Saturday, March 12, 2016

Women of Character, Courage and Commitment: Carolyn Haywood

Carolyn Haywood, was a popular author and illustrator of children's books who is best known for her ''Betsy'' and ''Eddie'' series.

Born in Philadelphia and she studied to be a teacher before turning to art and to writing. Miss Haywood's writing career began in 1939 with B' is for Betsy, she published 47 more books before her death in 1990. Her picture books and novels used humor in dealing with day-to-day school and family matters. New York Times reviewer, Phyllis Fenner, wrote “Carolyn Haywood makes the everyday doings of children exciting and funny, entering into them from a child's level. That is sheer genius and can't be done by calculation.”

After a prolific writing career, with illustrations, portraits, and murals to boot, Haywood’s stamp is all over Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania. The Elementary School in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, even has a “Carolyn Haywood Corner” in its school library full of Betsy, Eddie, Penny books and my favorite Away Went the Balloons.

The book jacket explains “This ingenious book is about a very special holiday: Balloon Day that is celebrated at Blue Bell School each May. The pupils release balloons with a tag asking the finder to send a message back to the owner. The school is real; the holiday takes place”. In 1970-1971 when I was in 3rd grade, Ms Haywood, who was already my favorite author, came to my school, to write a book about my favorite event! I was over the moon! I didn’t get to meet her, but my parents did. In fact, there is a scene in the book centered around the parents blowing up the balloons with big helium tanks, a task that in the real world my mom chaired. To my young mind, I was like my parents are in the book!!

Away Went the Balloons was a nominee for Children’s Book of the Year in Germany

Babbie Nalle of Chestnut Hill recounting her children’s relationship with their neighbor said “At a very young age, she started them thinking that reading was great fun.” Through her works, that is exactly what Carolyn Haywood did for me as well.

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