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Elizabeth George Speare

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Elizabeth George Speare
Born(1908-11-21)November 21, 1908
Melrose, Massachusetts, US
DiedNovember 15, 1994(1994-11-15) (aged 85)
Tucson, Arizona, US
GenreChildren's historical fiction
Notable works
Notable awardsNewbery Medal
1959, 1962
Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal
SpouseAlden Speare
  • Alden Jr.
  • Mary Elizabeth Carey[1]

Elizabeth George Speare (November 21, 1908 – November 15, 1994) was an American writer of children's books, best known for historical novels including two Newbery Medal winners. She has been called one of America's 100 most popular writers for children and some of her work has become mandatory reading in many schools throughout the nation.[1][2] Indeed, because her books have sold so well she is also cited as one of the Educational Paperback Association's top 100 authors.[3]

Speare is one of six writers with two Newbery Medals recognizing the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[4] In 1989 she received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for her contributions to American children's literature.[5]


Speare was born in Melrose, Massachusetts to Harry Allan and Demetria Simmons George. Her childhood, as she later recalled, was "exceptionally happy" and Melrose was "an ideal place in which to have grown up, close to fields and woods where we hiked and picnicked, and near to Boston where we frequently had family treats of theaters and concerts."[3] She had an extended family with one brother and many aunts, uncles, and cousins, and most importantly, very loving and supportive parents.[citation needed] Speare lived much of her life in New England, the setting for many of her books.

Speare discovered her gift for writing at the age of eight and began composing stories while still in high school. After completing her Bachelor of Arts degree at Smith College in 1930, she earned her Master's degree in English from Boston University and taught English at several private Massachusetts high schools from 1932 to 1936. In 1936 she met her future husband, Alden Speare, and together the two moved to Connecticut where they married and raised two children; Alden, Jr., who was born in 1939, and Mary in 1942. Although Speare always intended to write, the challenges and responsibilities of being a mother and wife drained her of any free time. Speare began to focus seriously on literature when her children were in junior high school.

Literary career[edit]

Speare's first published work was a magazine article about skiing with her children.[citation needed] She also wrote many other magazine articles based on her experiences as a mother, and even experimented with one-act plays. Eventually her work saw circulation in Better Homes and Gardens, Woman's Day, Parents, and American Heritage.

Speare's first book, Calico Captive, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1957. It features a colonial New Hampshire family kidnapped by Native Americans in 1754. The next year she completed her second historical novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which won numerous awards including the Newbery Medal. Ideas and inspiration for both books came to Speare while she was researching the history of New England and Connecticut, respectively. She earned her second Newbery Medal for her third book, The Bronze Bow, published in 1961. The Sign of the Beaver (1984) was a Newbery Honor winner[4] and won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction[6] and the Christopher Award.[citation needed]

Biographer Marilyn Fain Apseloff wrote, “…she is not merely a writer of escapist literature, bringing only the past to her readers; in exploring universal problems and offering timeless values, she offers them hope for the present and the future as well.”[5] In 1989 the professional children's librarians awarded Speare the Wilder Medal, which recognizes a living author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". At the time it was awarded every three years.[7]


Speare died of an aortic aneurysm on November 15, 1994, in Northwest General Hospital, in Tucson, Arizona.[1]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Sullivan, Ronald (November 16, 1994). "Elizabeth G. Speare, 84, Author Of Children's Historical Novels". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 2008-06-15. Mrs. Speare is survived by her husband, Alden, and a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Carey of Shaker Heights, Ohio.
  2. ^ McElmeel, Sharron L (April 2004). "100 Most Popular Children's Authors". Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  3. ^ a b "EPA's Top 100 Authors". Detroit, Michigan: Educational Paperback Association. Archived from the original on 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". ALSC. ALA.
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  5. ^ "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  6. ^ The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1985. New York: Newspaper Enterprise Association, Inc. p. 415. ISBN 0-911818-71-5.
  7. ^ Apseloff, Marilyn Fain (1991). Elizabeth George Speare. Twayne Publishers. pp. xii.

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