Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lois Lenski, Storycatcher

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lois Lenski, Storycatcher

Article excerpt

Lois Lenski, Storycatcher. By Bobbie Malone. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. Pp. x, 323. $26.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-5386-5.)

Five decades of America's twentieth century come alive in this readable, meticulously researched, and well-documented first full-length biography of Newbery Award-winning children's author-illustrator Lois Lenski. Historian and educator Bobbie Malone traces the evolution of Lenski's work and ties her determination to create her art to the economic and social realities that surrounded women and educational movements, especially between the 1920s and the 1960s. Malone's narrative proves that Lenski, a talented and energetic documentarian of American life who was part of the 1920s surge in children's book publishing, aimed to promote empathy and a sense of social justice in young readers.

Malone follows Lenski from her 1893 birth in Ohio to her death in 1974, framing the author's achievements in the context of women's expected place in American society. After earning an education degree, Lenski refused a teaching job and instead went to New York City in 1915, where she lived at a Young Women's Christian Association branch for women interested in the arts. In 1921, at the age of twenty-seven, she married her mentor, muralist and illustrator Arthur Sinclair Covey, whose first wife had died soon after giving birth to their second child. Throughout the book, Malone describes Lenski's fulfilling life wherein she quietly contested her domestic roles and worked tirelessly to realize her professional dreams. As her husband's painting commissions dissipated during the Great Depression, Lenski became the primary breadwinner, but she never claimed that title herself. In her autobiography and in her letters to friends, Lenski shared that her husband expressed no interest in her books. Yet she pressed on and managed her own professional affairs, earned money from magazines with perfect-mother-myth satirical essays after she bore a son at age thirty-five, networked for field research, and published and illustrated one hundred books.

Lenski's fine illustrations for her own and other writers' children's books added to her success, but it was her respectful portrayals of diverse ethnic groups and working-class families--including migrant laborers, sharecroppers, and coal miners--that broke new ground. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.