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Lois Lenski Papers

Identifier: DG0606

Scope and Contents

The collection contains manuscripts and illustrations from forty-one children's books by Lois Lenski published between 1927 and 1971. In addition, the collection includes autobiographical and biographical information, correspondence, photographs, awards, stories, poems, songs, sound recordings, cards and stationery designed by Lenski, bookmarks, publications about other Lenski collections, and promotional materials. The book-related materials are arranged alphabetically by title, and within title according to the probable order in which they were created. The correspondence is arranged chronologically with the exception of fan letters, which are grouped together following the de Grummond correspondence.

Autobiographical and biographical materials include articles written by and about Lois Lenski in numerous and varied publications. The correspondence includes letters and Christmas cards to the de Grummond Collection, written between 1966 and 1973, related to contributions and the award of the Silver Medallion, which she received from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1969; selected fan mail from 1964 is also found within this series. Photographs include two of Lois Lenski in addition to one of her accepting the Silver Medallion. Photographs taken for particular books remain with those titles. Award materials relate to acceptance speeches, programs, and other printed material from her Regina Medal and Silver Medallion, plus the ticket to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet where she received the Newbery Medal in 1946.

Lenski's long career as an author and illustrator is well represented in the holdings of manuscripts and illustrations. The earliest book represented in the collection is Jack Horner's Pie (1927), a collection of nursery rhymes for which there are two large watercolor sketches. A series of seven small picture books on the theme of "little" vehicles, vessels, or institutions was published between 1932 and 1946; included in the collection are pen and ink illustrations to The Little Farm (1942); The Little Fire Engine (1946), an ALA Notable; The Little Sail Boat (1937); and The Little Train (1940). Lenski's strong interest in regionalism is reflected in many of her books, which typically include strong female characters and their families in distinctive American locales, rural and urban. Bayou Suzette (1943) is the story of the Cajuns from the Louisiana bayous; the collection includes a bound spiral notebook of photographs taken by Lenski for research purposes and a pencil illustration. Strawberry Girl (1945), the winner of the Newbery Medal in 1946, concerns a strawberry-picking family from Florida; the collection holds material about the book in the way of a recording, a review, and a speech by Lenski. Single illustrations exist for Texas Tomboy (1950), the story of Charlotte ("Charlie Boy") on a cattle ranch in West Texas; Berries in the Scoop (1956), the story of cranberry-picking families in the bogs of Cape Cod; Houseboat Girl (1957), life on the river as told through the adventures of the Foster family on the Mississippi; Little Sioux Girl (1958), the story of Sioux children on a Dakota Indian reservation; Coal Camp Girl (1959), concerning a typical West Virginia coal-mining town; and Shoo-Fly Girl (1963), the story of the Amish of Lancaster County. Related are the "We Live" series, collections of short stories for which the collection holds single pen and ink illustrations for We Live in the South (1952); We Live in the City (1954); We Live in the Country (1960); We Live in the Southwest (1962); and We Live in the North (1965). The largest holdings are for High-Rise Secret (1966), the story of a housing project in New York State, including notes, newspaper articles, outline, manuscript, dummy, typescript, galleys, sketches, complete pen and ink illustrations, color separations, and proofs and copies of the book jacket.

Other popular series tell the story of the "Small" character: Cowboy Small (1949), for which the collection has one pen and ink illustration; Papa Small (1951), for which illustrations exist for one page and end papers; Songs of Mr. Small (1954), for which one double-page spread illustration exists; followed by Policeman Small (1962), for which the collection holds notes, typescript, galleys, sketches, nineteen illustrations and sixteen color separations.

A related series of a young male character and his adventures are the "Davy" books: Big Little Davy (1956) and Davy and His Dog (1957), for which the collection holds single pen and ink illustrations for each title. A female counterpart is "Debbie" with several books about her life: Debbie and Her Dolls (1970), for which holdings include a dummy, typescript, color separations, and proofs; Debbie Goes to Nursery School (1970), for which there are a sketch and color separations for the book jacket and an illustration of the endpapers; and Debbie and Her Pets (1971), for which there are two dummies and color separations.

Poetry and songs are another favorite genre of Lenski. Two "Read-and-Sing" books, with music by Clyde Robert Bulla, include I Went For a Walk (1958), including a manuscript, sketches, and one illustration; and When I Grow Up (1960), including a partial manuscript and typescript, sketches, and a book jacket. The Life I Live (1965), described by the author as "the happiest of all my books," includes poems spanning the whole of her writing life. The collection consists of galleys, proofs, and an unbound copy.

Other materials include stories, poems, and music from magazines, textbooks, and recordings; cards, stationery and bookmarks designed by Lenski; pro- motional materials designed by libraries and publishers; and publications about other Lenski collections.


  • Creation: 1927-1982

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; Available for research

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical / Historical

Lois Lenski, born in Springfield, Ohio on October 14, 1893, was one of five children of a Lutheran minister. She grew up in a busy parsonage in the small town of Anna, Ohio, a rural community of about 200 inhabitants, which had a strong influence on her later work. After graduation from Ohio State University in 1915, Lenski continued her studies at the Art Students' League in New York and the Westminster School of Art in London. Her career as an illustrator began in London with three books illustrated for the publisher John Lane of The Bodley Head.

On returning to the United States in 1921 Lois married Arthur Covey, an artist and mural painter, with whom she had one son, Stephen. They settled in Harwinton, Connecticut. After illustrating for other authors, Lenski in 1927 wrote and illustrated her own book, Skipping Village, and in the following year, A Little Girl of 1900, stories of her Ohio childhood.

Lenski's works included picture books, as well as historical and regional stories. One of the most popular characters was Mr. Small, who appeared as a policeman, train engineer, farmer, boat captain, and cowboy. Phebe Fairchild, Her Book, Lenski's first historical book, appeared in 1935, the first of a group of seven depicting child life of the past. Lenski's travels around the country resulted in a series of books that appeared in the 1940s and 1950s, describing how people in various regions live and work, with accurate historical details and dialect. One of the series, Strawberry Girl, the story of a Florida strawberry-picking family, won the Newbery Medal in 1946.

In 1968 she received the Regina Medal of the Catholic Library Association and the University of Southern Mississippi Silver Medallion. Her work is included in eighteen Lois Lenski collections throughout the country. Lenski published nearly one hundred books, half of which have been translated into fourteen languages. She received honorary degrees from Wartburg College, Iowa (1959); the University of North Carolina (1962); Capital University, Ohio (1966); and Southwestern College, Kansas (1968). Lenski died on September 11, 1974, at the age of eighty, after a career of more than forty years of writing and illustrating children's books. In addition to illustrating all of her own works, Lenski illustrated fifty-seven children's books by other authors.


Junior Book of Authors, 2nd ed., pp. 193-194.

Something About the Author, vol. 26, pp. 134-142.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 3rd ed., pp. 574-575.


3.00 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials received from Lois Lenski and Evelyn Peters between 1966 and 1979; other materials received from Lenski's son, Steven Covey in 1992.

Related Materials

Lenski also donated textbooks that contain her poetry, foreign translations of some of her published books, 21 German children's books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, illustrated by Peter Newell (Harper, 1901) and The Gigantick Histories of Thomas Boreman.

Lois Lenski Papers
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This finding aid is the product of a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001