Dorothy Neal White
Newsletter 31
April 2003


Come Celebrate 100 years of Teddy Bear history.

Image of Goldie Wright (teddy bear) taking tea with his three-year-old owner, doll and dog in an Irish garden, about 1914.
Goldie Wright (allegedly an original Steiff bear) taking tea with his three-year-old owner, doll and dog in an Irish garden, about 1914.

This is Goldie Wright taking tea with his three-year-old owner, doll and dog in an Irish garden, about 1914.

Goldie, allegedly an original Steiff bear, of German origin, has survived two World Wars, a rebellion, immigration to a distant Dominion and onslaughts from three generations of children!

The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection will be celebrating 100 years of Teddy Bear history at their next meeting on Thursday, 1st May 2003 in the National Library foyer.

Come and share your special bear in photo or fur, and your precious teddy bear books, with us on the night. A small display of books from the Dorothy Neal White and National Children’s Collections and photographs is being prepared to celebrate the centenary of the Teddy Bear and to mark the opening we will have a teddy bears’ picnic.

The new National Librarian, Penny Carnaby, will be a special guest and will present Emma MacDonald with the 2002 Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Scholarship (see below for more details about Emma’s project).

There will be readings from some special teddy bear books and other contributions from committee members, and suitably beary food & beverages will be provided.

Goldie looks forward to making the acquaintance of you and your bear companion on this occasion. Elderly teddies particularly welcome.


A successful AGM was held on in the National Library auditorium. The evening began with drinks and nibbles. Tania Connelly, 2001 scholarship winner, reported on her now completed project and following the meeting we launched Notes-Books-Authors 8 featuring Kate De Goldi’s talk LM, KM, EL, ME and Me KDG.

It was with regret that the resignation of Carmel Jones from the Committee was accepted. Carmel has been an active member of the committee for about ten years and her contribution will be missed. However we hope that Carmel will continue to be able to participate in Friends events and we look forward to seeing her on those occasions.

There were no volunteers for the position of President so Mary Hutton has again agreed to take this role, with the assistance of Lynne Jackett who will convene committee meetings. Trevor Mowbray will continue as Treasurer, Kerry Fryer took on the position of minutes Secretary, and Joan McCracken remains as newsletter editor. We were delighted to welcome Kate de Goldi and Tania Connelly onto the committee. Contact details for committee members are given below.

A copy of the Presidents report is included with this newsletter.


Current committee members

Name, Position, Phone, Email
Tania Connelly
381 7462 (wk)
479 0998 (hm)

Audrey Cooper
478 7468

Kerry Fryer
479 2344 (wk)
973 5987 (hm)

Kate de Goldi
Alison Grant
476 4320

Mary Hutton
475 9268

Alison Grant
476 4320

Lynne Jackett
National Library representative
474 3084 (wk)
564 4496 (hm)L

Joan McCracken
Newsletter editor
474 3056 (wk)
479 6123 (hm)

Trevor Mowbray
478 8132


Tania Connelly’s very entertaining report on her research as the 2001 Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Scholarship will be published as the next Notes-Books-Authors. Tania also gave a very informative illustrated paper at the 2002 Stout Centre Conference “The Celtic Connection” based on her research.


The Friends extend their congratulations to Mary Mowbray (wife of our Treasurer Trevor) on receiving the honour of Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2003 New Year’s Honours List. The award was given for Mary’s services to women.


Due to lack of available space at the National Library the Friends held their last function for 2002 at the Senior Citizens area on the mezzanine floor of the Wellington Public Library. This was a congenial setting in which we enjoyed the usual feast of festive nibbles and drinks.

Our guest for the evening was Victoria University lecturer Harry Ricketts. Kate De Goldi introduced Harry outlining his professional and publishing career.

Harry’s topic for the evening was “Kipling’s literary after-life”. In a fascinating and informative talk he shared with us examples of the way in which Kipling’s work, from the time that it was first published, is constantly quoted in both speech and writing from authors as diverse as Evelyn Waugh and Rosemary Sutcliffe. His songs, stories and poems have entered the consciousness of people all around the world, many of whom will not know the source their quotation. Members of the audience were delighted to find that Antonia Forest’s Marlowe girls were among those who make regular references to Kipling, and that Harry said that he thought that Antonia Forest was “one of the all time great writers”. We needed no further encouragement to invite him back to talk about her works at a future event.

Walter Cook’s rendition of “On the road to Mandalay” drew the evening to a suitably Kiplingesque close.

Image of A chat with Rudyard Kipling in New Zealand” - Rudyard Kipling in conversation with (probably) N F Kennedy at (also probably) 11 Budock Road. Auckland, 1891
A chat with Rudyard Kipling in New Zealand” – Rudyard Kipling in conversation with (probably) N F Kennedy at (also probably) 11 Budock Road. Auckland, 1891
A chat with Rudyard Kipling in New Zealand” – Rudyard Kipling in conversation with (probably) N F Kennedy at (also probably) 11 Budock Road. Auckland, 1891

M S Stephenson Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library Reference No: PAColl-0070


We are delighted to announce that the 2002 Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Scholarship has been awarded to Emma MacDonald.

Emma is completing the Master of Library Studies at Victoria University. Her research project is to select fiction titles from the Dorothy Neal White Collection that have been re-issued and are still available in public libraries. She will examine the portrayal of female characters in these books, highlight any archaic or negative portrayals and question whether these books are suitable for continued use.

We will celebrate the award of the Scholarship to Emma at our event on 1 May 2003. For details see above.


The Lianza Children’s Book Awards 2002 were announced on Monday 18 November at the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (Lianza) Conference in Wellington

Frances Plumpton, from Vital Years and as a committee member for the Children’s Literature Foundation, welcomed the Honourable Marian Hobbs, Alison Locke, sponsors representatives, publishers and all present to this award ceremony.

She noted that it had been a wonderful week and a tribute to the strength of children’s literature with Tessa Duder receiving the Katherine Mansfield award, the first children’s author to receive this award.

Publishers entered the books judged for this year’s awards from books published in 2001. The judging panel included Susan Hill from Hutt City Libraries (Convenor), Ann Reweti from Wellington City Libraries and Sally Patrick, Wanganui District Library, with co-opted others from varied fields of children’s literature. There is a more wide-ranging choice today with a strong focus on the New Zealand way of life. More works are needed to reflect the new immigrants, including those from the Pacific, Somalia, Korea, China, and South Africa.

LIANZA recognises the remarkable achievements of Elsie Locke. Children took to their hearts her first book, “The Runaway Settlers” (always in print), which was acknowledged with the presentation of the inaugural Gaelyn Gordon Much-Loved Book Award in 1999. The year “The Runaway Settlers” was published there was no Esther Glen Award so now there is justified recognition of Elsie’s children’s writing with the re-naming of the non-fiction award as the Elsie Locke Award.

The LIANZA winners for 2002 were then announced:

1. Elsie Locke Award for excellence in non-fiction writing:

I am a Spider by Dr Simon Pollard (Reed Publishing)

The award was presented by Elsie’s daughter Alison Locke to the representative from Reed Publishing. Alison commented that her mother’s focus was always on the books, not herself. Her first significant work was “The Shepherd and the Scullery Maid” in 1950. Her writing mainly concentrated on ordinary people, including Maori, allowing their voice to be heard. She was a stickler for detail believing her subjects deserved historical accuracy.

2. Te Kura Pounamu for a distinguished contribution to literature written for children or young people in Te Reo Maori:

Nga Kutai me Nga Pipi by Dot Meharry (Reed Publishing)

Presented to the representative from Reed Publishing by Marian Hobbs

3. Esther Glen Award for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children:

Knocked for Six by Alison Robertson (Scholastic New Zealand)

After being presented with this award by Marian Hobbs, Alison said she was honoured as a first time author to receive this award from the people working at the coal face/type face.

4. Russell Clark Award for excellence in children’s book illustration:

A book of Pacific Lullabies illustrated by Anton Petrov, edited by Tessa Duder (HarperCollins New Zealand)

Anton Petrov was honoured to receive this award presented by Marian Hobbs

After presenting these awards the Honourable Marian Hobbs proffered her thanks for being invited to officiate at this ceremony. She commented that she had worked with Alison at two Christchurch schools and had huge respect for her mother and father. She had loved the English books of her childhood but as an English teacher she recognised that children’s books now need to reflect their own scenery, with a strong sense of reality, and covering both small towns and large suburbs.

In conclusion Frances Plumpton thanked the authors, illustrators and publishers for producing these stories; the libraries for ensuring our stories are in their libraries, thus establishing strong links between libraries and children’s stories.

Kerry Fryer

Secretary, Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection Committee


Congratulations to Friend Barbara Murison on receiving the 2002 Betty Gilderdale Award. This Award was first given in 2001 by the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand. It continues the Children’s Literature Association Award (established in 1990) and is named to honour the work of Betty Gilderdale who was a founding member of the Children’s Literature Association of New Zealand. The Award recognises outstanding services to children’s literature in New Zealand.

Barbara Murison is a librarian, author, and business woman – who, over a long career, has supported and promoted New Zealand books for children and young people.

On Friday, 15 November 2002 the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand (Storylines) together with the Wellington Children’s Book Association hosted a reception at the National Library to honour Barbara.

Guests gathered from 6.00 pm in the lower ground floor foyer of the National Library where they enjoyed drinks and finger food as they mingled convivially. Authors were there (among them Fiona Kidman, Kate de Goldi, Barbara Else, Vivienne Joseph, Jane Westaway …), librarians, teachers, colleagues, personal friends, all of whose lives had been touched in some way by Barbara. There was much reminiscing and enthusiastic chat. A contingent of Aucklanders led by Wayne Mills (President of Auckland Storylines and organiser of the popular literature quiz for schools) and including Betty Gilderdale and her husband had flown down for the occasion.

At approximately 7.00 pm guests assembled in the auditorium for the more formal part of proceedings. Wayne Mills, as chairman, introduced Barbara, talking about her energy and enthusiasm in the various facets of her career, making special mention of her Marigold Enterprises with its valuable reviews and advice to teachers and librarians. He then called on Betty Gilderdale to make the presentation of a handsome certificate designed by Betty’s husband. But before doing so Betty paid her own tribute, speaking briefly to support Wayne’s words and adding her own praise and thanks for Barbara’s many years of service. Special mention was made of Barbara’s book Buster Bee but there was regret that it was out of print. Betty felt that it was well worth reprinting for the picture it gave of a child growing up in the 1930s. Barbara was also given a cheque and a bouquet of flowers.

In her award presentation Barbara began by saying that the person she knew most about was herself and into her address entitled Tapestries she wove many threads of her life experiences, especially those that involved the influences of books. She began by remembering her childhood days in Ohakune as the daughter of a railway engineer with parents who both read to her and told her stories. Schooldays were in Wellington, with visits to the Public Library and time spent with her godmother while her parents were overseas. Always there were books in her life. Her first job as a cub reporter on the Evening Post was brief, as she did not appreciate this male-dominated profession. This was followed by work at the School Library Service, which in those days was located in the bowels of Parliament Buildings. Here Hector Mcaskill encouraged his staff to read the books they were sending out to schools, to write reviews to assist teachers, to take books home to read with no restrictions on numbers. Other threads in the tapestry were overseas travel, involvement with the Girl Guides movement, work as a children’s librarian at Wellington City Library, owner of a bookshop, school librarian at Raroa Intermediate School with Jim Milburn as Headmaster, library adviser with School Services, and currently as owner of Marigold Enterprises with its reviewing service for schools and libraries. The tapestry has been rich and varied with the recurrent theme of books.

The audience was very involved in the telling and the warm reception given Barbara was indicative of the affection the guests felt towards one who has spent a lifetime career promoting books.

Guests lingered for some time after the ceremony to congratulate Barbara and to catch up with friends and acquaintances. It was a highly satisfying evening.

Mary Hutton,
Committee, Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection


New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2003

The winners for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2003 have been announced. The Book Awards were judged under four sections: senior fiction, junior fiction, picture-books, and non-fiction. Below we have listed the finalists with the winners in bold.

Senior fiction finalists

Alchemy by Margaret Mahy (HarperCollins)

Tomorrow the Dark by Ken Catran (Lothian Books)

Right Where it Hurts by David Hill (Mallinson Rendel)

The Thin Line by V R Joseph (Mallinson Rendel)

Letters From the Coffin-Trenches by Ken Catran (Random House)

Junior fiction finalists

Buddy by V M Jones (HarperCollins)

A Friend in Paradise by Des Hunt (HarperCollins)

The Dragon’s Apprentice by Linda McNabb (HarperCollins)

Something Weird About Mr Foster by Ken Catran (Scholastic)

When the Kehua Calls by Kingi McKinnon (Scholastic)

Picture book finalists

The Immigrants by Alan Bagnall with illustrations by Sarah Wilkins (Mallinson Rendel)

Pigtails the Pirate, written and illustrated by David Elliot (Random House)

Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms? by Dawn McMillan and Bert Signal, with illustrations by Ross Kinnaird (Reed)

Auntie Rosie and the Rabbit by Diana Noonan with illustrations by Christine Ross (Scholastic)

The Christmas Caravan by Jennifer Beck with illustrations by Robyn Belton (Scholastic)

Non-fiction finalists

Which New Zealand Insect? by Andrew Crowe (Penguin Books)

Weaving Earth And Sky: Myths & Legends of Aotearoa by Robert Sullivan with illustrations by Gavin Bishop (Random House)

New Zealand Wild: The Shaping of New Zealand by Brian O’Flaherty (Reed)

New Zealand Trees: The Kauri by Alina Arkins with photography by Len Doel (Reed)

Weta: A Knight in Shining Armour by Joy Cowley with photography by Rod Morris (Scholastic)

A good web site for information about New Zealand children’s book awards is maintained by Christchurch College of Education :



Researchers, most of them either undertaking Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) papers or preparing doctoral research proposals, have been regular visitors to the collection over the last six months. I have also given several more talks to groups of design students.

A group of students undertaking Alistair Smith’s MLIS digital collections paper created a small Whitcombe’s Story Books digital collection. (http:www.??????) I was most impressed by their approach to their study and the quality of the site they created.


After I had identified a number of titles from the desiderata lists established by Mary Atwool in the early 1990s, the Committee of the Friends agreed to purchase them and donate the books to the collection. The Library is very grateful for the Friends generosity. (I can supply list on Tuesday)

Conservation Project

The project to conserve copies of Enzed Junior, funded by a $2,500 Macklin Grant, was successfully completed and the papers are back on the shelves in a condition that will allow researchers to use them once more.

National Library Open Day

Dylan Owen from School Services and I selected New Zealand and overseas books for a display in the former Library Shop. Dylan’s idea to make an alphabet of overseas children’s books gave us an imaginative framework to display a mix of classic and avant garde picture books.


I have just completed re-shelving the collection to accommodate recent and future growth and ensure that there is a cap shelf between the books and the lighting above the collection.

Library of Congress

When I travelled to Washington, DC for the launch of the International Children’s Digital Library (see article elsewhere) I also visited Sybille Jagusch, Chief of the Children’s Center, Library of Congress. As she explained her role I discovered that the position is similar to mine, but on a larger scale, with similar tasks undertaken by other units (legal deposit, cataloguing, general reference enquiries). There are 3 staff rather than 0.5, their exhibitions are on a grander scale with often quite lavish accompanying publications, and I have not, thus far, been asked to entertain a royal spouse while the king visits parliament!

I was surprised when Sybille said they have 200,000 children’s books as the DNW and NCC combined total more than 100,000 books and I had expected the Library of Congress collections to be far larger by comparison.

I have to confess a deep envy of Sybille’s work space. Don’t get me wrong, I love being near the collections, and being able to glance up from my desk and see beloved children’s titles does in large part compensate for the lack of any external view. However, Sybille’s lack of an external view is compensated by being seated on the balcony above the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress. She can look down on the researchers, up at the mural and lantern on the dome, back at stone carvings and merely has to lift here eyes to admire the (back view) of the life-sized bronze of Michelangelo and glance to her right to see Shakespeare in profile.

The Jefferson Building is sumptuous throughout and should be near the top of the list for any sightseeing in Washington. Decorated by leading American artists at the close of the nineteeth century, it was completely restored for its centenary in 1997, so is looking its sparkling best.

Lynne Jackett

Dorothy Neal White & National Children’s Collection Research Librarian

International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL)

The ICDL is a five-year US$3.3 million plan to build a digital library of 10,000 children’s books drawn from 100 cultures, as part of a long-term research project to develop new technology to serve young readers. Following an approach in August, I selected five out of copyright books for inclusion in the proto-type and Sam Searle of our Digital Initiatives Unit arranged for the books to be copied to meets the very high specification and liaised with the Internet Archive based in San Francisco.

The National Library of New Zealand contribution to the prototype consists of 5 books:

A Southern Cross fairy tale, the earliest liberally illustrated book for children about New Zealand.

Tiki’s trip to town, the first children’s book to take a Maori as its subject, and only the third children’s book published in New Zealand.

Whitcombe’s Pictorial History of New Zealand, part of an extensive educational series.

Richard Bird in the bush & Richard Bird at sea, two of the first local picture books, they introduce New Zealand native birds and other creatures and their settings – a common theme in early New Zealand children’s books.

These 5 books were selected because they represent illustrated New Zealand children’s books from about the 1890s to the early 1940s and because they were out of copyright. I would have liked to include more titles but because of the country’s youth in publishing terms most of our illustrated children’s titles are still in copyright.

The books we have contributed so far are works created by Pakeha New Zealanders that capture the attitudes of their own times but do not represent the current cultural mix or attitudes of New Zealanders. We would like to include the works of Mäori writers and artists, in te reo Mäori where possible, and also more recent titles that provide a more accurate reflection of our multicultural society and the strong links to Pacifica cultures. (Lino Nelisi, from the Auckland College of Education, had two titles published by Learning Media included in the ICDL.)

We hope to continue our participation in the ICDL in the future, in collaboration with other New Zealand children’s literature organisations and authors.

The launch

The ICDL was launched in the Great Hall, Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, on Wednesday 20 November 2002.

When accepting an invitation to speak I thought that I would be one of several of the overseas librarians stepping up to the podium. I discovered 5 minutes before the launch, that I was the only overseas speaker. The other speakers were such luminaries as the Librarian of Congress, the President of the University of Maryland, an author who is also a professor, the Director of Information and Intelligent Systems Division of the National Science Foundation, the Director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Director of the Internet Archive.

Although I was not told why I had been asked to speak, my guess is that I had travelled the furthest to attend. All speakers stuck rigorously to their 2.5 minute time slot, so there was plenty of time for two children to demonstrate the Library within the hour allocated to the launch. Jane White, Director of the ICDL, said that my speech was “perfect” and covered everything she could have wished for, which was heartening.

Guests were very impressed with the site and children were happily engaged in demonstrating it while we consumed a supper that one organiser described as a “wedding banquet”.

Although, seeing the web site in action, it felt like the launch of something complete, it was the launch of a 5 year research project on children’s interaction with digital resources. Brewster Kahle, the Director of the Internet Archive, stressed that it is his intention for the Library to be maintained in perpetuity.

The following day I attended the ICDL Board Meeting. The comment was made that, in the shadow of Septermber 11 2001, it was hoped that the ICDL could in some way contribute to world peace by increasing understanding of the world’s cultures. We then discussed the major issues for setting up the Library, such as selection criteria for a multinational library, intellectual property and access issues.

The ICDL is available online at You can view the introductory pages, however, it will be June or July next year before a dial-up modem version that will enable viewing of the actual books is available. At present you need high speed internet access and Java Virtual Machine.

I feel privileged to be part of the group creating this Library.

Lynne Jackett

Dorothy Neal White & National Children’s Collection Research Librarian


The Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection Committee has several hundred books for sale. They were mostly offered to the collection but were either already held or out of scope. The donors agreed that the Friends could have the books to sell to raise funds to support the Collection. We wish to make them available to members who might like to buy them before we approach second hand booksellers. The books are mostly pre-1940 children’s titles, with a few books for adults. Because there are so many we are not including the list with the newsletter. If you would like to see a copy of the list please contact Lynne by 31 January 2003 providing your name and address.

Mail: Lynne Jackett, DNW & NCC Research Librarian, National Library of New Zealand, P O Box 1467, Wellington

Phone: 04 564 4496

Email: If you would like the list emailed, please let me know.


A reminder to Friends that the following publications are available to members.

Dorothy Neal White: a tribute $15.00

Postcards – from the Fabulous and Familiar exhibition $1.00 each

Cards with envelopes – from the Show me! exhibition $2.00 each

Back issues of Notes-Books-Authors $3.00 each

All these publications will be available at our next function – or by writing to the Society at PO Box 12499, Wellington.


Eileen Colwell was a distinguished librarian. For all this, her name will not be widely known in New Zealand, even by librarians. Those who work with children may well be acquainted with her attractive collections of stories for telling or reading aloud but be quite unaware of her many other achievements. Yet this diminutive dynamo, daughter of an itinerant Wesleyan minister, was largely responsible for founding the children’s library movement in England.

Eileen and her three siblings were brought up to believe that “ a house without books is a house without windows.” She was a compulsive reader from early on, choosing freely from her father’s divers, much-travelled library. He encoyuraged this passion for books by taking her on fortnightly visits to buy a Nelson’s Sixpenny Classic.

At this time English public libraries were still very limited. There was little open access and borrowers had to choose their books from a catalogue. Children’s sections were virtually unknown. As Eileen had found to her cost, the authorities were at best indifferent to and at worst downright hostile to children’s presence in libraries. She vowed that one day she would “be in charge of a room in a library where children would be welcome and be able to choose books they really wanted to read.”1

At 17 she was awarded a scholarship, the first ever given in the West Riding for a career in librarianship. She studied at the newly established course in librarianship at University College London and, once qualified, spent a lonely and frustrating two years at a Lancashire public library. In 1926, aged 22, she was appointed to a part-time, temporary post at Hendon in northwest London.

Hendon’s promised public library had yet to be built but, in the meantime, a far-sighted Council had resolved to establish a library system beginning with the children. This, they reasoned, would be a practical and imaginative way of winning continuing public support. They were right.

Eileen managed to build up a successful service for children using local schools as centres in the evenings. She began with a stock of 2,000 books ingeniously acquired from a variety of sources, but by the end of 1928 she was issuing 65,000 books annually.

The new Hendon Library finally opened in 1929. It included a spacious, sunny children’s room with colourful posters, displays and special collections. Eileen Colwell had by now been appointed as Hendon’s permanent children’s librarian, one of the first in Britain.

Many of her innovations concerning children’s literature and children’s library service are now commonly recognised, if not always practised. But one of her greatest contributions was in the field of storytelling.

Eileen had been interested in telling stories to groups from the days she had taught in Sunday School and read Bible stories to children in hospitals and children’s homes. In the 1920s she took lessons in voice-projection to improve her performance. When, however, she started practising her craft in Hendon, some of the residents who hadn’t heard of Eileen Colwell were said to have expressed doubts about her sanity. There was talk of her walking the pavements or standing at bus stops muttering to herself interminably, completely oblivious to anything going on a round her. Rather than a sign of incipient madness, though, this was the storyteller at work. Rehearsing stories on the way to the library was, in modern parlance, effective time-management.

Once she was installed as children’s librarian she began storytelling sessions at Hendon and arranged story festivals in local schools. In this enterprise she was encouraged by her friend John Masefield, then Poet Laureate. She also ran oral story sessions for the many German refugees crowding into north-west London in the early 1930s.

Eileen was a wonderful storyteller. This tiny woman, often scarcely taller than her young listeners, seldom raised her voice. She used no dramatics and no props (not when I saw her anyhow) but she held the children absolutely in thrall. At a time when storytelling was a rarity in English libraries, and indeed in England generally, her impact must have been enormous. As an English friend observed, “She had … a huge and beneficial effect on my childhood. I would like to think her example will be followed by present day children’s librarians but … most are not given much time …”

Many of her stories, often with notes on the telling, have been published in various anthologies, in particular A storyteller’s choice (1963). Storytelling appeared in 1980.

Eileen Colwell’s autobiography Once upon a time …, published when she was 96 and almost blind, gives a unique, inside view of the development of children’s library service and children’s literature in England. As Jan Mark says in her Foreword, “By the time of her retirement Eileen had been party to … things we take for granted now: readings and storytelling sessions, the Schools Library Service, the Youth Libraries Group, the Carnegie and Greenaway medals, every last thing that encourages literacy and then makes it worthwhile, has evolved in part from that first venture in Hendon.”2 The list of subscribers for Once upon a time … is itself an indication of just how influential she’d been at home and abroad.

Internationally she was involved in several ventures to promote children’s librarianship and children’s literature, notably in IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) where, in 1955, she helped set up the Section on Library Work with Children, and in IBBY (International Board of Books for Young People). IBBY inaugurated the Hans Christian Andersen Award and Eileen served on this Jury from 1957-1964. Her comments on the personalities and carry-ons at these international meetings were tartly entertaining.

Eileen left Hendon in 1967 after 40 years service. She lectured in librarianship at Loughborough University for two years, but, realising she wasn’t really suited to the job, she settled into an active retirement full of storytelling and travel. She was delighted when, in 1993, the Society for Storytelling was founded. Special tribute was paid to her at the Society’s inaugural meeting.

As for travel. A highlight was her 1976 trip to Japan where she was treated as an all-wise and honoured guest. The success of this visit is reflected in the number of Japanese names included in the subscribers’ list for her autobiography.

Eileen never lost her enthusiasm for children’s literature and, typically, when well into her nineties she paid her paperboy to take them both through the latest Harry Potter.

Perhaps I should note at this stage that in 1959-60, as children’s librarian in Golders Green Branch Library, I was directly responsible to Miss Colwell. When she knew I’d been on Dorothy Neal White’s staff (indeed that link probably landed me the job) she gave me free rein to organise the library, select the stock and introduce one or two Dunedin innovations. When my New Zealand forthrightness once got me into bother with an uppity and demanding mother, Miss Colwell was, as ever, totally supportive. That year was one of the most stimulating in my professional life.

I was truly fortunate to work for two such remarkable children’s librarians. Looking back, I realise that in spite of their differences in nationality, background, training (Dorothy was trained in the USA), personality and style, Eileen Colwell and Dorothy Neal White had much in common.

Although Eileen was the elder by 12 years, their careers largely overlapped. Both women were selected for key positions in their early twenties and continued to be supported by the enlightened Councils and library administrators who had first recognised their singular qualities. Both, in creating lively, attractive children’s libraries, where children’s requests and needs were of paramount importance, demonstrated what public library service to the young should be. Each built up an excellent relationship with her local community, especially with schools, and through talks, lectures and publications promoted children’s literature locally, nationally and internationally. In setting up courses for children’s librarians, they made their profession and their Associations understand that children’s librarianship required specialist skills. In all, Eileen Colwell and Dorothy Neal White were exceptional children’s librarians utterly committed to achieving their very similar goals. In doing so they revolutionised children’s library service in their respective countries.

In 1956 Eileen was appointed MBE and in 1975 Loughborough made her and honourary Doctor of Literature. At 90, among much acclaim, she was presented with the Eleanor Farjeon Award. For Eileen the prize was a particular pleasure as Eleanor Farjeon had not only been a great friend, but she had also written just for her the story Elsie Piddock skips in her sleep. This was to become one of the most haunting and memorable stories in Eileen’s repertoire.


Colwell, Eileen, Once upon a time … Hebden Bridge : Pennine Pens, 2000

Colwell, Eileen, A stryteller’s choice. London : Bodley Head, 1963

Colwell, Eileen, Storytelling. London : Bodley Head, 1980

Elsie Piddock skips in her sleep in Eleanor Farjeon’s Martin Pippin in the daisy field. London : Oxford, 1937

NB. Eileen Colwell produced some 25 anthologies of stories, often annotated, for storytellers. Many of these collections should still be available in libraries.


Daily Telegraph (newspaper cutting) 18. 9. 02 (no page number)

Guardian Unlimited Books,11617,798789,00.html 3 pages 27/11/2002-12-08

Times Online,,1-45-435163,00.html

Alison Grant
Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection Committee


The 2001 Annual General Meeting agreed to hold the subscription rate at $20 a year. It was also suggested that 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 DNW Collection. 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


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