Carolyn Haywood was a children’s book author and illustrator, many of whose original works we are proud to hold in the Children’s Literature Research Collection. Her books have enthralled children for nearly seventy-five years--her first book, “B” Is for Betsy, originally published in 1939, was recently reissued in a Harcourt Young Classics edition in 2004. A lifelong Philadelphian, Haywood was born on January 3, 1898. She attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for three years, where she considered herself a “grand-pupil” of the illustrator Howard Pyle after working under his former students Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Wilcox Smith. She worked briefly as a studio assistant to the mural artist Violet Oakley, and maintained a friendship with her for decades afterward. Haywood was encouraged by the children’s book editor Elizabeth Hamilton to write and illustrate children’s books, which she did for fifty years before dying in 1990. She never married and had no children. Haywood’s legacy is the books she wrote and illustrated—over fifty to her name.
Although Haywood began her career as an artist, over the years her identity as an author took center stage. At first Haywood illustrated all of her own works, and even illustrated books by other writers. But starting in the mid-1970s, Haywood declined to do her own illustrations and instead worked with other artists including Glenys and Victor Ambrus and Julie Durell. As the books remained popular and were republished over time, Haywood’s original cover art was replaced by new cover illustrations by various artists. This artwork shows the settings modernized with up to date fashions, contemporary scenery, and, often, more racial diversity than is apparent in Haywood’s original illustrations.
Haywood also reworked her own illustrations. Merry Christmas from Betsy (1970), a compilation of Christmas-themed stories from Haywood’s Betsy books, is a particularly interesting case. While Haywood kept her original text, she created entirely new illustrations. The differences between the originals and the updated versions are striking. Take a look at these two illustrations for the story “Christmas Carols and the Birthday Tree.” The first illustration is from the 1958 book Betsy’s Winterhouse, and the second is from the compilation Merry Christmas from Betsy a dozen years later. Notice how the fashion has changed: the little girl Star, who was wearing a feminine dress in 1958, is wearing pants in 1970. Notice also how both girls’ postures are more relaxed and informal in 1970 than they were in 1958. You might also notice how Haywood’s personal artistic style has evolved, grown more delicate and detail-oriented.
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