11 Amazing Facts About the Authors of Your Favorite Children’s Books
Not satisfied to simply create the literature that shaped your entire childhood, the people behind your favorite children’s books led fascinating lives. From champion beaglers to real-life James Bonds, the stories behind these authors are equally as fascinating as the books they wrote.
Ludwig Bemelmans, ‘Madeline’
If you’re at all familiar with sweet Madeline and her cohorts at a Catholic boarding school in Paris, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that author Ludwig Bemelmans was forced to emigrate to the United States for shooting and seriously wounding a waiter at a hotel in Austria.
Beatrix Potter, ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’
Beatrix Potter was the first woman to be elected President of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders’ Association.
Margaret and H.A. Rey, ‘Curious George’
H.A. Rey built two bicycles out of spare parts, and he and his wife escaped Paris on them, taking the manuscript for Curious George with them, hours before the city fell to Nazis.
Margery Williams, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’
Margery Williams wrote a horror novel called ‘The Thing in the Woods’ under the pseudonym Harper Williams. The story, about a werewolf and his more human brother, reportedly inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Dunwich Horror.’ If you think about how much ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ made you sob as a child, this isn’t THAT surprising.
Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss
Before striking it big as a children’s author, Dr. Seuss made propaganda films for the Army during WWII.
Crockett Johnson, ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’
Crockett Johnson was more than an author and illustrator; he also received a patent for a four-way adjustable mattress and contributed original geometry theorems to Mathematical Gazette.
Roald Dahl, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (and obviously many more)
In addition to being a beloved children’s author, Roald Dahl was also a real-life James Bond. After injuries grounded him from flying in WWII, Dahl came to America and “slept with everybody on the east and west coasts that had more than $50,000 a year” as part of his work with a British secret service network.
Shel Silverstein, ‘A Light in the Attic,’ ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’
Sure he wrote most of the poems that were your favorites when you were a kid, but Shel Silverstein was also a cartoonist and writer for Playboy when the magazine first started. He also lived in the Playboy mansion off and on and wrote the song ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ which was famously recorded by Johnny Cash.
Maurice Sendak, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
Before Sendak’s career as an illustrator took off, he was a window dresser for FAO Schwarz. He also spent time out at Crockett Johnson’s house on a lake in Long Island, where Johnson was something of a mentor.
Dorothy Kunhardt, ‘Pat the Bunny’
It’s hard to imagine, but the woman who wrote ‘Pat the Bunny’ was also a historian who wrote several books about Abraham Lincoln.
Margaret Wise Brown, ‘Goodnight, Moon’
The life of the woman behind ‘Goodnight, Moon’ was so fascinating that it was hard to pick just one fact to share — she dated the prince of Spain and the former wife of actor John Barrymore, threatened to murder a publisher with a bow and arrow and was a national Beagling champion. To be frank, we recommend reading this thorough (but entertaining) biography of Brown to get an idea of the enchanted, and sadly brief, life of Margaret Wise Brown.