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Martin, William Ivan 1916-2004

MARTIN, William Ivan 1916-2004

(Bill Martin, Jr.)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 20, 1916, in Hiawatha, KS; died August 11, 2004, in Commerce, TX. Educator, editor, and author. Martin was a prolific author of children's books that employ innovative techniques to improve young readers' vocabularies while also being entertaining. Understanding firsthand how difficult reading could be for children, Martin himself could not read well until college, when he improved his skills considerably by memorizing poetry that had been read to him in class and then studying the text for comparison. He graduated from what is now Emporia State University in 1934 and then spent several years teaching high school drama, English, and journalism in Kansas. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces, where he was a newspaper editor. After the war, his brother, who was an artist, asked him to write a children's story that he could then illustrate. The result was The Little Squeegy Bug (1945), which proved to be the beginning of a very popular collaboration that lasted through seventeen books, including Silver Stallion (1949), Five Little Rabbits (1951), and The Green-eyed Stallion (1953). Inspired by this success and his ability to have an impact on children, Martin returned to university, earning an M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1957 and 1961 respectively, while also working as an elementary school principal in Illinois. He then joined the staff at the publishing house Holt, Rinehart & Winston as an editor and children's textbook and picture book series creator from 1960 to 1967. By 1967 Martin had become successful enough to write full time. He published over three hundred titles during his productive career, including the hugely popular Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967) and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989). Believing that the best way for children to learn was a participatory approach, Martin wrote books that employed repetition and rhythmic sounds to help youngsters gain an understanding of new words, a teaching method he also used in his 1950s television program, The Storyteller. Through such series as the "Wise Owl Books Science Series," "Wise Owl Books Social Studies Series," and "Wise Owl Books Arithmetic Series," he also created books that could be used as teaching tools in other disciplines like math and science. In many cases, Martin liked to collaborate with other authors, including John Archambault, Peggy Brogan, and, most recently, Michael Sampson. Several more books that Martin wrote with Sampson are scheduled to be released posthumously. Martin was also the author of a book for adult readers, The Human Connection: Language and Literature (1967).



Chicago Tribune, August 18, 2004, section 1, p. 11.

Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2004, p. B11.

New York Times, August 14, 2004, p. A13.

Washington Post, August 18, 2004, p. B6.

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