Springfield’s children’s book author – Lois Lenski
February 6, 2016 - accent chair
In a early 1940s, Lois Lenski was entering her late 40s, and her health was sagging to a indicate that one of a good joys of her life — sitting in a chair and portrayal during an easel — had turn physically taxing.
As they packaged for their initial outing south, she and artist-husband Arthur Covey’s primary idea was to follow her doctor’s recommendation and gangling her from a oppressive winters that rattled a windows during their ancestral Connecticut farmhouse, Greenacres.
Any suspicion that their initial winter’s stay in Louisiana lagoon nation would set a Springfield-born author and illustrator on a trail to a Newbery Medal for “the many renowned grant to novel for children” would have seemed a health-related hallucination.
But for Lenski it valid to be some-more than that. It was a step onto a trail on that she initial connected with America’s farrago by assembly with and revelation a stories of a children, an knowledge that led Lenski to a some-more surpassing tie with her eremite beliefs.
The fourth of 5 Lenski children, she came into a universe Oct. 14, 1893, during 422 Cedar St., afterwards spent a initial 6 years of her life during Columbia Street parsonage of Zion Lutheran Church.
The year she was born, a Lutheran press in Columbus published a English denunciation book “His Footsteps: Studies for Edification from a Life of Christ” by her Prussian émigré father, RCH Lenski. Two years later, it published his German denunciation book “Biblische Frauenbilder” or “The Women of a Bible.”
After stays in Springfield and afterwards Anna, Ohio, from that immature Lois trafficked to Sidney to go to high school, a Lenskis changed to Columbus. Richard assimilated a expertise during afterwards exclusively masculine Capital University while Lois attended Ohio State University.
If her summer proffer work during Columbus playgrounds and her coursework in preparation led Lenski’s relatives to assume she’d follow her mother’s footsteps into teaching, they expected were astounded when she graduated and headed to New York to investigate art and eke out a living, afterwards continued on to London, England, to continued her studies and illustrate children’s books created by others.
Lois married Covey on her lapse to a United States in 1921, cared for stepchildren Margaret and Laird, and nurtured her possess dreams of being a author and illustrator. She began in 1927 with dual books about her possess childhood, “Skipping Village” and “A Little Girl of 1900.”
After a birth of a Coveys’ son, Stephen, she distinguished his toddler years by essay a “Mr. Small” array of books, afterwards explored a childhoods of progressing times with a array of chronological books, including one formed in her Connecticut home and another about Mary Jemison called “Indian Captive.”
In her Newbery acceptance speech, Lenski pronounced it was after her “study of child life in a past,” that she “became dissatisfied” and “felt a extensive titillate for a broader experience” of her possess time.
“The exigencies of ill-health finished it probable … for me to start spending my winters in a South,” she explained. “I began a new franchise on life: we began to see America with my possess eyes – and heart and mind – for a initial time. Being both author and artist, a experience, interesting all my faculties has been abounding and rewarding.”
It would infer to be a same for her readers.
That initial outing to Louisiana constructed a book “Bayou Suzette.”
Its theme was about childhood among what those who looked down on them called a “river rats,” people who eked out a vital along tributaries of a Mississippi River and who spoke, she said, in “the soft, fluffy tones of a bayou-French.”
Next came a Newbery esteem winning “Strawberry Girl,” about a behind nation Florida “Crackers,” called that in those days not derisively though in anxiety to a cracks of whips used by those who staid a interior Florida equine country. They, too, were marginalized people.
As in Louisiana and Florida, Lenski over a subsequent 20 years lived for a time with children who weathered a heartless Plains winters in South Dakota (“Prairie School”); who grew adult in a amicable disharmony oil booms brought to Oklahoma towns (“Boomtown Boy”); whose families migrated with a crops (“Judy’s Journey”); and who lived in high arise housing projects tucked between bridges and railways (“High-Rise Secret”).
The stories were not always respectful fare: Children in a high-rises fought; those in boomtowns witnessed shootings; “Cotton” children worked from a beginning age; and a continuously operative migrant children in “Judy’s Journey,” wrote Lenski, “have never had books or playthings. Some of them are no longer childlike, though are already aged before they are 10. They do not know how to play – they are good fighters.”
Just as she shielded her use of chapter opposite those who disturbed it would learn children crude English, in an essay in “The Horn Book Magazine,” she shielded her stories’ inclusion of episodes involving inebriated fathers and antagonistic neighbors since a stories “are loyal and authentic.”
“There are, unfortunately, many inebriated fathers and disgusting neighbors in a world, and there are many children, either we like to trust it or not, who have to face these contribution and do something about it” as characters in “Strawberry Girl” did.
She schooled not usually about a opposite practice of children though a opposite ways communities functioned – communities like those in Florida where people were during contingency over open operation laws for cattle and hogs.
“I became keenly meddlesome in training how a finer people among a Crackers met such happenings and reacted to them. we was vacant to learn that after some of their misfortune fights, a disagreeing neighbors came together for an dusk merriment or a area block dance, forgetful their differences.”
Lenski argued that in an bid to defense their children from a realities other children face, a divisive “aristocracy of ‘niceness’ (was) being taught a absolved children. The higher children are a ones that are clean, have money, good clothes, good manners, take song and dancing lessons, go to a right propagandize and children and live in a ‘nice’ – that is, limited – partial of town.”
She voiced her worries about how this contributed to a nation’s amicable divides in a debate after published as a three-part array called “Understanding People” in her Lutheran denomination’s “Women’s Missionary Outlook” magazine.
Likening a plea in a nation to companion work finished abroad, she argued that since of a fast changes in society, “we need to consider review and investigate a really elemental doubt to beam us in a family with people: “Who is a neighbor and how can we adore him as myself?”
In another installment in a array she resolutely wrote: “As Christian parents, teachers and leaders, it is a avocation to learn a children, by word and example, that we adore God usually to a border that we adore a neighbor, either that neighbor is subsequent door, opposite a street, opposite a nation or opposite a world.”
This is what Lenski sought to learn children by stories collected and set in opposite American regions and locales.
“Through such stories,” she wrote, “the child …. acquires new honour and bend for life in all a several manifestations. He starts to demeanour deeper than appearance, deeper than a oral accent or a aspect materialism, deeper than amicable standing and conventions to a sounder appreciation of tellurian character.”
She adds: “Only as a chairman is judged in light of his sourroundings and a mercantile and amicable pressures that it brings on his approach of life, can he be accepted for his possess loyal worth.”
In a end, Lenski’s inability to lay absolutely during her easel authorised a child innate on Cedar Street in Springfield to move her readers’ far-reaching scenery of American life.
On Oct. 14, 1953, a day she incited 60, Lenski returned to Springfield’s Warder Public Library for a loyalty a upstairs Lois Lenski Boys and Girls room in her honor.
Her name now graces a children’s area of a stream Clark County Public Library, that has a collection of her strange drawings and a record of papers created by and about her and that consolidate her possess story.
Lenski died in Tarpon Springs, Fla., in Sep of 1974, one month bashful of her 81st birthday and carrying created scarcely 100 books for children.