Virginia Lee Burton

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Virginia Lee Burton
Black and white headshot of author Virginia Lee Burton.jpg
BornVirginia Burton
(1909-08-30)August 30, 1909
Newton Centre, Massachusetts, USA
DiedOctober 15, 1968(1968-10-15) (aged 59)
OccupationIllustrator, writer
NationalityAmerican
GenresChildren's picture books
Notable work(s)
Notable award(s)Caldecott Medal
1943
 
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Virginia Lee Burton
Black and white headshot of author Virginia Lee Burton.jpg
BornVirginia Burton
(1909-08-30)August 30, 1909
Newton Centre, Massachusetts, USA
DiedOctober 15, 1968(1968-10-15) (aged 59)
OccupationIllustrator, writer
NationalityAmerican
GenresChildren's picture books
Notable work(s)
Notable award(s)Caldecott Medal
1943

Virginia Lee Burton (August 30, 1909 – October 15, 1968), also known by her married name, Virginia Demetrios, was an American illustrator and children's book author. She both wrote and illustrated seven children's books, including the Caldecott Medal-winning The Little House.

Biography[edit]

Virginia Burton[a] was born in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, the daughter of a British poet-musician mother and a father whom she said was the first dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1] When she was approximately 8 years old, the family moved to San Diego, California, and a year later settled 450 miles north in Carmel-by-the-Sea.[1]

Burton won a state scholarship to the California School of Fine Arts, in San Francisco.[1] Living across the bay in Alameda, while attending art school, she used the long commute by train, ferry boat and cable car "to train myself in making quick sketches from life and from memory of my unaware fellow passengers."[2] In 1928, after a year at art school, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where her father lived and near her sister, a dancer in New York City. She found work as a "sketcher" for the newspaper Boston Evening Transcript, working for two-and-a-half years under its drama and music critic and signing her sketches "VleeB".[2]

In fall 1930, Burton enrolled in a Saturday morning drawing class taught by sculptor and artist George Demetrios at the Boston Museum School, and by spring the two were married.[3] For a year, the couple lived in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where their first son, Aristedes, was born. They then moved to the Folly Cove neighborhood of Gloucester, Massachusetts, though their second son, Michael, was born in nearby Groton on on Burton's birthday in 1935.[4]

She said her she wrote her first published book, Choo Choo (1935), about an anthropomorphic train engine, after a learning experience with a previous, unpublished effort:

My first book, Jonnifer Lint, was about a piece of dust. I and my friends thought it was very clever but thirteen publishers disagreed with us and when I finally got the manuscript back and read it to Aris, age three and a half he went to sleep before I could even finish it. That taught me a lesson and from then on I worked with and for my audience, my own children. I would tell them the story over and over, watching their reaction and adjusting to their interest or lack of interest ... the same with the drawings. Children are very frank critics.[2]

In 1941, Burton founded the Cape Ann, Massachusetts, textile collective Folly Cove Designers, whose works were included in arts and crafts exhibitions of the 1940s and 1950s, and are in the collections of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.[5]

Burton died in 1968 of lung cancer.[6]

Awards and legacy[edit]

Works[edit]

Houghton Mifflin published all seven books that Burton both wrote and illustrated.[6]

Burton said she wrote the comic-strip-format Calico "for both Aris and Mike [her children] in an attempt to wean them away from comic books."[8]
Burton said the house of the title "was based on our own little house which we moved from the street into 'a field of daises with apple trees growing around.'"[8]
Burton based the book's city of Geoppolis and its Highway Dept. on Gloucester, Massachusetts and its Highway Department.[8][9]
Burton said this book reflected "my school days in San Francisco."[8]
Burton presents the history of the world, from Big Bang to her present day, as a theater production.[8]

Illustrated by Burton[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Burton added the middle name later on the advice of her High School principal.
    Cech, John (editor), Dictionary of Literary Biographies: American Writers for Children, 1900-1960, Gale Research, 1983, volume 22, pp. 88.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Burton, Virginia Lee (undated). "Childhood". Houghton Mifflin Company. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Burton, "Early Years", Houghton Mifflin. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011.
  3. ^ Burton, Burton, "Folly Cove", Houghton Mifflin. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011.
  4. ^ "Virginia Lee Burton: Aris & Mike", Houghton Mifflin. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Killeen, Wendy (November 18, 2007). "Writer Remembered". (section, column headlined "Seuss on the Loose") The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Ortakales, Denise (undated). "Women Children's Book Illustrators: Virginia Lee Burton (1909–1968)". Ortakales.com (fan site). 
  7. ^ "Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present". Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Books by Virginia Lee Burton". Houghton Mifflin Company. undated. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ Suite No. 3, "Katie and the Big Snow", by Robert Bradshaw, was commissioned by and performed by the Cape Ann Symphony in 2009.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]