterized by a poem in the rap idiom, and Greenfield is often credited for being the first writer for children to publish a poem written in this form. In her review in School Library Journal, Kathleen T. Horning called Nathaniel Talking "a stellar collection." Writing in the Horn Book, Mary M. Burns added that "It is not often that a book of poetry can successfully contain a variety of verse forms while simultaneously maintaining the sense of a single voice. Eloise Greenfield meets the challenge brilliantly." Gale W. Sherman of Bookbird noted of Greenfield that "With the importance music has played in her life since childhood, it was natural for her to pioneer the use of the rap rhyme scheme and verse form in children's literature."
Other poetry collections by Greenfield include Night on Neighborhood Street, which focuses on the people who live on one block of an inner-city neighborhood, and In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems. Encompassing small children and loving parents as well as drug dealers and the threat posed by an empty building, Night on Neighborhood Street was praised by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as a "masterful collection" that depicts a realistic neighborhood but concludes that "love generally survives all." In the Land of Words, which contains twenty-one poems, illustrations by Gilchrist, and short prefaces that explain how each work was inspired, was described by a Kirkus Reviews contributor as a "joy-filled, right-on tribute to wordsmithing in all its forms." Another collection of verse, Angels, which was inspired by pencil drawings sent by Gilchrist to Greenfield, was described by Booklist contributor John Peters as a "reverent tribute to the many angels in a child's life"; parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and step-parents are all depicted in both pictures and Greenfield's verse. With poems that are "touching, funny, silly, poignant, bittersweet and evocative" according to a Teacher Librarian writer, Greenfield matches the optimism in Gilchrist's illuminating artwork. Inspired by the poet's own granddaughter, Kamaria, I Can Draw a Weeposaur and Other Dinosaurs reflects a young girl's active imagination as she conjures up such creatures as a Florasaurus—who grazes on flower beds—and the Shoppersaurus—a creature who frequents shopping malls. Praising Greenfields's "humorous puns" and "simple, often droll" verse, Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld praised the volume as a "lively celebration of a child's imagination and the rewards of artistic expression," while in School Library Journal Joy Fleishhacker cited I Can Draw a Weeposaur and Other Dinosaurs as "a fine choice for art classes, creative-writing groups, and children who love dinosaurs in any form."
Evaluating Greenfield's verse for children, Children's Books and Their Creators contributor Sheila McMorrow Geraty claimed that Greenfield's poetry "remains her strongest contribution to children's literature…. When read aloud, her lyrical words almost dance, each stanza expressing a powerful sense of setting and character. Through her poignant images of family, friends, and neighborhood, Greenfield reveals a child's emotional reality without sentiment or nostalgia."
Returning to nonfiction, For the Love of the Game: Michael Jordan and Me, a picture book published in 1997, is considered somewhat of a departure for Greenfield: the poetic text and illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist—an artist whose pictures have graced several of the author's works—use images of the basketball great to encourage children to follow their dreams. Writing in Booklist, Susan Dove Lempke noted that Greenfield and Gilchrist "work together here like a winning ball team. The exultant text is a teacher's dream…. This book will set children soaring." Calling For the Love of the Game "a book that celebrates the human spirit," School Library Journal contributor Connie C. Rockman concluded that its overall effect is "a powerful blending of words and pictures that delivers a message that needs to be heard by children growing up in a hostile world."
In an essay for Horn Book Greenfield wrote near the beginning of her career: "Writing is my work. It is work that is in harmony with me; it sustains me. I want, through my work, to help sustain children." The author concluded, "I want to be one of those who can choose and order words that children will want to celebrate. I want to make them shout and laugh and blink back tears and care about themselves. They are our future. They are for loving." In an interview posted on the HarperCollins Web site, she also offered sound advice for aspiring young writers: "Learn as much as you can about many things. Study books on the craft of writing poetry, picture books, novels, etc. Become a people-watcher—observe behavior, posture, facial expressions and gestures. Learn to type. Read. Write. Understand that rejections are a part of the process, and prepare for a way to earn a living while you are waiting to get published. Good luck!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Children's Books and Their Creators, edited by Anita Silvey, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995, p. 285.
Children's Literature Review, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 4, 1982, pp. 95-103, Volume 38, 1996, pp. 76-96.
Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, edited by Sally Holmes Holtze, H. W. Wilson (Bronx, NY), 1983.
Greenfield, Eloise, and Lessie Jones Little, Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 16, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993, pp. 173-185.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, edited by Laura Standley Berger, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995, pp. 410-411.
Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2004, review of In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems, p. 66.
Bookbird, spring, 1995, Gale W. Sherman, "Hip-Hop Culture Raps into Children's Books," pp. 21-25.
Booklist, February 15, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of For the Love of the Game, p. 1024; April, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Easter Parade, p. 1320; November 15, 1998, John Peters, review of Angels, p. 583; August, 1999, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Water, Water, p. 2064; April 1, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of I Can Draw a Weeposaur and Other Dinosaurs, p. 1475; February 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of How They Got Over: African Americans and the Call of the Sea, p. 1080, and Ilene Cooper, review of Honey, I Love, p. 1089; March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of In the Land of Words, p. 1191.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1975, Zena Sutherland, review of She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl, p. 113; March, 1997, p. 248.
Children's Digest, October-November, 1997, review of For the Love of the Game, p. 14.
Horn Book, December, 1975, Eloise Greenfield, "Something to Shout About," pp. 624-626; December, 1979, Mary M. Burns, review of Childtimes, p. 676; September-October, 1990, Mary M. Burns, review of Nathaniel Talking, p. 613; March-April, 1997, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of For the Love of the Game, p. 209; September-October, 1998, Barbara Harrison, review of Easter Parade, pp. 607-608; March-April, 2003, Betty Carter, review of How They Got Over, p. 224.
Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Volume 6, numbers 5 and 6, 1975, review of Bubbles, p. 9; Volume 9, number 2, 1978, Beryle Banfield, review of Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems, p. 19; Volume 11, number 5, 1980, Geraldine L. Wilson, review of Child-times, pp. 14-15; Volume 11, number 8, 1980, Beryle Banfield, review of Grandmama's Joy and Talk about a Family, pp. 16-17.
Journal of Negro Education, summer, 1974, Judy Richardson, "Black Children's Books: An Overview," pp. 380-400.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1978, review of Talk about a Family, p. 436; November 15, 2002, review of How They Got Over, p. 1693; November 15, 2003, review of In the Land of Words, p. 1359.
Language Arts, September, 1980, Rosalie Black Kiah, "Profile: Eloise Greenfield," pp. 653-659.
Negro History Bulletin, January-February, 1978, Thelma D. Perry, review of Africa Dream, p. 801.
New York Times Book Review, May 5, 1974, Jane Langton, "Five Lives," p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1991, review of Night on Neighborhood Street, p. 59; October 11, 1991, review of Big Friend Little Friend and Daddy and I, p. 62; April 6, 1998, review of Easter Parade, p. 77; January 26, 2004, review of In the Land of Words, p. 254.
School Library Journal, April, 1974, Betty Lanier Jenkins, review of Rosa Parks, p. 50; May, 1978, Christine McDonnell, review of Talk about a Family, pp. 67-68; August, 1989, Kathleen T. Horning, review of Nathaniel Talking, p. 146; March, 1997, Connie C. Rockman, review of For the Love of the Game, pp. 174-175; August, 1998, p. 139; January, 1999, p. 140; March, 2001, Joy Fleishhacker, review of I Can Draw a Weeposaur and Other Dinosaurs, p. 235; February, 2003, Anna DeWind Walls, review of Honey, I Love, p. 131; March, 2004, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of In the Land of Words, p. 195.
Teacher Librarian, January-February, 1999, review of Angels, p. 43.
HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (October 21, 2004), "Eloise Greenfield."*
"Greenfield, Eloise 1929-." Something About the Author. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3433400040.html
"Greenfield, Eloise 1929-." Something About the Author. 2005. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3433400040.html
Greenfield, Eloise 1929–
Eloise Greenfield 1929–
The author of more than a dozen prize-winning books for children, Eloise Greenfield has helped give black youngsters a literature about their own life experiences. Greenfield’s simple yet eloquent tales cover the familiar territory of childhood, from fantasies to fears, even to living with disabilities. The characters in her books wrestle with all the challenges of growing up as seen from a black American perspective. According to Betty Valdes in the Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Greenfield “consistently… illuminates key aspects of the black experience in a way that underlines both its uniqueness and its universality.”
As an author, Greenfield feels she has an important—indeed essential—task. Despite the limitations of the written word, she told Horn Book Magazine, literature can leave a lasting effect on young minds. “I want to encourage children to develop positive attitudes toward themselves and their abilities, to love themselves,” she stated. “As for abilities—self-confidence is half the battle. Children must be able to face their mistakes and weaknesses without losing sight of their strengths.”
Greenfield added: “I want to give children a true knowledge of black heritage, including both the African and the American experiences. The distortions of black history have been manifold and ceaseless. A true history must be the concern of every black writer. It is necessary for black children to have a true knowledge of their past and present, in order that they may develop an informed sense of direction for their future.”
Eloise Greenfield was born on May 17,1929, in Parmele, North Carolina. Although her parents were both high school graduates, her father could not find enough employment to sustain the growing family. When Eloise was still a baby, her parents moved north to Washington, DC, where they rented a room from friends. Greenfield’s father found a temporary job washing dishes in a restaurant. He finally found permanent employment with Peoples Drug Store, making deliveries on a bicycle. Greenfield, who was an avid reader from a very young age, attended segregated schools in the nation’s capital and spent her summers playing with friends and extended family in a close-knit, urban neighborhood.
“I enjoyed being with friends and was a very good student through elementary and junior high school,” Greenfield
At a Glance…
Born May 17, 1929, in Parmele, NC; daughter of Weston W. and Lessie (Jones) Little; married Robert J. Greenfield (a procurement specialist), April 29, 1950; children: Steven, Monica. Education: Attended Miner Teachers College, 1946-49.
U.S. Patent Office, Washington, DC, clerk-typist, 1949-56, supervisory patent assistant, 1956-60; writer, 1958—; worked as a secretary, case-control technician, and an administrative assistant in Washington, DC, 1963-71; District of Columbia Black Writers’ Workshop, co-director of adult fiction, 1971-73, director of children’s literature, 1973-74; District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, writer-in-residence, 1973, 1985-86. Participant in numerous school and library programs and workshops for children and adults.
Selected awards: Carter G. Woodson Book Award from National Council for the Social Studies, 1974, for Rosa Parks ; Irma Simonton Black Award, Bank Street College of Education, 1974, for she Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl ; Jane Addams Children’s Book Award from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1976, for Paul Robeson ; Coretta Scott King Award, 1978, for African Drea m; Washington, DC Mayor’s Art Award in Literature, 1983; lifetime achievement citation from Ninth Annual Celebration of Black Writing, Philadelphia, PA, 1993.
Addresses: Office —P.O. Box 29077, Washington, DC 20017.
wrote in an essay for the Something About the Author (SATA) Autobiography Series. The one drawback to her success as a student was persistent shyness. “I never volunteered to answer any question or make any comment,” she explained. “Except on rare occasions, I spoke only when a teacher noticed that I hadn’t said anything for a long time and decided to call on me.” The shyness caused Greenfield to dodge speaking roles in school plays and any assignment that would bring her the limelight. “Shyness followed me far into my life,” she recalled. “I didn’t conquer it until I was well into adulthood.”
As a child Greenfield found joy in music. When she was nine her family moved into a home in one of the country’s first public housing projects, and her father saved enough money to buy a piano. Because of her love for music, Greenfield took piano lessons until she was 16, though she never wanted to perform. She credits her family and her neighbors in the housing project with helping to assure a happy and confident childhood.
“Langston Terrace wasn’t an in-between place,” she wrote in her book Childtimes: A Three- Generation Memoir. “It was a growing-up place, a good growing-up place. Neighbors who cared, family and friends, and a lot of fun. Life was good. Not perfect, but good. We knew about problems, heard about them, saw them, lived through some hard ones ourselves, but our community wrapped itself around us, put itself between us and the hard knocks, to cushion the blows.”
After graduating from Cardozo High School in 1946, Greenfield attended Miner Teachers College with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. There her shyness finally caught up with her when she was expected to give teaching demonstrations in front of her professors. She dropped out in her third year and went to work as a clerk-typist in the U.S. Patent Office. “I didn’t tell anyone the real reason I was leaving college,” she recalled in her SATA personal essay. “I can look back now and know that my decision was a good one. I am very happy with the way my life has turned out, and so were my parents. But times were different then, and I hope that children who are growing up in these times will obtain as much education as they possibly can, both in school and through independent study.”
In 1950, the former Eloise Little married Robert Greenfield, a longtime friend who had served in World War II. The Greenfields soon had two young children, and Greenfield continued working at the Patent Office, although she found the tasks dull and uninspiring. She sometimes wrote silly, rhyming verses in her spare time. From there she began experimenting with songs, dreaming of hearing one of her creations sung by one of the many black artists she admired.
None of her songs were ever published, but the experience of writing them increased her devotion to words and the emotions they could incite. “When I look now at those songs, written more than 40 years ago, I can see that they left a lot to be desired,” she explained in her SATA piece. “But I’m glad I wrote them. They were a part of my development, and they helped to put me on the right track.”
From songs Greenfield graduated to short stories. She decided to try three times to have a story published, and if she failed, to give up writing forever. She wrote three stories and sent them to magazines; all three were rejected. This response—typical for almost every novice writer—did not forever silence her pen, however. Instead she read books about how to write and market her work. “I studied and wrote, and studied and wrote, and submitted my work to publishers,” she recalled in the SATA Autobiography Series. “I received rejections, but I kept going. One of the things I had learned was that rejections were to be expected.” It was almost five years before she earned her first acceptance and saw a poem of hers published in the Hartford Times.
Greenfield joined the District of Columbia Black Writers Workshop in the early 1970s. There she found not only fellow writers with mutual goals but also pratical information about publishers who were seeking manuscripts. She also met author Sharon Bell Mathis, who suggested that Greenfield write a biography for children. By that time Greenfield had experienced some modest success as a published writer, and she had already written her first picture book. She decided to write a biography of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. In 1971, her picture book, Bubbles, was accepted by Drum and Spear Press, and subsequently, Rosa Parks was accepted by the Crowell Biography series.
In the SATA Autobiography Series, Greenfield wrote of those times: “More than 20 years had now elapsed since my first pitiful attempts at writing. What had brought me to this point? First, my love for the work. And, of course, the years of study. Then, from the outside, the African American struggle for justice which had demanded, among other things, literature by and about African Americans.”
Once Greenfield had broken into the publishing world, she found her work in demand. She wrote biographies of Paul Robeson and Mary McLeod Bethune for the Crowell series, the novels Sister and Talk About a Family for children eight to 12, and a number of picture books that were given the prestigious “notable book” citation by the American Library Association. Most remarkably, Greenfield realized that her responsibility as an African American author would almost require her to do some public speaking. At mid-life she finally overcame the shyness that had troubled her as a youngster, and she found herself addressing writers’ conferences as well as classrooms of her youthful readers.
Much of Greenfield’s fiction concerns family bonding, a subject the author finds as important as black history. Noting in Horn Book that “love is a staple in most black families,” she writes repeatedly of the changing patterns of parental and sibling involvement, stressing the child’s ability to cope with changes both positive and negative. In her Irma Simonton Black Award-winning picture book, She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl, for instance, a young character named Kevin must learn to share his parents’ love with his new sister.
The novel Sister, which received a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year citation, concerns a girl caught in the family stress following a parent’s death. Greenfield explained her hopes for books like Sister in Horn Book: “Sister…discovers that she can use her good times as stepping stones, as bridges, to get over the hard times…. My hope is that children in trouble will not view themselves as blades of wheat caught in countervailing winds but will seek solutions, even partial or temporary solutions, to their problems.”
Since 1973 Greenfield has published on average one book each year. Time has become a precious commodity for the author, who often works as much as ten hours a day. “There are times when I’m working on a book that I tell myself I’m not at home, I’m away at a writers’ retreat,” she explains in SATA Autobiography Series. “At these times, I don’t allow myself to do anything that I could not do if I actually were away. This ploy helps me to keep my responsibilities in perspective and dissolves feelings of guilt about tasks that are going undone.”She also noted: “I love to visit with children in schools and libraries, but that is rarely possible now. I hope children understand that there are not enough writers to cover all of the schools, but that we put our love for them in our books and hope they can feel it.”
Greenfield’s aims as a children’s author are many. She wants to provoke creative thought and activity, a joyous interaction with words and text. “I want to be one of those who can choose and order words that children will want to celebrate,” she concluded in Horn Book. “I want to make them shout and laugh and blink back tears and care about themselves. They are our future. They are beautiful. They are for loving.”
Reflecting on her successful writing career, Greenfield wrote in SATA Autobiography Series: “From where I stand, at this point in my life, I can look back and see growth. And I have a clear view now of the winding path that brought me here. There might have been a shorter path, but I enjoyed all the steps, the process of learning to write. And even now, it is writing, not being a writer, that brings me the deepest satisfaction.” She concluded: “I’m glad I chose this work. I would still like to produce children’s plays someday. …I hope I get to do that. But there are only so many hours in one lifetime, and if I never get to do those things, I will still be happy that I was able to spend so much of my life in a love affair with words.”
Bubbles, illustrated by Eric Marlow, Drum & Spear, 1972, published as Good News, illustrated by Pat Cummings, Coward, 1977.
Rosa Parks, illustrated by Marlow, Crowell, 1973.
She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl, illustrated by John Steptoe, Lippincott, 1974.
Sister (novel), illustrated by Barnett, Crowell, 1974.
Me and Neesie, illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Crowell, 1975.
Paul Robeson, illustrated by Ford, Crowell, 1975.
First Pink Light, illustrated by Barnett, Crowell, 1976, revised edition, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1991.
Africa Dream, illustrated by Carole Byard, John Day, 1977.
Mary McLeod Bethune, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Crowell, 1977.
Honey, I Love, and Other Love Poems, illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon, Crowell, 1978.
(With mother, Lessie Jones Little) I Can Do It by Myself, illustrated by Byard, Crowell, 1978.
Talk About a Family (novel), illustrated by James Calvin, Lippincott, 1978, HarperCollins, 1993.
(With L. J. Little) Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, illustrated by Pinkney, Crowell, 1979.
Darlene, illustrated by George Ford, Methuen, 1980.
Grandmama’s Joy, illustrated by Byard, Collins, 1980.
(With Alesia Revis) Alesia, illustrated by Ford, with photographs by Sandra Turner Bond, Philomel/Putnam, 1981.
Daydreamers, with pictures by Tom Feelings, Dial, 1981.
Grandpa’s Face, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Putnam, 1988.
Nathaniel Talking (poems), Black Butterfly, 1988.
Under the Sunday Tree, illustrated by Amos Ferguson, HarperCollins, 1988.
Big Friend, Little Friend, illustrated by Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1991.
I Make Music, illustrated by Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1991.
Lisa’s Daddy and Daughter Day, illustrated by Gilchrist, Sundance, 1991.
My Doll, Keshia, illustrated by Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1991.
My Daddy and I, illustrated by Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1991.
Night on Neighborhood Street, illustrated by Gilchrist, Dial, 1991.
Koya DeLaney and the Good Girl Blues, Scholastic, 1992.
Aaron and Gayla’s Alphabet Book, illustrated by Gilchrist, Black Butterfly, 1993.
William and the Good Old Days, illustrated by Gilchrist, HarperCollins, 1993.
Sweet Baby Coming, illustrated by Gilchrist, HarperCollins, 1994.
Honey, I Love (picture book), illustrated by Gilchrist, HarperCollins, 1995.
On My Horse, illustrated by Gilchrist, HarperCollins, 1995.
Contributor to numerous anthologies for young readers; contributor to World Book Encyclopedia; contributor to magazines and newspapers.
Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Volume 19, Gale, 1987, p. 215-19.
Greenfield, Eloise and Lessie Jones Little, Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir, Crowell, 1979.
Something About the Author, Volume 61, Gale, 1991, p. 89-102.
Something About the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 16, Gale, 1993, p. 173-85.
Horn Book, December 1975.
Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Volume 11, number 5, 1980; Volume 11, number 8, 1980.
Language Arts, September 1980.
—Anne Janette Johnson
Johnson, Anne. "Greenfield, Eloise 1929–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1995. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871100030.html
Johnson, Anne. "Greenfield, Eloise 1929–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1995. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871100030.html