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Good Books For Bad Children

The Genius of Ursula Nordstrom



Anne Schwartz Books

(Random House Kids)

(pub. 9.19.2023)

48 pages

4 - 8 years

Author: Beth Kephart

   Illustrator: Chloe Bristol

Character: Ursula Nordstrom


" Ursula Nordstrom was a grown-up who never forgot what it was to be a child. The girl who'd always loved to read would grow up to work in the Department of Books for Boys and Girls at Harper & Brothers Publishers. Soon she was editing books by Margaret Wise Brown and E. B. White, discovering new talent like John Steptoe and Maurice Sendak, and reinventing what a book for children should be.

'Children want to be seen,' she'd tell her writers. 'Not good enough for you,' she'd scribble in the margins of their manuscripts, asking them to revise. Her favorite books of all? 'Good books for bad children,' she'd say. And those books went on to win every award imaginable, including the Caldecott and Newbery Medals and the National Book Award."

Tantalizing taste:

"Ursula published what she pleased.

She was curious.

She was honest.

She knew what to ask her writer and artists

and how best to listen -

how to stare out through her bright blue eyes

and her wide spectacles

and encourage their most fabulous stories.

'Children want to feel seen,' she said,

in a voice some called musical

and some called gravelly.

'Children deserve our best.'"

And something more: Beth Kephart, in the Author's Note writes that Maurice Sendak said, "I loved her on first meeting. My happiest memories, in fact, are of my earliest career, when Ursula was my confidante and best friend."

Beth Kephart shares about her inspiration for writing this story: "I fell in love with Nordstrom several years ago, when teaching children's literature at the University of Pennsylvania...[and when she learned that Ursula proudly defended] E. B. White's right to write about a talking mouse named Stuart Little. My kind of editor ... I have followed her through the channels of my own imagination - puzzling through her inconsistencies, weighing the mythologies, and doing my utmost best to honor her, with the help of my own perfection-nudging editor, Anne Schwartz."


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