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Author Information: Elizabeth Yates

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Elizabeth Yates, author of over forty books for children, was perhaps best known for her book Amos Fortune, Free Man, the winner of the 1951 Newbery Award. Carefully researched and convincingly written, it is a biography which displays a power of language and imagination that draws the reader into the life of an African prince who is enslaved and taken to America. As the steadfast hero painstakingly works his way to both spiritual and physical freedom, Miss Yates succeeds in making complex issues of injustice, fortitude and forgiveness remarkably accessible to the child. In With Pipe, Paddle, and Song she has a similar success in capturing for the thoughtful older child the reality and meaning of love between a man and a woman—a particularly challenging achievement in a day and age when love and relationship have been separated from their true context of commitment. A description about Elizabeth Yates, written by her husband William McGreal in 1951, reveals in part the reason for her success. He writes: “She has plenty of courage, a strong faith and a native expectancy of good. Living with her is a high adventure.”

A life of adventure can begin quietly enough. Elizabeth Yates was born in New York State in 1905 and her first storymaking occurred on the back of her horse Bluemouse during long rides through the countryside. In 1926, still determined to be an author she moved to New York City to launch her writing career. She undertook a variety of assignments: reviewing books, writing short stories, and doing research. When she married William McGreal they moved to England where her first book, High Holiday, based on her travels in Switzerland with three English children, was published. In 1939 the McGreals returned to the United States and settled on an old farm in New Hampshire.

Miss Yates continued to write books, still finding time to pursue her other hobbies, which included gardening and walking. A friendship begun in England with artist Nora Unwin continued to flourish personally and professionally when, in 1946, the McGreals invited Miss Unwin to come to America to live. She eventually settled into a house in the McGreals' orchard. The artist and author collaborated on many projects, including With Pipe, Paddle, and Song, for which Miss Unwin did the front and back cover illustrations as well as the map at the beginning.


©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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