Dorothy Neal White
Newsletter 45
November 2011


The committee invites all Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection to mark the end of another year with a Video & Vino party!
Seasonal nibbles and drinks will be followed by a screening of animated versions of the classic stories by Raymond Briggs The snowman and Father Christmas.
Guests will also have the opportunity to meet the just announced recipient of the 2011 FDNW Research Grant (see below).
When? Wednesday 7 December 2011
Where? Training Room (Poutama Ruma), Archives NZ Ground Floor, 10 Mulgrave Street, Wellington
Time? Drinks & nibbles from 5.30

Image of the cover of The Snowman
Image of the cover of Father Christmas Goes on Holiday


FDNW Research Grant

The Committee is delighted to announce that a Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection Research Grant has been awarded to Anne Siebeck of Wellington. The award for $2,000 will assist her with her research into translated children’s fiction in New Zealand.

Anne will be at the FDNW end-of-year event on 7 December and will give a brief introduction to her research.

LIANZA Children’s Book Awards

The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards are a unique event in the New Zealand literary scene. The Medals and Pounamu are awarded annually by children’s librarians for outstanding books for children and young people and the judges all have a mad passion to promote children’s literature and to energise children to love books.2011 LIANZA Children’s Book Award Winners


A celebration of children’s literature took place at Caffe L’affare in Wellington on 8 August 2011 when the LIANZA Book Award winners were announced. The prestigious Library & Information Association accolades pay tribute to some of New Zealand’s most famous writers and artists.

The Russell Clark Award is awarded by librarians for the most distinguished pictures or illustrations for a children’s book.

Russell Clark was widely appreciated for his stunning illustrations in the Listener and School Journals in the 1940s and 50s and was hugely influential in the Canterbury art scene at that time. In his later work Russell Clark evolved towards modernist applications and LIANZA judge and Gisborne librarian, Pene Walsh, believes that he would have loved the style of the 2011 winner.

Image of cover of Hill & Hole

Hill and Hole by Kyle Mewburn and Vasanti Unka (Puffin Books) is an inspiring treasure that conveys envy, affection and contentment of a hole and a hill. Vasanti Unka has an incredible style and was also a finalist for the LIANZA Elsie Locke award with two charming craft revival resources. The content and calibre of illustrations are stunning with multi layered original paintings and collage. Hill and Hole has been so carefully expressed by Vasanti Unka and is completely deserving of the 2011 Russell Clark medal. Pene Walsh said “this book has all the makings of a classic, one that will be treasured by today’s children in 50 years time”.

The Esther Glen Award is awarded by librarians for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children aged 0-15.

Image of cover of Shadow of the Boyd

Northland-based Diana Menefy received the LIANZA Esther Glen medal, New Zealand’s oldest book prize, for The Shadow of the Boyd (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd). Esther Glen was a journalist and writer in the 1920s and was undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s finest writers for children. The Esther Glen medal is awarded for only the most distinguished contributions to New Zealand literature for children. Based on a true story The Shadow of the Boyd tells a powerful tale from our colonial past about the bitter clash of two cultures from the point of view of Thomas Davidson, an apprentice sailor who survived the infamous massacre of the Boyd. The background research and attention to detail is excellent and this classic adventure would also suit readers that usually prefer nonfiction

The LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award recognises the distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults aged 13 years and above.

Image of Cover of Fierce

The standard of the entries for the Young Adult category were exceptionally strong in this, the second year of the award presentation. Fierce September by Wellingtonian Fleur Beale (Random House New Zealand) received the LIANZA Young Adult medal and poignantly deals with a community’s transition into life in New Zealand where they don’t know everyone, where life has changed fundamentally and they are isolated, living like refugees. Fierce September can be read as a stand-alone novel but Belynda Smith, judge and panel convenor, is holding her breath for a third book in the Juno series. Fleur Beale also received this accolade in 2009 for Juno of Taris.

The Elsie Locke Award is awarded for a work that is considered to be a distinguished contribution to non-fiction for young people.

Image of Cover of The Kiwi Fossil Hunter's Handbook

Elsie Locke was a peace activist, historian and successful author of children’s literature. Elsie Locke believed writing nonfiction for children should stir a lively interest in finding out and knowing more. Wellington City librarian and judge, Lily O’Donovan, said “the 2011 finalists for the nonfiction category make learning fun, providing for both the recreational and educational needs of our children and young people”. The Kiwi Fossil Hunter’s Handbook by James Crampton and Marianna Terezow (Random House New Zealand) is a first book by these GNS scientists and a delight, making science real and achievable. This is a fantastic resource for the whole family to share and be inspired by. Lily O’Donovan imagines the fantastic possibility of children pestering their parents to head out fossil hunting, something Elsie Locke would be very pleased about.

Image of Cover of Ngarimu: te tohu toa

The Te Kura Pounamu Award is awarded to the author of a work which makes a distinguished contribution to literature for children or young people written in Te Reo Māori

Te Kura Pounamu was awarded for the first time this year to a graphic novel, Ngarimu: te tohu toa, researched and retold by Kawata Teepa and illustrated by Andrew Burdan (Huia Publishers). Te Kura Pounamu judge Alice Heather loved that this story of a well-known Māori war hero, Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, has been brought to young readers in a graphic novel format. This story covers Ngarimu’s heroic leadership of his platoon resulting in his death and him subsequently becoming the first Māori recipient of the Victoria Cross. Alice Heather said “the language is rich with the use of idioms and proverbs, one double spread page showing the soldiers performing the haka following Ngarimu’s death in the foreground on one page trailing into the distance on the other page. You can virtually hear that haka being performed! You can also see and hear the 7000 strong crowd singing ‘ E te hokowhitu a tū, kia kaha rā’ on the double spread page of the posthumous award ceremony of the Victoria Cross to Ngarimu.”

Also presented were four awards which enable the recognition of both nonfiction and fiction across all age levels as part of Te Kura Pounamu award. These awards were first introduced in 2009 by Te Rōpū Whakahau, the organisation uniting Māori librarians and information specialists.

Cover of Hina raua ko Mo'o Kuna

Te Tohu Hoani Whatahoro for te wahanga pukapuka pono (nonfiction), was donated by the whanau of Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury in memory of his work and was presented to the Kapa, Te Niu, Te Mata o Tuna, a Hina raua ko Mo’o Kuna series (HANA Limited).

Te Tohu Pounamu, donated by Buddy Tainui of Ngai Tahu and Aoraki LIANZA, was awarded to the Haumi e the te reo magazine published by Huia Publishers.

Image of Cover of Manu Haututu

Te Tohu Taurapa, donated by Palmerston North City Libraries, Te Ara Whanui o te Ao for te wahanga Pukapuka Pikitia (the picture book section) was presented to Manu Haututu by June Peka, illustrated by Jo Thapa and retold by Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira (Scholastic)

Te Tohu Nga Kete e toru was donated by the Wellington Region LIANZA Bicultural Special Interest Group. This award is for te wahanga pukapuka Paki (fiction) and was presented to He ora kupu series by Peti Nohotima (He Kupenga Hao i Te Reo).

The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards are uniquely judged by librarians and supported by Caffe L’affare, Fishpond Limited and The Children’s Bookshop, Wellington.

Image of Cover of Mihiroa

Adapted from articles on the LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) website


Many of you will be aware that 2011 marks the centenary of the publication of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. It was first published as a serial, beginning in autumn 1910, and was then published as a complete book in 1911. The story has been published many times over the last 100 years, increasing in popularity after the author’s death. It has been illustrated by numerous artists and has also been adapted for film, television and as a stage musical.

Mary Lennox, a sour-tempered and spoilt child, is sent back to England from India after losing her parents to cholera. Her uncle’s large, grim house on the Yorkshire moors is a lonely home for her at first, with only the servants for company, but her world gradually changes with the discovery of a door to a secret garden, and a growing friendship with local boy Dickon, and her cousin Colin who has been hidden away as a supposed invalid. The story’s characters and themes are at the heart of its enduring appeal.

It would be hard to imagine a less appealing pair of personalities than Mary and Colin. From the very beginning Mary is described as disagreeable and self-centred, and it seems that she has always been so. Colin, equally, is utterly self-obsessed and completely convinced that he is an invalid – though, to be fair, this must stem largely from being constantly told that he is by those around him. The appeal of Mary and Colin as characters lies not only in the honest portrayal of them as children who are simply not that nice to be around and who are certainly not immediately likeable, but also in their ultimate transformation – as a result of learning to care for something other than themselves – into people with a more balanced outlook on life.

The main theme then is transformation, rebirth of a kind, the chance to become better, kinder, more thoughtful people – one that appeals to readers no less today than it did one hundred years ago. Of course, at the heart of their transformation (and that of Colin’s uncle), is the garden. Much has been written about the garden as a catalyst for healing and rebirth, with Colin and Mary’s internal transformation mirroring the blossoming and rejuvenation of the garden. As Mrs Burnett herself said in a 1911 article for the Ladies Home Journal: “Nothing is ever too smashed to mend, if you know that important fact and are obstinate enough – cheerfully obstinate – then you are the next thing to a magician yourself.”¹

The Dorothy Neal White Collection holds two copies of the original book of The Secret Garden, first published by Heinemann in 1911 with illustrations by Charles Robinson. The Collection’s copies are 1914 and 1930 reprints. The National Children’s Collection holds many editions, among them those illustrated by Tasha Tudor, Colin Twinn, Barbara Brown, Jenny Williams, Michael Hague, Shirley Hughes and Robert Ingpen. Shortly to be added to the Collection is the Puffin centenary edition with colour plates by Lauren Child.

Illustration in the Secret Garden One of the original illustrations by Charles Robinson
Right: One of the original illustrations by Charles Robinson. Robinson’s artistic influences included William Morris and Walter Crane, and his work is notable for his delicate use of line and the inclusion of decorative elements.

1. Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The annotated Secret garden; Hodgson edited with an introduction and notes by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina. New York: W.W. Norton, c2007. p. xl, quoting Burnett in her article “The Enchanted Coach”, published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1911.
Further reading online:
Inis Magazine feature Centenary of a classic: re-evaluating the secret garden. Author: Jarlath Killeen Books for Keeps article Classics in Short No. 3: The Secret Garden. Author: Helen Levene . See this external link.


New donations

A gentle stream of donations continues to be offered and accepted for the DNW Collection.


Among the most recent were two particularly charming items. The first is The Snow Queen stories, second series, by Hans Andersen, with illustrations by Edmund Dulac. This was published by Hodder and Stoughton around 1911 and is a collection of episodes extracted from The Snow Queen. It includes four lovely colour plates, including this image of Gerda and the reindeer which also appears, in reverse, on the cover:

The reindeer did not dare to stop. It ran on till it came to the bush with the red berries. There it put Gerda down, and kissed her on the mouth, while big shining tears trickled down its face.
Gerda is barefoot in the snow because she has left her boots and mittens in the house of the Finn woman!

The second interesting addition is a well-loved second edition of the Volland edition of Mother Goose, arranged and edited by Eulalie Osgood Grover and lavishly illustrated by Frederick Richardson, published in Chicago by P.F. Volland in 1915. Richardson completed a large body of work for Volland and his work was heavily influenced by the Art Noveau movement.

The first edition is available to read online at:

The National Children’s Collection holds a more recent edition, published by Hubbard Press in 1971.

Visit by the Marilyn Nye Children’s Literature Tour Group

Bright and early on Monday 4 July I hosted a group of 16 American children’s literature enthusiasts from the Marilyn Nye Children’s Literature Tour Group. The group was founded nearly 30 years ago by the late Dr Marilyn Nye, a professor of teacher education at California State University-East Bay, to bring together students and devotees of education and children’s literature as well as others wanting to expand their horizons through study and travel. Over the years tour destinations have included Great Britain, Australia, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Iceland, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. The 2011 New Zealand tour group was led by Dr Susan Hudson Fox and Beverly Vaughn Hock. As well as visiting the Dorothy Neal White Collection, their tour included meetings with a number of children’s authors and illustrators, including Tessa Duder, Dame Lynley Dodd, Joy Cowley, Kate Di Goldi, Gavin Bishop and Joanna Orwin, and visits to Storylines, Katherine Mansfield House, The Susan Price Collection, the Waikato Children’s Literature Group and Te Tai Tamariki.

Cover of A Southern Cross Fairy Tale by Kate McCosh Clark

For their visit to the DNW Collection they were able to look at the Collection in its temporary location in the Archives repository. I then talked about, and showed, a selection of items from the collection, covering early New Zealand children’s stories (by authors including Isabella Aylmer, Lady Barker, Kate McCosh Clark, Esther Glen, Isabel Maud Peacocke and Edith Howes), the early years of the School Journal, and examples from the golden age of children’s book illustration (Crane, Caldecott, Greenaway, Dulac and Rackham). In addition, research librarian Jill Goodwin introduced them to some of the treasures in the ATL General Juvenile collection, which includes Andrew Laing’s fairy book series specially bound for Alexander Turnbull, and some early editions of Beatrix Potter’s books signed by the author.

It was a pleasure to meet such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of visitors, and our allotted time of 1 hour and 45 minutes flew by.

Mary Skarott, Senior Research Librarian Children’s Literature


It is some years since I first “introduced” myself to the members through this newsletter, so I thought it was time to do so again.

When my son was a toddler, and we were living in Hastings, I got involved with the local Children’s Book Association as an extension to my role as Playcentre Association librarian for the area. We were very fortunate in having a member who had a children’s bookshop in her home and meetings were regularly held there. Each meeting we would have a new “box of books” to explore and discuss – it was fabulous.

By the time we moved to Wellington in 1984 my son was in school and I had returned to full-time work (at the Alexander Turnbull Library). I wanted to maintain my connection to children’s literature so I frequented the amazing Gateway bookshop in the Dominion Arcade – and later joined the Wellington Children’s Literature Association and with Bruce Morris produced a short-lived reviewing journal, Networks.

In 1987 the Turnbull moved into the brand new National Library Building and there I discovered the Dorothy Neal White Collection. How wonderful to find that those very special books that my mother had loved and passed on to me – Anne and Emily, the girl of the Limberlost and the Harvester – were also treasured here! And then there was Mary Atwool, the Curator of the collection, a wonderful librarian and a treasure in her own right. (Later Lynne Jackett took over that role and her erudition and passion for the Collection were equally inspiring).

Image of Cover of A Girl of the Limberlost

I joined the Friends and that led to a place on the committee. And what fun that proved to be! When she was President Mary Hutton held meetings in her lovely home, accompanied by tea and cakes. Times, venues and committee members have changed over the intervening 20+ years (though the latter remarkably little), but the excellent company, knowledge and enthusiasm of the committee members has remained a constant.

My main responsibility on the committee has been as newsletter editor (a role in which I have had enormous support from all the committee members but in particular from the always informative, entertaining and hard-working Lynne Jackett). My partner, Jeff Hunt, has developed and maintains the FDNW website – with me looking over his shoulder. I am still at the Turnbull. For many years I worked with the pictorial collections, but in July this year I started in a new position – leader of the Outreach Services team. Part of this role is to be a liaison between the Library and the community, support groups and professional colleagues, which fits very nicely indeed with my own interests in the DNW and the other children’s collections held in the Alexander Turnbull Library and the National Library of NZ. I look forward to continuing my relationship with the Friends for another 20+ years.


For up-to-date news about the Friends, photographs of events, copies of our publications, and the AGM minutes, visit the website.

The texts of Notes-Books-Authors 10 (Willingly to war by Andrew Francis) and 11 (Keeping ‘each of the twos in its right place’ by Beatrice Turner) have been added to the site this year.

Illustrations included in the Newsletter appear on the website in colour.

Suggestions and contributions to the site are welcomed by the webmaster Jeff Hunt

T: 04 479 6123,



Annual General Meeting 2011

The AGM was held on 27 April 2011. All the serving committee members were re-elected for 2011-2012.

The Committee is:

Patron: Margaret Mahy

President: David Retter

Treasurer: Janet Blake

Membership Secretary: Trevor Mowbray

Correspondence Secretary: Barbara Robertson

Minutes Secretary: Lynne Jackett

Newsletter: Joan McCracken

Committee: Audrey Cooper, Alison Grant, Emma MacDonald, Mary Hutton, Mary Skarott.

Reports were received from the President, Treasurer, the website and newsletter editor, and the research grant committee. An update on the National Library building project was given, and there was discussion on future editions of Notes-Books-Authors and FDNW events.

Copies of the full minutes of the 2011 AGM are available on the website , or if you would like a copy posted to you please contact us at PO Box 12499, Wellington 6144 or email David Retter,nz

The meeting was followed by readings by the committee of rabbit stories and poems.

These were:

Read by David Retter

“Little Jack Rabbit” from Through the garden gate, by Mabel O’Donnell and Rona Munro, illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes and Christopher Sanders. (London: James Nisbet, [1951]). Janet & John Book 5

Read by Barbara Robertson

Tale of Peter Rabbit, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter (London: Frederick Warne, 1905?)

Read by Mary Skarott

“The genuine original Easter rabbit” from Everything about Easter rabbits, written and illustrated by Wiltrud Roser, translated by Eva L Mayer (New York: Crowell [c1972])

The adventures of Velvet, written and illustrated by Hester Wagstaff (London: Faber & Faber, [1940])

Read by Janet Blake

Mr Rabbit and the lovely present, by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (New York: Harper Collins, 1962)

Read by Joan McCracken

The adventures of Velvet, written and illustrated by Hester Wagstaff (London: Faber & Faber, [1940])

Market Square from When we were young, by A A Milne, with decorations by E H Shepard (London: Methuen, 1924)

Children’s books of the 1940s

On 6 October Trevor Mowbray entertained Friends with a presentation of his research into children’s reading in the 1940s. He started with an outline of the history of the children’s literature collections in the National Library. The School Library Service collection (now known as the National Children’s Collection) began in 1942 and included books from the late 1930s. The SLS librarians selected “high quality titles” identified through overseas reviewing journals. The majority of these were fiction, with some picture books and non-fiction (of which there were a limited number published). Publications were sourced from both the United Kingdom and the USA. The National Library was one of the few libraries in New Zealand that was allowed to import books from the US and this has resulted in the collection having titles not available elsewhere. New Zealand librarians who were trained under the Carnegie scheme raised the awareness of American authors and publications.

Cover of The hills of Varna by Geoffrey Trease, illustrated by Treyer Evans. (London, 1948)
Cover of The hills of Varna by Geoffrey Trease,
illustrated by Treyer Evans. (London, 1948)

Those titles that were “readily available at home” (such as those by Enid Blyton) were not purchased for the Library.

To do his research Trevor used all the National Library catalogues and collections, the “nostalgia” collection held at the Wellington Public Library, the Susan Price Collection, and her publication Books for life. Trevor also made extensive use of the SLS reviewing journal Junior fiction which began in 1949, and other standard children’s literature texts. He looked at both prize-winning books and those that were widely read by New Zealand children. Where authors wrote over a long period of time he chose those important in the 1940s.

Trevor discussed books from the 1940s under a series of headings – historical, school, animal, adventure, and family – highlighting the work of individual authors. For instance he looked at the work of Geoffrey Trease (1909-1998). Best known for his historical fiction, Trease was punctilious about historical accuracy and balance, focussing on the real lives of ordinary people. His Tales out of school (1949) was one of the first studies in children’s literature.

Another genre that was popular in the 1940s was that of “career stories”. Nursing stories such as the Sue Barton series by Helen Dore Boylston, and the Cherry Ames books by Helen Wells and Julie Campbell Tatham were popular. The latter author was also responsible for the first stories in the Trixie Belden “girl detective” series.

Cover of Zozo Takes a Job. Zozo was more usually Curious George

Among the animal stories that were published during the 1940s. and which are still in print, were Robert McClosky’s Make way for ducklings (1941), Calico the wonder horse by Virginia Lee Burton (1942), and Curious George by H A and Margret Rey (1941). Trevor had a copy of the UK edition of the latter in which George was named Zozo.

There were not a large number of books for children published in New Zealand at this time but some significant titles did appear – for example Mollie Atkinson’s Richard Bird in the bush (1944), the school stories by Clare Mallory, The book of Wiremu, by Stella Morice (1944), and several books of Māori legends edited by A W Reed [Editor’s note: Reed also wrote Poppa passes: the adventures of the vedgie people in 1943 – that’s the one I want to read!]

At the end of his presentation Trevor discussed the question “Were the 1940s a turning point for books for children?” In many ways Trevor believes it was. Certainly the world of 1949 was a very different place than it had been in 1939 and these changes were reflected in publications of the decade. Developments in printing made a significant difference to the quality of books published, and the resettlement of people from Europe to the USA because of WWII, exposed children to different writers and illustrators. This period also saw the growth of new genres of writing such as science fiction (eg the books of Andre Norton), career stories, and teen romance (particularly Seventeenth summer by Maureen Daly).

Picture of Trevor Mowbray and soome of the books he discussed

Trevor pointed to the continuing popularity of many of the books first published in the 1940s, and encouraged his audience to revisit titles of the time. His presentation was followed by some lively discussion with audience members adding interesting anecdotes about their own reading, and knowledgeable additional information about authors, illustrators and publications.

Below is list of prize-winning and New Zealand titles supplied by Trevor to accompany his talk. He is also working on an edited version of his presentation to be published as our next Notes-Books-Authors.

Joan McCracken, FDNW newsletter editor

Children’s books of the 1940s – a list compiled by Trevor Mowbray

Carnegie winners

1940 Barne, Kitty Visitors from London

1941 Treadgold, Mary We couldn’t leave Dinah

1942 B.B. Little grey men

1943 None

1944 Linklater, Eric The wind on the moon

1945 None

1946 Goudge, Elizabeth Little white horse

1947 Collected stories for children, edited by W. De La Mare

1948 Armstrong, Richard Sea change

1949 Allan, Agnes Story of your home (nonfiction)

1950 Vipont, Elfrida Lark on the wing

Newbery winners

1941 Sperry, Armstrong Call it courage (The boy who was afraid. Eng. pub.)

1942 Edmonds, Walter D. Matchlock gun(no Eng. pub.?)

1943 Gray, Elizabeth Janet Adam of the road

1944 Forbes, Esther Johnny Tremain

1945 Lawson, Robert Rabbit Hill

1946 Lenski, Lois Strawberry girl

1947 Baily, Carolyn Sherwin Miss Hickory

1948 Pene du Bois, William Twenty-one balloons

1949 Henry, Marguerite King of the wind

1950 De Angeli, Marguerite The door in the wall

Caldecott winners

1941 Lawson Robert They were good and strong. 1940

1942 McCloskey, Robert Make way for ducklings. 1941

1943 Burton, Virginia Lee The little house. 1942

1944 Thurber, James Many moons, illus by Louis Slobodkin. 1943

1945 Jones, Elizabeth Orton Prayers for a child. 1944

1946 Petersham, Maud and Miska The rooster crows. 1945

1947 Brown, Margaret Wise The little island, illus by Louis Weisgard. 1946

1948 Tresselt, Alvin White snow, bright snow, illus by Roger Duvoisin. 1947

1949 Hader, Berta and Elma The big snow. 1948

1950 Politi, Leo Song of the swallows. 1949

New Zealand titles

ATKINSON, Mollie Richard Bird in the bush. 1944

BURTON, Olga Stories of bird and bush.1943

BURTON, Ormond Bart, the story of a dog. 1944

COTTRELL, Violet M. The lost cave of Pukerangi. 1942

DUNNINGHAM, Margaret M. The three brown bears and the manpower man. 1945

GARRARD, Phillis Hilda fifteen. 1944

HOWES, Edith Riverside family.

KENNEY, Alice A. The magic rings. 1943

MCDONALD, Georgina Grand hills for sheep. 1949

MALLORY, Clare Merry stories, 1947

MORICE, Stella The book of Wiremu. 1944 Won the Esther Glen in 1945.

O’BRIEN, Bryan Storytime with Bryan O’Brien. 1944

O’BRIEN, Bryan More stories of Bryan O’Brien. 1945

REED, Alexander W. Poppa passes. The adventures of the vedgie people. 1943

REED, Alexander W. Myths and legends of Maoriland. 1946 Winner of the Esther Glen Award 1947.

REED, Alexander W. Wondertales of Maoriland. 1948

Image of Cover of In the Bush by Richard Bird
Image of Cover of Wonder Tales of Maoriland by A. W. Reed


William Sleator, Fantasy Writer for Young Adults, Dies at 66

William Sleator, a writer for young people whose books pitted their heroes against aliens, ghouls and slimy things, not to mention the most malevolent rivals of all – siblings – died on Wednesday in Bua Chet, Thailand. He was 66. The cause had not been determined, his brother Daniel said on Friday. He added that Mr. Sleator, who had struggled with alcoholism for many years, had been having seizures recently.

Working in a genre that straddled fantasy, science fiction, horror and suspense, Mr Sleator (pronounced “Slater”) wrote more than 30 books. Most were for young adults, though some were aimed at middle-grade readers. Critics praised his spare, stylish, often darkly comic prose; hurtling plots; and deliciously strange characters, among them a gasbag-like flying octopus.

Moody, psychologically probing and sometimes terrifying, Mr. Sleator’s work chronicled young people’s passage through all manner of dystopias. It was a fitting juxtaposition of age group and subject matter, for what, after all, is more dystopian than adolescence?

In confronting the grotesque, the menacing and the outright evil, Mr. Sleator’s protagonists simultaneously confront their own identities and their relationship to their families, especially to brothers and sisters.

Cover of Interstellar Pig by William Sleator

His best-known novels include Interstellar Pig (1984), involving a youth who is drawn into an all-too-real role-playing game – here enters the octopus – in which the losers and their civilizations are destroyed, and House of Stairs (1974), about teenagers trapped in a malign behavioural experiment. He was also known for The Green Futures of Tycho (1981), in which a boy travels forward in tim e and meets his adult self. The protagonist was named for Mr. Sleator’s youngest brother, Tycho; early on, he often co-opted family and friends as characters until, he later said, he had run out of friends in every sense.

Cover of The Green Futures of Tycho by William Sleator

William Warner Sleator III was born on 13 February 1945, in Havre de Grace, Maryland, and reared in University City, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb. His father, William Jr., was a physiologist; his mother, Esther Kaplan Sleator, was a paediatrician who did early research on attention deficit disorder. Billy, as he was known, grew up amid art, intellectual ferment and a laissez-faire approach to child rearing that would give helicopter parents the fantods. He captured the milieu in Oddballs (1993), an autobiographical volume centering on his life with his brothers and sister, Vicky:

“As teenagers, Vicky and I talked a lot about hating people,” he wrote. “At the dinner table, we would go on and on about all the popular kids we hated at high school. Dad, who has a very logical mind, sometimes cautioned us about this. ‘Don’t waste your hate on them,’ he would say. ‘Save it up for important people, like the president.’ We responded by quoting the famous line from ‘Medea’: ‘Loathing is endless. Hate is a bottomless cup; I pour and pour.’”

A gifted pianist and composer, Mr. Sleator entered Harvard planning to major in music but by the time he earned his bachelor’s degree there had switched to English. He later studied composition in London, working as an accompanist at the Royal Ballet School; afterward, he spent nearly a decade as a pianist with the Boston Ballet before turning to writing full time.

Mr. Sleator, who lived in Boston and Thailand, is survived by his father; his brother Daniel, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University; and his brother Tycho, a physicist at New York University. His long-time companion Paul Peter Rhode died in 1999; his later companion of many years, Siang Chitsa-Ard, died in 2008. Mr. Sleator’s sister, Lucy Victoria Sleator Wald, died in 2003.

Mr. Sleator’s writing prowess was manifest early. At 6, he wrote a novel – a novella, really – that showed a noteworthy command of rhythm, pacing, irony and above all rhetorical repetition. Titled The Fat Cat, it is published here in its entirety:

“Once there was a fat cat. boy was she fat. Well, not that fat. But pretty fat.”

Margalit Fox

A version of this article appeared in print on 7 August 7 2011, on page A18 of the New York Times

Neil Leckie

We would like to acknowledge the death of educationalist Neil Gunn Leckie, who died in Wellington on 24 September 2011, at the age of 87. With his wife, Helen, Neil Leckie was a long-time member of the Friends. They had a particular interest in the Collections as Mrs Leckie was a relation of Dorothy Neal White. We extend our sympathy to Neil’s family and friends.


The 2010 Annual General Meeting agreed to hold the subscription rate at $20 a year. Members might also like to make a contribution to a special Scholarship fund that will allow us to continue and / or increase the amount we are able to offer a student doing research based on the collection supported by the Friends. A separate line has been included on the form for those Friends who would like to make such a donation.

The Treasurer will be delighted to receive your subscription payment at the next meeting, or by post to:

The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection

PO Box 12499


Please indicate any changes to your address details when you complete the form. We are now able to send notification of meetings by email. If you would like to receive information in this way please include your email address.


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