Eleanor Cameron

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Eleanor Cameron
1965 eleanor cameron with leonard wibberley.jpg
Cameron and Leonard Wibberley in 1965
Born Eleanor Frances Butler
March 23, 1912
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Died October 11, 1996
Monterey, California, USA
Occupation Writer, librarian
Nationality Canada
Period 1950–1996
Genres Children's literature

Eleanor Frances (Butler) Cameron (1912–1996) was a children's author and critic. She published 20 books in her lifetime, including The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954) and its sequels, a collection of critical essays called The Green and Burning Tree (1969), and The Court of the Stone Children (1973), which won the U.S. National Book Award in category Children's Books[1]

Biography[edit]

Eleanor Cameron was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada on March 23, 1912. Her family moved to South Charleston, Ohio when she was three years old, and then to Berkeley, California when she was six. A few years later, her parents divorced. At age 16, she moved with her mother and stepfather to Los Angeles. Cameron studied at UCLA and the Art Center School of Los Angeles. She joined the Los Angeles Public Library in 1930 and later worked as a research librarian for the Los Angeles Board of Education and two different advertising companies. She married Ian Cameron, a printmaker and publisher, in 1934 and the couple had a son, David in 1944.[2]

Her first published book, The Unheard Music (1950), was partially based on her experience as a librarian and was positively received. Cameron did not turn to writing children's books until nine year-old David asked her to write a space story featuring him as the main character.[3] That book, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954), proved to be very popular, spawning four sequels and two short stories over the following 13 years.

With the success of the Mushroom Planet books, Cameron focused on writing for children. Between 1959 and 1989 she produced 12 additional children's novels, including The Court of the Stone Children (1973) and the semi-autobiographical five book Julia Redfern series (1971-1988).

In addition to her fiction work, Cameron wrote two books of criticism and reflection on children's literature. The first, The Green and Burning Tree, was released in 1969 and led an increased profile for Cameron in the world of children's literature. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Cameron worked as a traveling speaker and contributor to publications such as The Horn Book Magazine, Wilson Library Bulletin, and Children's Literature in Education. She was also a member of the founding editorial board for the children's magazine Cricket, which debuted in 1973. Her second book of essays, The Seed and the Vision: On the Writing and Appreciation of Children's Books, reworked versions of speeches and essays and some new essays, came out in 1993. It is her final published book.

From late 1969 until her death Cameron made her home in Pebble Beach, California. She died in hospice in Monterey, California on October 11, 1996 at the age of 84.[4]

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Controversy[edit]

From October 1972 to October 1973 a controversy spawned by Cameron over Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory embroiled the pages of The Horn Book Magazine.[5][6] In a the first of a three part essay titled "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature", Cameron labeled Charlie "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children," finding it to be "sadistic" and "phony."[7] She was especially chagrined at its use as a classroom read-aloud. Dahl replied in the February 1973 issue of Horn Book. He wrote that she was entitled to her opinion, but he felt that she had attacked his character as well. He also scoffed at her recommendation that teachers find better literature to share with their students: "I would dearly like to see Ms. Cameron trying to read Little Women, or Robinson Crusoe for that matter to a class of today's children. This lady is completely out of touch with reality. She would be howled out of the classroom."[8]

In her essay, Cameron also decried the Oompa-Loompas, who were portrayed as abused, half-naked, African pygmy slaves. The pictures and descriptions of the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie were revised by Dahl and his publisher Knopf for the 1973 edition to cast the Oompa-Loompas as dwarves from Loompaland whom Willy Wonka adores.[5] Though this appeared to be a direct result of Cameron's criticism, the brief amount of time between the criticism and the publication of the revised edition of Charlie makes it more likely that the changes had already been put in motion by the time "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature" was published.[9]

Legacy[edit]

Besides winning the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, Cameron's other awards included the 1972 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for A Room Made of Windows, National Book Award runner-up in 1976 for To the Green Mountains and the Kerlan Award in 1985 for her body of work.

Since 1992 Super-Con-Duck-Tivity has presented the Eleanor Cameron Award for Middle Grades, one of its three annual Golden Duck Awards for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction, to the author of an English-language novel written for elementary school children (grades 2 to 6). It is funded largely by DucKon, a yearly science fiction convention in the Chicago region.[10]

Published Fiction[edit]

Published Nonfiction[edit]

  • The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children's Books (1969)
  • The Seed and the Vision: On the Writing and Appreciation of Children's Books (1993)

References[edit]

External links[edit]