Meet Authors & Illustrators

Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard

   Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard arrived wearing a very large hat. It immediately brought to mind her delightful book Aunt Flossie's Hats ( and Crabcakes Later), 1991, Houghton, Ages 4 to 7, $16.00, the widely acclaimed story of two little girls who visit their great-great aunt on Sundays. Each hat has a wonderful family story associated with it. The adventures of these two little girls continue in What's In Aunt Mary's Room (1996, Houghton, Ages 4 to 7, $14.95) where Sarah and Susan find the missing key and learn more family history.

   An accomplished teacher and writer, Ms. Howard draws on her rich family history for her stories. She loves to tell about ordinary and extraordinary African Americans and to show that these are truly American stories. She didn't start out with the intention of writing, rather she just told stories. She refers to herself as the "Grandma Moses of Children's Literature." However in the 6th grade she did keep a diary and among the complaints of not being able to wear socks (she was wearing brown hose with garters) she also wrote that she would be an author when she grew up. In the 8th grade she adapted Little Women into play form. One thing she did notice when growing up-none of the characters she was reading about were black, but at the time she really didn't question it.

   Her grandfather migrated from Tennessee, went to Howard University, and then moved to Baltimore. CC, as he was known, had a law practice. Her book The Train to Lulu's (1988, Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 8, $4.95) is based upon a real experience-for five summers she traveled South to spend time with relatives. One of her most recent books, Vergie Goes to School With Us Boys (reviewed this page) is based upon experiences in CC's family where the parents had been slaves, but all their children became professionals. She herself is a graduate of Radcliffe and has a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. For years she taught library science and literature courses at the University of West Virginia. Her concluding remark in the Notes that accompany Vergie sum up her feelings--"education will always be the first step in learning to be free."

   As to the house that her aunt owned, it was sold in 1975 and turned into a Bed & Breakfast. Ms. Howard had the pleasure of returning there to sleep in her old room.

 

Reviews

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Illustrations by E. B. Lewis
   Virgie's brothers all go to school and she desperately wants to go with them. The story is set during Reconstruction when blacks were free, but there were few resources to help them get an education and integrate into society. Virgie finally prevails and her parents let her go to a Quaker school seven miles away. As her father says "All free people need learning--Old folks, young folks...small girls too." The distance is so great that the kids bring their clean clothes and food so they can spend the week there. Virgie proves her mettle, and the arduous trek and sheer joy on her face once at the school are beautifully captured in E. B. Lewis' watercolors. 2000, Simon & Schuster, Ages 6 to 8, $16.00. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-689-80076-2

What's in Aunt Mary's Room
Elizabeth Fitgerald Howard
Illustrated by Cedric Lucas
   Susan and Sarah, two sisters, spend a special time with Aunt Flossie exploring Aunt Mary's room, which has been locked up quite awhile. There is excitement and a sense of mystery when they find the family Bible. As they explore their family tree, they recognize that they are a part of that tree. With pride they enter their names becoming a part of their African-American heritage. 1996, Clarion Books, Ages 6 to 9, $14.95. Reviewer: Leila Toledo
ISBN: 0-395-69845-6

When Will Sarah Come?
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Pictures by Nina Crews
   In the fall, excited boys and girls head off to school for the first time. But what about those young siblings left at home? Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard's When Will Sarah Come? is the lament of young Jonathan, a darling toddler who mourns the loss of big sister Sarah who's gone off to kindergarten. Grandmom, who stays with him, does her best to entertain him, but Jonathan only wants Sarah. Nothing satisfies him, not riding his red fire truck, watching tree trimmers, or blowing bubbles. Every sound and sight brings a memory of Sarah. Finally, he is rewarded with the sight of the big yellow bus approaching, Sarah runs up the steps to him, and he is completely happy after a joyous fire truck romp with his beloved big sister. Howard's words are few and simple and she wisely uses toddler-type noises to picture the small boy's lonely play world. Photographs by Nina Crews sparkle with colors and emotions. 1999, Greenwillow, Ages 2 to 4, $16.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-688-16180-4

 

Updated 2001

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If you're interested in reviewing children's and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to marilyn@childrenslit.com.

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