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Margot Benary-Isbert Papers

Identifier: DG0077

Scope and Contents

The collection contains eight series arranged in the following order: biographical and autobiographical material, correspondence, souvenir books, reviews, speeches and newspaper clippings of appearances, material relating to nine books, short stories, and miscellaneous prose. The biographical and autobiographical material includes a photograph, four articles by Benary-Isbert, and other material about her. The correspondence includes eight letters from Benary-Isbert to the deGrummond Collection (1966-1969), fan letters from adults and correspondence pertaining to her published books(1952-1967), and over fifty fan letters from children (1953-1967 and undated). Also included in the collection are souvenir books from two schools and reviews (1953-1961 and undated) in both English and German. The reviews and the correspondence are both arranged in chronological order.

The nine book titles documented in the collection span almost all of Benary-Isbert's career as an author. For seven of these titles, there is both English and German material. Benary-Isbert usually wrote her books first in German; they were then translated into English. For each book, the inventory lists both the English and German title; if the English title is unknown, a translation is offered in brackets. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by the English title, for easy access. For each title, material for the German edition is first, followed by the English. If there are several different typescripts for a title, each is identified with a letter. These letters do not necessarily reflect the order of creation, since this is not known for certain, but are used to help clarify which typescripts belong together.

The first book, Blue Mystery (1957) / Annegret and Cara (1951), is a story about a nursery owner's daughter, Annegret, who with her friend, Uschi, and her Great Dane, Cara, set out to solve the mystery of the stolen priceless blue gloxinia. For this title, there are an edited German typescript, an English galley, and a dust jacket for the English version. Dangerous Spring (1961) / Gefahrlicher Fru”ling (1961) is the story of a teenage girl during the end of World War II. For this title, there are German and English typescripts, an English galley, and an English galley with page breaks. [The Eternal Seal] / Das Ewige Siegel: Eine Legende um den Dichter Li Tai Pe (1974) is the story of the poet, Li Tai Pe. The collection contains two German typescripts for this title. For I Am Grandmother / Die Grossmutter und ihr Erster Enkel (1957), a book about the art of being a grandmother, there are German page proofs and an English typescript. It is not known if either of these two books were ever published in English.

The Long Way Home (1959) / Ich Komme, Larry (1959) is the story of thirteen-year-old Chris who, orphaned in East Germany during World War II, comes to America and eventually adjusts to life with a new family. For this title, the collection contains four edited German typescripts, an English typescript edited and marked for typesetting, an English galley, an English galley with page breaks, and a dust jacket for the English title. Rowan Farm 1954) / Der Ebereschenhof: Roman f「r die Jugend (1949) is the sequel to The Ark, Benary-Isbert's first book, and was written while she was still in Germany. It continues the story of the Leechows family, portraying the maturing of the children. For this title there is an edited German typescript.

These Vintage Years (1968) /Das Abenteuer des Alterns (1965), one of Benary- Isbert's books for adults and one of her most popular titles in Germany, is about the adventure of growing old. For this title, there are a German typescript, German page proofs, and two English typescripts, one incomplete. A Time To Love (1962) / Heiligenwald (1953) tells the story of a young girl growing up in Hitler's pre-war Germany. The collection contains two German typescripts, an English typescript, an English galley with page breaks, and a bound volume of page proofs for this title. Under a Changing Moon (1964) / Unter dem Sichelmond (1965) is the story of a 19th century German teenage girl who returns home after spending two years in a French convent school. This book, like most of those by Benary-Isbert, deals with children becoming young adults. For this title there are four German typescripts, German page proofs, an English typescript, and an English galley with page breaks.

Also in the collection are typescripts of seventeen short stories, all undated. It is not known whether these works have been published, although there is a German galley for one title. Like the books, the short stories are arranged in alphabetical order by the English title or translation. The last folder in the collection contains seven articles written by Benary-Isbert that may have appeared in newspapers or other publications, as well as four untitled typescripts.


  • 1949-1974

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

Margot Benary-Isbert was born on December 2, 1889 in Saarbruecken, Germany, and lost her mother when she was only seven. She and her siblings were sent away after their father remarried, and she spent her childhood in Frankfurt am Main. As a school girl, she was fond of telling stories. A teacher encouraged her to write the stories down on paper, suggesting that they would become fiction instead of sounding like lies. She took this advice and published her first story when she was nineteen years old. She attended College St. Carolus and the University of Frankfurt for a short time but became interested in anthropology and began working at the Museum of Ethnology in Frankfurt (1910-1917). It was there she met Wilheim Benary, a psychologist, whom she married in 1917. They settled in Erfurt, living in an old family farm house in the country. While her husband attended to the family business, she raised Great Danes. When World War II interrupted the tranquility of their lives, efforts turned to the needs of survival, and Benary-Isbert began to raise farm animals in order to feed her family.

When the Russians occupied Germany after the war, the Benarys fled, taking refuge on a friend's farm and later sharing an apartment with two other families in a little town near the University of Goettingen. In this apartment, Benary-Isbert wrote Die Archie Noah (The Ark) in 1948. This setting and her experiences there inspired many of her books about post-war Germany, a favorite theme. These books are a testament to the strength and will of people, especially children, to rise above almost impossible odds to build new lives for themselves. She is known for her depictions of humane, realistic characters with a touch of courage and sympathy.

In 1952 the Benarys moved to the United States, settling first in Chicago to be near their daughter, and then in Santa Barbara, California. Benary-Isbert became an American citizen in 1957, and continued to write for the next twenty years. She wrote more than fifteen books, mostly for young adolescents; however, she also wrote books, short stories, and articles for adults. Drawing heavily from her experiences in World War II Germany, she created backdrops to show the triumph of human courage over adversity.

Benary-Isbert received first prize in the New York Herald Tribune Spring Book Festival in 1953 and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1968 for The Ark, and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1957 for Blue Mystery. In 1967 the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People recognized her "comprehensive contributions of lasting value to the field of children's literature." She also was awarded the German Order of Merit Officer's Cross for "building bridges among young people of the world."

Margot Benary-Isbert passed away in 1979.


Children's Literature Awards & Winners: A Directory of Prizes, Authors, and Illustrators, 2nd ed., pp. 243-244.

Contemporary Authors, Vol. 4, pp. 58-59.

Something about the Author, vol. 2, pp. 21-23.


4.60 Cubic Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials received from Margot Benary-Isbert between 1966 and 1972.

Margot Benary-Isbert Papers
In Progress
Suzanne (Suzy) Elkins
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
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