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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Margaret Wise Brown: Doing Her Up Right

As you may have heard, Mr. Leonard Marcus, our foremost Margaret Wise Brown scholar out there, will be speaking at my library this coming Saturday at 2:00 p.m. about the lady’s life and work.  But before he prepared for this speech, he recently conducted a lovely tour of the stomping grounds of Ms. Brown during her life here in NYC.

Linda Marshall was kind enough to send me some pics from the walk itself.  All credit is entirely to her!

Leonard begins the tour:

He discusses The Little Red School House in front of the building in question:

And here we have the little cottage that Margaret Wise Brown used as her studio. The cottage is now in the Village, but it had been located on the upper East Side.  Tiny little bit of a thing.  Gets quite dwarfed by the monster behind it.

But was that all the MWB celebrating that happened recently?  I tell you here and now that it was not!  As I may have mentioned before, Brenda Bowen had the singular idea to celebrate MWB’s 100th birthday in an original fashion.  Since MWB and her agent Ursula Nordstrom are said to have had tea on the steps of NYPL to be snarky to Anne Carroll Moore (resident librarian), why not reenact the moment?  So with at least two NYPL librarians in tow (myself and Jeanne Lamb) Brenda, illustrator Stephen Savage, and a host of fine folks, we celebrated her b-day in style.

Here is a picture, taken by the aforementioned Mr. Savage, of Monica Edinger, myself, Dianne Hess, Jeanne Lamb, Brenda Bowen, and the fabulous Lori Ess.

Ironically, we didn’t have a copy of Goodnight Moon on hand, so I ran into the children’s room and checked out a copy.  Sort of the perfect capper to the day.  You can read Monica’s telling of the event here, and Brenda’s own telling here.

Good times.  Thanks to Mr. Savage for the picture.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. The picture of the cottage brings to mind Virginia Lee Burton’s “The Little House.”

  2. You wrote “Since MWB and her agent Ursula Nordstrom are said to have had tea on the steps of NYPL to be snarky to Anne Carroll Moore (resident librarian)…” But I want to know *why* they wanted to be snarky to Mizz Moore? Was she a mean librarian? Perish the thought!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ah! The exact details are unclear to me, but here is what I’d gather. ACM wasn’t too fond of Ms. Brown’s books and didn’t carry many, if any, of them. She also would have lovely children’s literature events which MWB was not invited to. So one day Brown and Nordstrom decided to have a tea on the steps during one such event so that the attendees would have to walk around them. Now by my calculations, that means that they must have had tea on the side steps facing 42nd Street, and not the main front steps. However, if we were to do our celebration there, we really would have blocked the way of the passersby, so we did it on the front steps.

      And to defend my predecessor, ACM was a strong willed woman. What she liked, she liked. What she didn’t like became notorious. And because she was pretty good at picking winners, the only time you ever really hear about her is when she disliked something that later went on to become huge. MWB and Nordstrom gave as good as they got, so no worries there. It was a time of powerful women.

  3. Ooh, was she also the one who didn’t like EB White–and preferred AA Milne?

  4. You can read much more about the history of the ACM/MWB split in Leonard Marcus’s splendid book, “Minders of Make-Believe,” which should be required reading for all children’s book specialists. It was actually a philosophical split – the NYPL librarians, dominated by Ms. Moore, specialized in folklore and fairy tale in their fabled story times at the library, while the downtown crowd, led by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, author of the “Here and Now Storybook,” founder of the Bank St. school, and mentor to Margaret Wise Brown, favored stories anchored in the real world and the present day. As Leonard tells it, this famous division between two ideas – children need fantasy vs. children need reality-based stories – was a major battle in the early 20th century. And it extended well beyond ACM’s dislike of ‘Brownie’s’ picture books … see the “Annotated Charlotte’s Web” for some fascinating back matter on Moore’s criticism and dislike of the one book that comes out on top of most polls (including Betsy’s) of best children’s novels.

  5. This is a great post! I have always been fascinated by MWB and it’s fun to know that she had a fiesty side.