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Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Papers

Identifier: DG0728

Scope and Contents

The collection contains autobiographical and biographical information about Naylor, photocopies of her correspondence to the de Grummond Collection, and original materials related to thirty-one of her books published between 1967 and 1990. These materials include Naylor's correspondence with editors and agents, manuscripts, typescripts, notes, research and reference materials, galleys and proofs. They encompass a full variety of her work ranging from non-fiction to children's picture books to young adult novels. All materials related to books have been arranged alphabetically by title and within title according to the order in which they were probably created. The exception to this rule is correspondence, which precedes all other book materials and is arranged chronologically. Biographical information and correspondence to the de Grummond Collection are arranged preceding the book materials.

For The Baby, the Bed, and the Rose (1981), a picture book, the collection holds correspondence, notes, nine versions of manuscripts and typescripts, and a promotional bookmark. All Because I'm Older (1981), The Boy with the Helium Head (1982), Jennifer Jean, the Cross-Eyed Queen (1967) and The New Schoolmaster (1967) are all books for elementary-level readers; these titles are represented by such materials as manuscripts, typescripts, and galleys. Eddie, Incorporated (1980), a humorous novel about a young boy who starts his own business, is represented by a manuscript, two typescripts, a letter from Naylor to her editor, galleys and photocopies of illustrations. For How Lazy Can You Get? (1979), the story of how three independently-minded children reform their overbearing babysitter, the collection includes a letter from Naylor to her editor, several typescripts and two sets of galleys.

Naylor has written several different series of fictional books for young readers. The "Bessledorf" series concerns Bernie Magruder and his family, who live on Bessledorf Street in the Bessledorf Hotel, where strange -- and funny -- things have been known to happen. For the first book in the series, The Mad Gasser of Bessledorf Street (1983), there are notes, a manuscript, two complete typescripts and several typescript fragments, galleys and page proofs. For The Bodies in the Bessledorf Hotel (1986), which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America, there are several items of correspondence, a manuscript, three typescripts, galleys, dummy pages, and three sets of page proofs. For Bernie and the Bessledorf Ghost (1990) holdings include correspondence between Naylor and her editor, notes, manu- scripts, typescripts and galleys. Included with the correspondence for this title are photocopies of alternative dust jacket sketches.

The "witch" books comprise a series of two trilogies which tell how Lynn and her friend Mouse combat the lingering evil of a witch who lives in their small town. The books, two of which are represented in the collection, are suspenseful and genuinely frightening at times. For The Witch Herself (1978) holdings include an outline, manuscripts, typescripts, and galleys. For The Witch's Eye (1990) the collection holds extensive correspondence, a manuscript, several typescripts, and page proofs. The correspondence for this title documents the changes made in various drafts of the novel and also contains Naylor's notes on the chronology of the series and detailed descriptions of characters. Of special interest are photocopies of the artist's original rough sketches for the book, on which Naylor has written her comments. There is also a photocopied issue of the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom which contains a report of a censorship incident concerning Witch's Sister (1975). Because of their occult theme, the "witch" books have created some controversy among religious fundamentalists.

The York trilogy, in which teenager Dan Roberts metaphysically travels back in time to fourth- and fourteenth-century Britain, also contains elements of mystery, suspense and the supernatural. For Shadows on the Wall (1980) the collection includes a manuscript, four typescripts, and galleys. For Faces in the Water (1981) holdings include one manuscript and four typescript drafts. For Footprints at the Window (1981), the final book in the trilogy, there are two typescripts, galleys and page proofs.

For Making It Happen (1970), a young adult novel about three teenaged boys who know how to make waves but not why, there is a corrected typescript. A String of Chances (1982) is generally recognized as one of Naylor's finest novels; it was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association and also won a South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. For this title, in which the teenaged daughter of a preacher confronts doubts about her religious beliefs, the collection holds correspondence, a first draft manuscript, three typescripts and one set of edited galleys. The manuscript includes extensive notes on theme, plot, and characterizations. To Walk the Sky Path (1973) concerns a Seminole Indian boy who must make the hard choice between following the traditional ways of his ancestors or embarking on a path that will lead him ever more into the world of white men. For this title the collection holds Naylor's holograph notes, which mainly concern background research.

Walking through the Dark (1976) is the story of a family struggling through the great Depression of the 1930's and in particular of the problems faced by the teenaged daughter of the family. For this title the collection holds correspondence, research notes, three manuscripts, three typescripts, several sets of galleys, and an unbound proof. The correspondence between Naylor and her editor mainly concerns historical research for the book. When Rivers Meet (1968), one of Naylor's earliest novels, concerns an Ethiopian exchange student's experiences in the small middle-American town which he is visiting. For this title there are reference materials, a photocopied typescript, and ten pages of readers' comments and suggestions. Wrestle the Mountain (1971) is the story of Jed, a young boy growing up in a poor West Virginia mining community. For this title the collection holds two items of correspondence. One of these letters includes a rough sketch map of Jed's village.

Several of Naylor's non-fiction books are represented in the collection. Most of these reflect the author's interest in psychology. For How to Find Your Wonderful Someone (1972), which provides good advice for those wishing to start or maintain a lasting romantic relationship, there is a typescript and a promotional item. The "Getting Along" series of books published by Abingdon Press similarly provide advice for young people in maintaining good social relationships. For Getting Along in Your Family (1976) holdings include notes and outlines, two typescripts, galleys and page proofs, and for Getting Along with Your Friends (1980) there are two typescripts and two sets of galleys. For Getting Along with Your Teachers (1981) there is one typescript. For An Amish Family (1974), which examines the customs and beliefs of the Amish in America, the collection holds correspondence, research notes, and a typescript. For the autobiographical How I Came to Be a Writer (1978; revised 1987) the collection includes correspondence, several typescript drafts, several sets of galleys, an unbound proof, promotional items, and dummies for the revised paperback edition. It should be noted that the correspondence relating to this title also discusses the books comprising the first "witch" trilogy. Researchers interested in those books should also consult the correspondence related to How I Came to Be a Writer.


  • 1967-1991

Conditions Governing Access

Non-circulating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This 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

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is the award-winning author of more than seventy books, the majority of them written for children and teenagers. Her hallmark is versatility -- she has written picture books for beginning readers, humorous novels and short stories for slightly older children, realistic "problem" novels for adolescents, adult fiction, and non-fiction for both children and adults. She is especially praised by critics for her well-drawn, believable characters and her ability to make readers empathize with those characters.

Naylor was born on January 4, 1933 in Anderson, Indiana. Since her father was a travelling salesman, the family moved often while Naylor was growing up and no one state was considered home. Summer vacations were always spent in one of two places, however: with the mother's parents in Iowa, or with the father's parents in Maryland. The summer visits with grandparents exposed Naylor to two different ways of life. Her Iowa grandparents were kind, but emotionally reserved, people while her Maryland kin were openly warm and affectionate. The small town in Maryland near which Naylor's grandparents lived was later used as a setting in several of her novels. Two novels are also placed in Iowa.

Though she grew up during the Depression, Naylor did not realize at the time that her family was poor. One reason for this was because the family owned a small number of good books, which the parents often read aloud to their children to keep them entertained. Naylor began making up her own stories in primary school, and as she grew older she also illustrated them, sometimes stapling the pages together and then binding them into a "book" of her own. Her childhood reputation as a good writer sometimes led to her being called upon to provide poems for special occasions at school.

When Naylor was sixteen, a former Sunday school teacher invited her to submit a story to a church magazine she was editing. Naylor's story was accepted, and its publication encouraged her to submit more stories to nationally-known children's magazines. For two years Naylor received nothing but rejection slips. Then, slowly, she began to get her short stories published, mostly in church school papers. Naylor admits that these stories were, in her words, "not very original" and "predictable." Still, even at this early period of her writing she felt comfortable telling stories from many different points of view, which has become a distinguishing and respected characteristic of her later fiction.

At the age of eighteen, Naylor married. Following her graduation from junior college, she moved with her husband to Chicago, where she worked as a clinical secretary while he attended graduate school. When Naylor was twenty-three, her husband began to show signs of severe mental illness, later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. Since her husband was unable to work, Naylor's income from writing became vital to the couple's support. She also worked as an elementary school teacher (briefly), a secretary, and as an editorial assistant for the National Education Association's NEA Journal. When it became apparent that her husband was not going to recover, she obtained a divorce and in 1960 married Rex V. Naylor, a speech pathologist.

Naylor then returned to college and majored in clinical psychology at American University. By the time she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963, she had decided to forego graduate study and instead concentrate on becoming a full-time writer. Her first book, The Galloping Goat and Other Stories, was published in 1965, and her first novel, What the Gulls Were Singing, was published two years later. Since then she has had at least one book published each year. She has won many awards over the years and a number of her books have been Junior Literary Guild selections or have been given special note by the American Library Association. The most prestigious of her awards have been the Edgar, which she received from the Mystery Writers of America in 1985 for Night Cry (1984), and the Newbery Award for Shiloh (1991). For a complete list of Naylor's awards, researchers should consult the sources listed below.

Not surprising for such a prolific writer, Naylor does not consider lack of ideas to be a problem. Instead, she feels that the rush of too many story ideas at once sometimes hinders her writing. She usually works on two books at a time, while notebooks full of new ideas wait on her desk. In How I Came to Be a Writer (rev. ed. 1987), Naylor says that she is sure her last words on her deathbed will be, "But I still have five more books to write!"

Naylor and her husband live in Bethesda, Maryland. They have two grown sons. Despite her busy schedule, the author is, and has been for many years, active in peace and civil rights organizations.


Children's Literature Awards and Winners, 2nd ed., p. 446.

Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, pp. 227-228.

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds, How I Came to Be a Writer, revised and expanded edition (New York: Aladdin Books, 1987).

Something About the Author vol. 12, pp. 156-157; vol. 66, pp. 170-176.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 3rd ed., pp. 710-712.


7.10 Cubic Feet (27 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials received from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor between 1978 and 1992.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001