October 14 – Happy Birthday, Lois Lenski!

Posted October 14, 2016

She wrote - she drew and painted - she published!

Born in Ohio on this date in 1893, Lois Lenski was encouraged to paint and draw by many of the adults in her life. She had talent, they said. A visiting artist and a teacher encouraged her parents to buy her quality art materials. Her parents agreed and bought her quality art materials.

Still, Lenski later related, nobody ever encouraged her to be original, or to draw the things she saw around her. Instead, pretty much the entirety of her childhood, she copied other people's pictures.

Lenski attended university and earned a B.S. Degree in education, plus a teaching certificate. But instead of jumping into teaching, she received a scholarship to some further art training, so she studied art in three different institutions, in New York City and London, and she even traveled through Italy to see more art.

Lenski married an artist whose wife had died some years before; he had two small children. Years later, Lenski had a child of her own. Like many husbands, Lenski's husband expected her to take full responsibility for the house and kids and didn't seem to mind if that left her no time for her art. But Lenski minded.

She hire household help and worked on writing books and making art.

And it paid off: she published 98 books! She also provided illustrations for other authors. She earned a Newbery Honor and a Newbery Medal.

Here are a few of her books:

Note: Lenski was one of the authors who ushered in a new kind of realism into kids' books. When she first wrote them, some called them “grim,” and some definitely didn't like the grimness.

Nowadays, some of her books seem problematic because of old-fashioned attitudes that we now realize are pretty racist.

Check out her other books here

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