February 2, 1899|
Poor Fork, now Cumberland, Kentucky
|Died||October 2, 1985(aged 86)|
|Occupation||Writer, editor, teacher|
|Education||M.A. International Relations|
|Alma mater||Wesleyan College|
|Genres||Appalachian fiction, Children's literature|
|Notable work(s)||Tree of Freedom
A Pocketful of Cricket
Barrie and Daughter
The Far-off Land
|Spouse(s)||James Sterling Ayars (1931)|
Rebecca Caudill Ayars (February 2, 1899 – October 2, 1985) was an American author of children's literature with more than twenty books published. Her Tree of Freedom (Viking, 1949) was a Newbery Honor Book in 1950. A Pocketful of Cricket (Holt, 1964), illustrated by Evaline Ness, was a Caldecott Honor Book.
Caudill was one of ten children in the family of Susan and George Caudill of Harlan County, Kentucky. She was born in Poor Fork, now Cumberland, Kentucky. She graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and then taught English and history 1920–21 at Sumner County High School, Portland, Tennessee. In 1922 she received her master's degree in International Relations from Vanderbilt University. She taught English as a second language (ESL) in Brazil for two years and then returned to Tennessee where she worked briefly as an editor for Abingdon Press, the Methodist Church publishing house in Nashville. She moved to Chicago for a job in a publishing house, and she married James Sterling Ayars in 1931. They moved to Urbana, Illinois in 1937 with their two children.
Caudill's first book, Barrie and Daughter (Viking, 1943), came from memories of her childhood in the hill country of Kentucky and Tennessee. Most of her children's books brought alive the pioneer era of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, evoking the culture of Appalachia she loved. She wrote in her memoir: "Doors in the houses of my Appalachia were never locked against friend or stranger. The people found their pleasures in the simple things of life. They possessed a kind of profound wisdom, characteristic of those who live close to Nature, who walk in step with Nature's rhythm, and who depend on Nature for life itself."
She was the co-founder of the Champaign-Urbana Peace Council; created the hospitality program for international students at Wesleyan College; and served on the boards of trustees for the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County and the Urbana Free Library  in Illinois. She also taught many writing workshops.
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award
The Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award (RCYRBA) is named in honor of Caudill and her contributions to children's literature. The schoolchildren in her adopted state of Illinois, Grade 4 to to Grade 8, vote each year for their favorite of twenty nominees.
- Collier, Laurie and Nakamura, Joyce. Major Author and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. 6 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993.
- Meet Rebecca Caudill (Champaign Public Library)
- Meet Caudill's daughter (Champaign Public Library)