Clyde Robert Bulla Papers
Scope and Contents
This collection contains material that reflects Bulla's diverse artistic interests and that conveys insight into the publication process. The deGrummond Collection holds several of Bulla's books in its closed stacks, including an autographed copy of The Moon Singer which Bulla gave to his friend Ezra Jack Keats (DG0001). The Bulla papers consist of correspondence from Bulla to Dr. Lena Y. deGrummond; manuscripts and galleys for five of Bulla's books; and original music scores on which Bulla collaborated with Lois Lenski (DG0606), a well-known children's author.
The correspondence contained herein includes Bulla's communications with Mrs. deGrummond, most of which concerns his donations to the archive. One letter dated October 9, 1968, reveals titillating aspects of Bulla's private life: the disorganized state of his materials, the pace of his work during 1968, and plans for "a small book about Ireland" which became New Boy in Dublin (1969). In another letter (April 25, 1967), Bulla reveals that he regrets not being able to donate any of his early manuscripts to the deGrummond Collection; unaware that they might be valuable to someone, Bulla had destroyed them. All seven letters were written between 1966 and 1969 and are photocopies of the originals (which are kept in the Correspondence files of the deGrummond archive and includes a few not in the regular collection of Bulla's papers).
In The Ghost of Windy Hill (1968), the Carver's house-sit for a Bostonian gentleman who is concerned that his country home might be haunted. During their summer stay, Jamie and Lorna (the Carver children) befriend a beggar boy who everyone believes cannot walk. Imagine the Carver's surprise to find the boy can not only walk, but also appears to be their ghost. Folders 1/2 through 1/8 include edited manuscripts, a galley, and photostatic proofs.
Mika's Apple Tree (1968) concerns a young Finnish schoolboy who feels disturbed that of his classmates he alone cannot decide what he wishes to become when he grows up. Bulla resolves the boy's dilemma through an old woman's gift. Folders 1/9 and 1/10 contain the edited manuscript for Mika's Apple Tree and the edited galley.
In New Boy in Dublin (1969), Bulla recounts the experiences of a young pageboy employed in a Dublin hotel and of his desire to buy a gold wedding ring for his mother. He wanted to replace the one she lost while working on their farm in the country. At the story's close, Bulla's protagonist gives his savings to a new co-worker in order to save the young boy's job. Both New Boy in Dublin and Mika's Apple Tree reflect Bulla's writing process at work. His love for travel took Bulla all over the world, and he converted his experiences into stories with some additional research into the customs and culture of his protagonists. New Boygrew out of a conversation Bulla shared with a former pageboy whom he met on vacation in Ireland. For New Boy, the collection includes edited manuscripts, galleys and photostatic proofs.
Bulla received the George G. Stone Center for Children Book Award in 1968 for White Bird. In this story, the orphan John Thomas learns that the world is not so unkind as his guardian Luke insists. Although John Thomas runs away from home, he eventually returns when he realizes that Luke sought only to protect him from the world's harshness. This item includes an edited and typeset manuscript and galley proofs.
More Stories of Favorite Operas (1965) serves as the companion volume to Stories of Favorite Operas (1959) in which Bulla gave twenty-three libretti a simple narrative form. The twenty-two new tales in More Stories are preceded by a paragraph of background and closes with a cast of characters. Bulla used these narrative stories as a way of introducing opera--something of a passion for him--to young children. Included herein are an edited manuscript for twenty-two chapters plus biographical notes, an index, and one discarded story. There is also an author's copy of the galley proof that bears the typesetter's notations.
Finally, Bulla collaborated on music scores with another children's author, Lois Lenski. These include several short songs apparently written for Lenski to use in regional plays for children. On the back of one song sheet ("The Jaybird Song," folder 3/4) is a short prose sketch by Bulla entitled "Mary's Mirror." None of these scores the mark of an editor, but they demonstrate how varied were Bulla's interests and talents.
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
On January 9, 1914, Clyde Robert Bulla was born to a farming family just outside of King City, Missouri. Brought up by parents encouraged his interest in music and reading, this farmer's son nonetheless spent hours in the fields at hard physical labor. Only when he finished his work could young Bulla retreat to his room and write, staying up long after everyone else went to bed.
The rural environment that Bulla matured in put a premium on physical labor and imposed isolation on the young boy, yet this only impelled Bulla to exercise his imagination more often as he interpreted his world. To feed his imagination and relieve the monotony of farm life, Bulla turned to music quite early, and he conceived a special passion for opera; its stories of exotic places, costumes, and people intrigued him.
Bulla's desire to write grew as he did. At age seven he had begun writing stories, though he told his family little about his efforts. As a young boy, he entered an essay contest and won a one-dollar prize. This tangible success made him feel like a writer, he later said. After one year at the King City High School (1926-1927) he dropped out and finished his degree by correspondence. In the meantime, he read popular magazines voraciously and patterned his own stories after his reading.
Between 1927 and 1946 he continued working on the family farm and writing. In 1934 he made his first sale---a love story to a women's magazine. Then he joined a group of other writers throughout the country who read and critiqued each other's manuscripts. Through this circle of contemporaries Bulla met Emma Thibodaux, an elementary school teacher and published children's author who proved important to Bulla's career. In 1941, Bulla published These Bright Young Dreams and felt some degree of success, but his publisher declared bankruptcy before Bulla ever saw any royalties.
When World War II erupted, Bulla volunteered for service but failed the physical exam. Then his mother became ill and the family moved back to King City where he worked as a linotype operator for the Tri-County News. On weekends he wrote short stories and spoke to Thibodaux, who encouraged him to write children's books. He finally agreed and wrote about the adventures a brother and sister had with a donkey and a cart on their farm. After some initial rejections, Thibodaux showed his work to author Lois Lenski, who passed it on to Elizabeth Riley of T. Y. Crowell. Riley published the manuscript as The Donkey Cart (1946) with illustrations by Lenski. Although he was proud of Donkey Cart, Bulla continued to think of himself as an adult author. To his astonishment, Riley asked him when he would send another manuscript. Riding the Pony Express followed, and Bulla embarked on his career as a children's author.
A year after his parents' death, Bulla moved to a suburb of Los Angeles. He began writing two books a year for Crowell in a working relationship with Riley, with whom he worked until her retirement. Bulla traveled widely during this time, visiting the American West, Britain, Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, China, Australia, Japan, and Indonesia. From these travels came the inspiration for many books, including Eagle Feather, The Sword in the Tree, Mika's Apple Tree, and New Boy in Dublin.
In all this, Bulla continued a practice that typifies all his work. He spent a great deal of time preparing to write a story. To identify with his characters, Bulla carefully researched the people, time, place and cultural background of his protagonist. In doing so, he acquired a vivid, concrete picture of the setting in which the character lived and conveyed those mental images in words.
Bulla also maintained his longstanding interest in music and even collaborated on songs for children with Lois Lenski. Among some of his more ambitious works are those that converted stage operas into simple narratives for children as a way to introduce them to the standard operas: Stories of Favorite Operas, Stories of Wagner's Niebelung Operas, and Stories of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas.
Bulla's admirers generally lauded his simple style and his ability to marry poetic sense to his prose. As a poet might, Bulla selected words and images that convey both feeling and meaning. For instance, about a house Bulla wrote, "No one lived there now. The windows were broken, and weeds grew in the yard." Whatever his critics said, Bulla remained popular among children, and we can safely say that they were his most important critics.
Clyde Robert Bulla passed away in 2007.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers (1989), pp. 150-152.
Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults(1993), pp. 370-373.
Authors and Illustrators of Children's Books (1972), pp. 28-40.
.90 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Clyde Robert Bulla.
- Clyde Robert Bulla Papers
- In Progress
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- Code for undetermined script
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- This finding aid is the product of a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository
118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001