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Berthe Amoss Papers

Identifier: DG0024

Scope and Contents

The papers of Berthe Amoss include typescripts, galleys, and original illustrations as well as several miscellaneous illustrations and articles unconnected in any specific way with the ten publications included in this collection. The ten books in this collection appeal to the full range of children's age groups, from the very young to teens.

Of the first group, those books intended for small children, the materials for By The Sea (Parents' Magazine Press, 1969) best illustrate Amoss' conviction that a children's book should contain minimal text. The original illustrations and color separations for this title propel the book's story and preclude any need for narrative, thus By The Sea perfectly suits those children who are not yet of reading age but can follow a simple story. Other titles in this collection that follow a similar pattern are The Great Sea Monster (Parents' Magazine Press, 1975), It's Not Your Birthday (Harper and Row, 1966), Tom In The Middle (Harper and Row, 1968), and The Very Worst Thing (Parents' Press Magazine, 1972).

For the more experienced child, Amoss' prepared Old Hasdrubal And The Pirates (Parents' Press Magazine, 1971) and The Witch Cat (Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, 1977). Both of these titles deal with elements of Louisiana or New Orleans history: the first about the pirate Jean Lafitte's participation in the Battle of New Orleans, the second about All Hallow's Eve in New Orleans. The collection contains only one original color separation for The Witch Cat, but holds nearly all of the full color illustrations and photo-ready text as well as the book jacket for Old Hasdrubal And The Pirates. Both of these titles follow her earlier works intended for younger children and reflect Amoss' efforts to exercise her talents in a slightly different direction: toward an older audience.

Meant for older children still are Secret Lives (Little, Brown and Co., 1979) and The Chalk Cross (Seabury Press, 1976). Both of these titles are meant for young teenagers. Amoss published these books in the mid- and late-seventies and both contain little illustration, relying instead on a mix of fantasy and romance to propel the reader through the story. Consequently, the collection contains only the original typescripts and galleys for these two titles, yet the materials indicate Amoss' growing ability and reflect her desire to reach all ages (as previously mentioned in this register's Biographical Sketch).

Besides one color separation that Amoss provided for Joan L. Nixon's The Mysterious Prowler (Harcourt, Brave Jovanovich, 1976), the collection holds various early illustrations and cut-outs, a page of unidentified manuscript, Christmas cards Amoss designed, an unpublished item that includes two pages of typescript and five pages of illustration. This last was apparently part of a presentation Amoss delivered to a group of aspiring children's authors and illustrators.


  • 1938-1985

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

Amoss was born September 26, 1925 in New Orleans, where she soaked up that city's unique historical atmosphere. She took a Bachelor of Arts degree while at Tulane University; studied art for five years at the University of Hawaii; at Kunstschule, Bremen, Germany; and the Academie des Beaux Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. With her six children (Jim, Bob, Billy, Mark, Tom and John), she accompanied her husband, Walter J. Amoss, Jr., on his various job assignments as an executive vice-president for Lykes Brothers Steamship Company. Her travels permitted her to study in Europe's art schools while exposing her to a variety of children's literature from a number of cultures. On her own, Amoss wrote and illustrated several books for young children, including It's Not Your Birthday (Harper & Row, 1966), Tom in the Middle (Harper & Row, 1968), By the Sea (Parents' Magazine Press, 1969), Old Hasdrubal and the Pirates (Parents' Magazine Press, 1971), and The Big Cry (Harper & Row, 1972).

Interviewed about her views on writing for children, Amoss insisted that a picture book depends half on its illustrations, "maybe completely." A children's book should also avoid instructing or teaching a moral. Instead, it should delight a child and expand his world. She credits any talent she might have developed to extensive exposure to art and children's books worldwide. However, her best training came from reading children's books: old, new, good, bad, for 3-year olds, teens and all ages, even books about children's books. Amoss said that she practiced writing for all ages and tried all sorts of stories, and thus learned what did not work as well as what did. Then, her fourth son's tenth birthday provided her with her first children's story. Four-year-old Tom received no presents and could not understand why it was not his birthday. Amoss wrote her first children's book, It's Not Your Birthday, from this episode.


Something About the Author, volume 5 (1973): 4-6.


2.10 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Berthe Amoss between May 7, 1968 and March 31, 1985.
Berthe Amoss Papers
In Progress
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001