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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature
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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  65 ratings  ·  23 reviews
An illustrated biography of the innovative geniuses who created children's classics.
Crockett Johnson (born David Johnson Leisk, 1906-1975) and Ruth Krauss (1901- 1993) were a husband-and-wife team that created such popular children's books as The Carrot Seed and How to Make an Earthquake. Separately, Johnson created the enduring children's classic Harold and the Purple Cra
Paperback, 367 pages
Published 2012 by University Press of Mississippi
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  65 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully researched dual biography of two of my favorite children's book authors: Harold and the Purple Crayon's Crockett Johnson and A Hole is to Dig's Ruth Krauss. Giants in the field of Children's Literature, Krauss and Johnson paved the way for a fresher approach in storytelling both in words and pictures. Krauss, with her background in anthropology, often collected children's words and phrases and used them to tell a story, capturing their surprising and refreshing worldview and phrasi ...more
First Second Books
For anyone interested in children's literature: after you read DEAR GENIUS, read this next.
Cara Byrne
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Crockett Johnson shows us that a crayon can create a world, while Ruth Krauss demonstrates that dreams can be as large as a giant orange carrot" (275). This sentence summarizes and concludes a fabulous biography about two important figures in American children's literature. Nel's book is meticulously researched and well-written. A pleasure to read.
Things to love about this book:

Nel adores his subjects and the warmth and fun come shining through, making this an easy and delightful read.

Crockett Johnson grew up in the Queens my elementary school teachers told us existed, but we never saw: marshes, wild lands, bodies of water you could touch, open space. I had a school principal who swore there were pheasants in our neighborhood when he was a young man. (He was twelve-thousand years old when he was our principal.) We did not believe him.

Jun 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Crocket Johnson (David Johnson Leisk) and Ruth Krauss wrote some immortal children's books and sustained a multi-decade marriage. You'd think that would be a good set up for a fascinating biography but...this is not it. While I enjoyed finding out more about two interesting authors, this book was dry going. There are no insights that I couldn't have come to on my own with a few hours research. Oh, and the "dodging the FBI"? They were socialists (at least in theory) and the FBI had files on them. ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Fairly interesting stories, but shockingly poorly written/edited. You would think a book about authors, editors, publishers, etc. would have it more together in that area.
Barb Middleton
"Mommy, don't step on my words," said a cross four-year-old to her mother when she interrupted her. Children phrase words in such unique ways that I wish I was a better record-keeper. So here is my first recording of a comment told to me by a grandma about a phrase her granddaughter likes to use on adults. Why tell you this? Ruth Krauss used to go and listen to children speak at a nursery and kindergarten school near her home. Her picture books were innovative in that she tried to replicate how ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this biography of Ruth Krauss and Dave
("Crockett") Johnson. I had the great pleasure of meeting the author at a conference recently, so my interest was sparked in this work, even though I knew little to nothing about these writers, familiar only with Johnson's book Harold and the Purple Crayon. Well, Nel does a beautiful job establishing the zany symbiosis of these two creative, intrepid, imaginative people and giving the reader a full sense of their world of progressive politics, cuttin
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I saw this book on the New Arrivals shelf at the library and had to take the chance on it. I have been a fan of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby strip ever since I read its all too brief revival in 1960 or 61. I have no idea what struck me then about the strip then and why it has remained so fondly remembered by me all these years. But the subtle and gentle charms of his work are still there when I reread the strips these days. Unfortunately, there is not enough examples of their art work in this book ...more
Samuel Valentino
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, comics, history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
One of my favorite children's books, since I was a child, is "Harold and the Purple Crayon." I was happy to find such a well-researched book about Harold's author and to discover he was married to the author of other well-loved titles, such as "A Hole is to Dig."

Spoiler: There isn't really a lot about dodging the FBI in here. An agent showed up on their porch one day and...that's about it. Some of their friends were called to testify in the McCarthy hearings, but they never were.

Much more of t
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting portrayal of a fascinating and wildly talented couple, as well as an insight into children's book publishing in previous decades. Ruth Krauss, one-time lover of Isamu Noguchi, and student of renowned anthropologist Ruth Benedict, lobbied for diversity in books for children before multiculturalism was cool. She was most famous for her children's books, but she also published poetry and poem plays. Her husband Crockett Johnson of Harold and the Purple Crayon fame, first won acclaim for ...more
Storyteller John Weaver
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved learning more about the writing processes & lives of Johnson (whom I've known well for "Barnaby" and the "Harold & the Purple Crayon" series) and Krauss (whom I didn't know at all, outside a couple of her collaborations with her husband--including the wonderful "The Carrot Seed"). I would have loved for the book to have featured more photos & illustrations, but what this biography does contain is an outstanding bibliography, which I intend to use to track down books by Johnso ...more
Aline Newman
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
I love biographies, especially of authors, magazine writers, and others in the publishing business. And I'm a fan of the charming children's books written by Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss. But this dual biography of the couple disappointed me. It's too dry and academic for my taste. Sad to say but I got halfway through and stopped reading. Maybe I will pick it up again next winter, but for now I'm on to other things.
Robin Ryan
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-books-read
Phillip Nel has an unbelievable amount of information that he gets to share in this nice biography of two of the most important pioneers in the world of children's literature. Though not as well known as Crockett Johnson and his purple crayoned, Harold, Ruth Krauss' prolific career saw the publication of dozens of books that took children's words and speech and made them memorable stories.
Hard to review properly because I skipped around a lot. It is a well-researched, well-written book by a scholar in children's literature, and it is packed with information. I think I was looking for lighter fare, or maybe not as interested in the subject matter as much as I thought I was... Anyway, not for me at this point in time, but not to say this isn't a very well-done book.
Austen to Zafón
I know of both children's authors, but somehow I didn't find this story of their love and careers as interesting as I thought I would. I read the first few chapters and skimmed the rest, learning enough to know that I probably would have found Krauss immensely irritating and would have liked Johnson. Not sure why there were together, but it was apparently as success for both of them.
Mister Mank
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I came for Crockett Johnson, but fell in love with Ruth Krauss along the way. I found this an absolutely delightful and highly inspiring account of love and creativity. I'm not sure which desire is more prevailing - to have known Johnson and Krauss, or to be Johnson and Krauss.
Jan 24, 2013 added it
Shelves: new, read-2013
I was kind of disappointed - I was hoping for more dodging the FBI than conflicts with editors. Still, I enjoyed learning more about the background of some of my favorite children's book authors and seeing how they influenced others, as well as society.
George Seminara
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, looking-at
Filled with all this great stuff I didn't know and I thought I knew a lot about them.
My only critique is that it would have been nice if it were larger and had more art.
But, over-all a great book.
Mary Napoli
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dr. Nel continues to provide scholars with interesting and thought provoking research.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss are fascinating people. They were talented and gifted writers. Unfortunately this book reads more like a dry text book.
Mar 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: apparently no one
Just couldn't get into it.

Their life was fascinating.
The writing was not.
The book went back to the library.
The end.
rated it really liked it
Jan 22, 2013
Susan Schuler
rated it liked it
Sep 29, 2012
Scott Longo
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May 01, 2013
Megan Adler
rated it liked it
Feb 07, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Oct 10, 2012
James Heimer
rated it liked it
Feb 19, 2018
jose cardozo
rated it did not like it
Dec 01, 2017
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Books include Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (Oxford UP, 2017), Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature (UP Mississippi, 2012), Keywords for Children's Literature (co-edited with Lissa Paul, NYU Press, 2011), Tales for Little Rebels: A Collect ...more