Jim Kjelgaard

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Jim Kjelgaard
Born (1910-12-06)December 6, 1910
New York, New York, United States
Died July 12, 1959(1959-07-12) (aged 48)
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Occupation author
Nationality American
Period 1938 to 1959
Genre juvenile fiction (novels), children's literature, young adult literature
Subject animals, outdoors
Notable works Big Red

James Arthur Kjelgaard (December 6, 1910 – July 12, 1959)[1] was an American author of young adult literature.

Born in New York City, New York, Jim Kjelgaard is the author of more than forty novels, the most famous of which is 1945's Big Red. It sold 225,000 copies by 1956 [2] and was made into a 1962 Walt Disney film with the same title, Big Red. His books were primarily about dogs and wild animals, often with animal protagonists and told from the animal's point of view. Kjelgaard also wrote short fiction for several magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, and Adventure. [3]

obituary below; Graveside services for Jim

 Kjelgaard, 49, a former Milwau-  
 keean who was e of the best  
 known writers of boys' books  
 in the United States, will be  
 held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at  
 Wisconsin Memorial Park.  
    Mr. Kjelgaard died Sunday of  
 cancer at his home in Phoenix,  
 Ariz., to which he moved four  
 years ago from the Milwaukee  
 area because of poor health.  
    A funeral service was held in  
 Phoenix Tuesday and the body  
 was sent here for burial.  
    The author, a prize winning  
 juvenile writer, was known to  
 thousands of readers for his two  
 dozen or more vivid adventure  
 stories.  Most of them had na-  
 ture themes and animal-boy  
     Was Thoughtful Writer  
    Mr. Kjelgaard, a thoughtful,  
 painstaking writer, began his  
 literary career with short fiction  
 and outdoor articles, chiefly for  
 the adult magazine trade.  He  
 turned to juveniles about 1940,  
 after he came to Milwaukee  
 from Galeton, Pa.  
    His interest in Milwaukee was  
 stirred through a correspond-  
 ence with an appreciative read-  
 named Eddie Dresen.  The  
 reader liked Mr. Kjelgaard's  
 magazine pieces.  
    Mr. Kjelgaard learned eventu-  
 ally that "Eddie" was a diminu-  
  tive of Edna and, in 1939, he met  
 Edna in person.  They were mar-  
 ried here shortly afterward.  
    The author, a husky and plain  
 spoken person, was an outdoors-  
 man and spent much of his lei-  
  sure hunting, trapping, and fish-  
  ing in Wisconsin.  His knowl-  
  edge and love of nature was ev-  
  dent in his writing.  
     Wrote of Father Marquette  
    One of his books, "The Explo-  
 rations of Pere Marquette," told  
  about the priest-explorer who  
  early visited the state.  He re-  
  membered many Milwaukee and  
 state friends in dedicating his  
     Mr. Kjelgaard's first juvenile  
  work was "Forest Patrol."  It  
  appeared in 1941. Six years later  
  his book about an Irish setter,  
 called "Big Red," won the prin-  
 cipal medal in the junior book  
  awards of the Boys' Clubs of  
  America.  His books were  
 among Junior Literary Guild  
    His works were lauded by  
 critics as education as well as  
 entertaining and adventurous.  
 The are regarded highly by li-  
 brarians and teachers.  
     "Snow Dog," the story of a  
 Canadian huskie, was a notable  
  book.  "Fire Hunter," a prehis-  
  toric animal tale, was another.  
 More recently, he had written  
  stories with an Arizona setting.  
  Recent stories were "Desert  
 Dog," "Wolf Brother" and  
  "Wildlife Cameraman."  
    First Story Brought $5  
    Mr. Kjelgaard grew up in the  
 Pennsylvania mountains, went  
 to a country school and shot his  
 first deer, when he was 8.  Later,  
 he went to a town school and  
  for two years took Syracuse uni-  
 versity extension courses while  
 he worked at a factory in Endi-  
 cott, N. Y.  He had already sold  
 his first story (for $5) to an out-  
 door magazine.  
    The author always had insist-  
 ed that "you can't write down  
 to kids."  He told how "kids spot  
 weaknesses in a juvenile book  
 that would get by in a book for  
    His philosophy was: "You  
 have to struggle to get up to the  
 kids' level."  
    Mr. Kjelgaard spoke to many  
  gatherings for young readers in  
 the Milwaukee area and was a
 guest on many public library  
 sponsored programs.  
    He is survived by his wife; a  
 daughter, Karen, Phoenix; four  
 brothers, John, Milwaukee; Win-  
 field, Boston; Robert, Endicott,  
 N. Y., and Henry, Athens, Pa.;  
 a sister, Miss Betty Kjelgaard,  
  New York, and his father, Dr.  
 Carroll W. Kjelgaard, New York.  


| last = Drakula
| first = Dave
| contribution = Jim Kjelgaard - From the Bigwoods to Hollywood
| date = July–September 1990
| title = Mountain Journal
| editor-last =
| editor-first =
| volume = Vol. 8, No. 4
| pages =
| place=
| publisher =
| id = }} reprinted on Kjelgaard tribute site</ref>

List of works[edit]

  • Forest Patrol (1941)
  • Rebel Siege (1943)
  • Big Red (1945)
  • The Fangs of Tsan-Lo (1945)
  • Buckskin Brigade (1947)
  • Snow Dog (1948)
  • Kalak of the Ice (1949)
  • A Nose for Trouble (1949)
  • Wild Trek (1950)
  • Chip the Dam Builder (1950)
  • Irish Red, Son of Big Red (1951)
  • Fire-hunter (1951)
  • The Explorations of Pere Marquette (1951)
  • Trailing Trouble (1952)
  • Outlaw Red, Son of Big Red (1953)
  • The Spell of the White Sturgeon (1953)
  • The Coming of the Mormons (1953)
  • Haunt Fox (1954)
  • Cracker Barrel Trouble Shooter (1954)
  • Lion Hound (1955)
  • The Lost Wagon (1955)
  • Desert Dog (1956)
  • Trading Jeff and his Dog (1956)
  • Wildlife Cameraman (1957)
  • Cochise, Chief of Warriors (1957)
  • Double Challenge (1957)
  • We Were There at the Oklahoma Land Run (1957)
  • Wolf Brother (1957)
  • Swamp Cat (1957)
  • Rescue Dog of the High Pass (1958)
  • The Land is Bright (1958)
  • The Black Fawn (1958)
  • The Story of Geronimo (1958)
  • Hi Jolly (1959)
  • Stormy (1959)
  • Ulysses & his Woodland Zoo (1960)
  • Boomerang Hunter (1960)
  • The Duck-footed Hound (1960)
  • Tigre (1961)
  • Hidden Trail (1962)
  • Fawn in the Forest & other Wild Animal Stories (1962)
  • Two Dogs & a Horse (1964)
  • Furious Moose of the Wilderness (1965)
  • Dave and his Dog, Mulligan (1966)
  • Coyote Song (1969)


  1. ^ Trosky, Susan M & Donna Olendorf, ed. (1992), "KJELGAARD, James Arthur 1910-1959", Contemporary Authors, v. 137, Gale Research, pp. 250–252 , as reproduced on Kjelgaard tribute site. Note that some sources give December 10 as birth date, e.g. this biographical sketch.
  2. ^ Doyle, Brian (Spring 1999), "A Small Note About Big Red", American Scholar 68.2, Academic OneFile, p. 134 
  3. ^ FictionMags Index Entry for Jim Kjelgaard
  4. ^ Obituary From The Milwaukee Journal, July 14, 1959 "Copyright 1998 Journal Sentinel Inc., reproduced with permission."

External links[edit]