Hurd, Edith Thacher (1910–1997)

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Hurd, Edith Thacher (1910–1997)

Children's book writer who was one of the early figures in the development of children's literature in America. Name variations: (joint pseudonym with Margaret Wise Brown) Juniper Sage; (nickname) Posey. Born on September 14, 1910, in Kansas City, Missouri; died on January 25, 1997; daughter of John Hamilton and Edith (Gilman) Thacher; Radcliffe College, A.B., 1933; Bank Street College of Education, additional study, 1934; married Clement Hurd (an artist and illustrator), on June 24, 1939 (died 1988); children: John Thacher Hurd (children's book writer and illustrator).

Taught four years at the Dalton School, New York, N.Y.; worked at the U.S. Office of War Information, San Francisco, California as a news analyst (1942–45).

Selected writings:

Hurry, Hurry (W.R. Scott, 1938, new ed. with illustrations by Clement Hurd, Harper, 1960); The Wreck of the Wild Wave (Oxford University Press, 1942); Jerry, the Jeep (Lothrop, 1945); The Galleon from Manila (Oxford University Press, 1949); Mr. Shortsleeves' Great Big Store (Simon & Schuster, 1952); The Golden Hind (Crowell, 1960); (illustrated by Lucienne Bloch) Sandpipers (Crowell, 1961); (illustrated by Bloch) Starfish (Crowell, 1962); Sailers, Whalers and Steamers (Lane, 1964); Who Will Be Mine? (Golden Gate, 1966); (illustrated by Tony Chen) The White Horse (Harper, 1970); Come With Me to Nursery School (Coward, 1970); (illustrated by Emily A. McCully) The Black Dog Who Went into the Woods (Harper, 1980); (illustrated by McCully) I Dance in My Red Pajamas (Harper, 1982); (illustrated by Jennifer Dewey) Song of the Sea Otter (Pantheon, 1983); (illustrated by Don Freeman) Dinosaur, My Darling (Harper, 1978).

With husband Clement Hurd as illustrator:

Engine, Engine, No. 9 (Lothrop, 1940); Sky High (Lothrop, 1941); The Annie Moran (Lothrop, 1942); Speedy, the Hook and Ladder Truck (Lothrop, 1942); Benny the Bulldozer (Lothrop, 1947); Toughy and His Trailer Truck (Lothrop, 1948); Willy's Farm (Lothrop, 1949); Caboose (Lothrop, 1950); Old Silversides (Lothrop, 1951); St. George's Day in

Williamsburg, Va. (Colonial Williamsburg, 1952); Somebody's House (Lothrop, 1953); Nino and His Fish (Lothrop, 1954); The Devil's Tail: Adventures of a Printer's Apprentice in Early Williamsburg (Doubleday, 1954); The Cat from Telegraph Hill (Lothrop, 1955); Mr. Charlie's Chicken House (Lippincott, 1955); Mr. Charlie's Gas Station (Lippincott, 1956); Windy and the Willow Whistle (Sterling, 1956); Mary's Scary House (Sterling, 1956); It's Snowing (Sterling, 1957); Mr. Charlie's Camping Trip (Lippincott, 1957); Johnny Littlejohn (Lothrop, 1957); Fox in a Box (Doubleday, 1957); Mr. Charlie, the Fireman's Friend (Lippincott, 1958); The Faraway Christmas: A Story of the Farallon Islands (Lothrop, 1958); Mr. Charlie's Pet Shop (Lippincott, 1959); Last One Home Is a Green Pig (Harper, 1959); Mr. Charlie's Farm (Lippincott, 1960); Stop, Stop (Harper, 1961); Come and Have Fun (Harper, 1962); Christmas Eve (Harper, 1962); No Funny Business (Harper, 1962); Follow Tomas (Dial, 1963); The Day the Sun Danced (Harper, 1965); Johnny Lion's Book (Harper, 1965); The So-So Cat (Harper, 1965); What Whale? Where? (Harper, 1966); (with son, Thacher Hurd) Little Dog, Dreaming (Harper, 1967); The Blue Heron Tree (Viking, 1968); Rain and the Valley (Coward, 1968); This Is the Forest (Coward, 1969); Johnny Lion's Bad Day (Harper, 1970); Catfish (Viking, 1970); Wilson's World (Harper, 1971); Johnny Lion's Rubber Boots (Harper, 1972); Catfish and the Kidnapped Cat (Harper, 1974); Look For a Bird (Harper, 1977); Under the Lemon Tree (Little, Brown, 1980); (afterword) The World Is Round (North Point Press, 1988).

"Mother Animal" series; all illustrated by Clement Hurd: The Mother Beaver (Little, Brown, 1971); The Mother Deer (Little, Brown, 1972); The Mother Whale (Little, Brown, 1973); The Mother Owl (Little, Brown, 1974); The Mother Kangaroo (Little, Brown, 1976); The Mother Chimpanzee (Little, Brown, 1978).

With Margaret Wise Brown:

Five Little Firemen (Simon & Schuster, 1948); Two Little Miners (Simon & Schuster, 1949); The Little Fat Policeman (Simon & Schuster, 1950); Two Little Gardeners (Simon & Schuster, 1951); Seven Little Postmen (Simon & Schuster, 1952). With Margaret Wise Brown, under joint pseudonym Juniper Sage: The Man in the Manhole and the Fix-it Men (W.R. Scott, 1946). Contributor of poetry to Grade Teacher and articles to Horn Book.

Edith Thacher Hurd once described herself as "a Missourian by birth, a New Englander by education, a New Yorker by marriage, and now a happy Californian." She was born in Kansas City in 1910, and, after attending a "wonderfully progressive school" in Missouri where frequent writing assignments evoked stories filled with knights in armor, jousts, and castles (her favorite author was Howard Pyle), she went to a strict boarding school in Switzerland to study for one year. She then moved on to Radcliffe College.

Four years later, diploma in hand, she was greeted with unemployment and the Great Depression. There was little work to be found for an art history major. Instead, Hurd accepted a scholarship to the Bank Street College of Education in New York's Greenwich Village, then taught for four years at the Dalton School in New York City.

"The 1920s were fruitful years for children's literature," noted Hurd, "yet they were devoted to the publication of 'inheritance of great literature,' fairy tales, folk tales, adventure stories, and stories of the fabulous and unreal. Breaking with older narrative forms, experimental writers began to focus directly on the experiences of children and to explore the realm of a child's senses—colors, sounds, smells. Children's emotions and concerns, such as being alone and shy, being lost and being found, became new subjects for writers. I remember well some of these years of explosive creativity, for they led me into the world of children's books and entirely changed my life."

Edith became a member of the Writer's Laboratory at the Bank Street College of Education. Under the guidance of Lucy Sprague Mitchell , the Laboratory was comprised of aspiring writers of books for young children, including Margaret Wise Brown and Ruth Krauss . Hurd became deeply involved with their explorations into writing and education as well as the publishing world, especially the nascent Young Scott Books.

Founded in 1938 by Ethel McCullough Scott , her brother John McCullough, and her husband William R. Scott, Young Scott Books was sufficiently financed for experimentation. The Scotts, who worked out of an office in the Village and a barn at their summer house in Bennington, Vermont, soon began to publish books that were, writes Hurd, "bold in their child-oriented point of view and unusual in their choice of illustrators and authors."

The Little Fireman by Margaret Wise Brown (1938) established the firm as a leader in innovative children's books, and Brown was asked to join the editorial staff. "I saw a great deal of Margaret, as she was without a doubt the most talented member of the Writer's Laboratory," writes Hurd. "The meetings when 'Brownie' read a new story were delightful, often hilarious, occasions." Working with the Scotts was often an unconventional undertaking. "I remember being invited to their house in North Bennington, Vermont, to spend the night," said Hurd; "the next morning sitting under the tall elm trees, the Scotts, John McCullough and I worked long hours 'rewriting' my first book, Hurry, Hurry, A story of calamity and woe, about a babysitter who was always in too much of a hurry." The original Hurry Hurry was based on a nurse at the Dalton School. "She was ALWAYS in a dreadful hurry."

Brown suggested that adult authors be queried to write books for children, so letters were sent to Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Gertrude Stein . Though Hemingway and Steinbeck declined, Stein wrote The World Is Round; its illustrator was Clement Hurd. Just before the book's publication, Edith Thacher married Clem Hurd on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on June 24, 1939. Following the wedding, the couple headed back to New York, where Clem supervised the printing of the Stein book. "I remember that New York was ferociously hot that summer, and we were thankful to head north at last to our little farmhouse in Vermont for a belated honeymoon," writes Hurd.

Through the years, Edith wrote over 75 books, many of which are still in print. From 1959 on, the Hurds worked with their longtime friend and editor Ursula Nordstrom at Harper. When Edith died in January 1997, Publishers Weekly noted that this signaled "the passing of one of the few remaining early figures in the development of children's literature as we know it." Now over 2,000 children's books are being published each year, and authors and illustrators are recognized as masters in their own right. It is a far cry from the days when, as Edith Hurd once recalled, Bennett Cerf introduced Margaret Wise Brown as a writer of "baby books."

Illustrator Leonard Marcus noted in his tribute to Hurd:

"Posey," as everyone called her, always seemed a bit amused by the world around her and by herself as part of that world. Yet she also knew exactly what she was about. "Maine is so satisfying," she once said as she watched from the deck of a ferry cruising out among the spruce-and-granite studded islands of Penobscot Bay, "because it looks so much like Maine."


Junior Literary Guild. March 1980.

Publishers Weekly. February 24, 1997, p. 33.

Stein, Gertrude. The World Is Round. Afterword by Edith Thacher Hurd. North Point Press, 1988.