Ellen MacGregor

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Ellen MacGregor (May 15, 1906 – March 29, 1954) was an American children's writer. She is known best for the Miss Pickerell series of children's novels.

Life[edit]

She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to George Malcolm MacGregor and Charlotte Genevieve Noble MacGregor. and was educated in schools in Garfield and Kent, Washington. She attended the University of Washington in Seattle, receiving a Bachelor of Science in library science in 1926. She did postgraduate work in science at the University of California, Berkeley. She worked in numerous libraries, wrote several well-received children's books and numerous magazine articles, and died in 1954 at the age of 47.[1]

Library career[edit]

MacGregor worked in many jobs. She was a librarian for the elementary schools of the Central Hawaii School district and a cataloguer in the Hilo Library in Hawaii. She supervised the compilation of the Union Catalog of Art in Chicago and was a research librarian with International Harvester in Chicago, Illinois. She worked in Florida as a librarian at the Naval Operating Base in Key West, and organized and administered the library at the Naval Air Technical Training Center. She did research in children's literature for Scott, Foresman, and Company; served as the serials librarian of the Chicago Undergraduate Division of the University of Illinois; and was an editor of the Illinois Women's Press Association monthly bulletin, Pen Points.

Writing career[edit]

MacGregor began to write for publication in 1946. A story that she submitted at that time for a class at the Midwestern Writers Conference was later published as the book Tommy and the Telephone. The first appearance of Miss Pickerell, her famous and quirky major character was in the short story "Swept her into Space", published in Liberty during 1950. She expanded it to book length, published in 1951 as Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars, a science fiction novel for children. MacGregor's goal was to provide fantasy literature with correct (for the time) scientific facts that would appeal to children. Miss Pickerell was well received by critics, such as Virginia Kirkus, who wrote: "A lively novelty. Fact and fancy in a new venture for this age group." It was also released as the initial selection of the new Weekly Reader Children's Book Club. Three other Miss Pickerell adventures followed before MacGregor's early death.

Besides these books, many of MacGregor's stories appeared in magazines of that period, such as Story World, The Instructor, and Christian Home.

Published books[edit]

Written by MacGregor[edit]

Two Miss Pickerell titles and two other children's books written by MacGregor were published by McGraw-Hill after her death.

  • Tommy and the Telephone. illustrated by Zabeth. Chicago. Whitman. 1947.
  • Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill, 1951: London. Blackie. 1957.
  • Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1953: London. Blackie. 1958.
  • Miss Pickerell Goes Undersea. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1953: London. Blackie. 1959.
  • Miss Pickerell Goes to the Arctic. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1954: London. Blackie. 1960.
  • Theodore Turtle. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1955: London. Faber. 1956.
  • Mr. Ferguson of the Fire Department. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1956.
  • Mr. Pringle and Mr. Buttonhouse. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1957.

Written by Dora Pantell from MacGregor's notes[edit]

After MacGregor's death in 1954, McGraw-Hill searched unsuccessfully for someone to continue the series until 1964, when they selected Dora Pantell, a social worker, and a writer of publicity and educational curricula. In addition to children's books, Pantell wrote numerous textbooks and manuals, mainly on teaching of English as a second language.[2] Since the later books of the series deal with issues or themes that did not exist or were not apparent during MacGregor's lifetime (energy crisis, computers, artificial satellites), it seems clear that Ms. Pantell was continuing "in the spirit" of Ellen MacGregor and Miss Pickerell.

  • Miss Pickerell on the Moon. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1965
  • Miss Pickerell Goes on a Dig. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1966
  • Miss Pickerell Harvests the Sea, with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1968.
  • Miss Pickerell and the Weather Satellite. with Dora Pantell, illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1971.
  • Miss Pickerell Meets Mr. H.U.M. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1971.
  • Miss Pickerell Takes the Bull by the Horns, with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1976.
  • Miss Pickerell to the Earthquake Rescue. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1977.
  • Miss Pickerell and the Supertanker. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1978.
  • Miss Pickerell Tackles the Energy Crisis. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1980.
  • Miss Pickerell on the trail. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1982.
  • Miss Pickerell and the Blue Whales. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1983.
  • Miss Pickerell and the war of the computers. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. F. Watts. 1984.
  • Miss Pickerell and the Lost World. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York. F. Watts. 1986.

The Miss Pickerell series[edit]

MacGregor is best known as an author from the Miss Pickerell children's science fiction series, although only four of them were published in her lifetime. She left sufficient notes on planned future novels to enable Dora Pantell to write and publish Miss Pickerell books, the last one, Miss Pickerell and the Lost World, appearing in 1986.

Miss Lavinia Pickerell is an unlikely heroine: prim, spinsterly, angular and stiff, wearing old‑fashioned clothes and an outlandish hat, and devoted to her pet cow, she nevertheless manages to inadvertently stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure. But with her common-sense, practicality, and unflappable demeanor she manages to bring each adventure to a satisfactory conclusion. She is every child's favorite maiden aunt, and is possibly modeled after MacGregor herself.

The series resembles others that are written by other writers long after the deaths of their creators, such as Tom Swift and Nancy Drew. But only one other author has written in the Miss Pickerell "universe" for publication,[3] Dora Pantell, who was also responsible for bringing other Ellen MacGregor-conceived projects to completion.

Later writers who indicated that Miss Pickerell had been either an influence or a favorite include such authors as Harry Turtledove,[4] Susan Page Davis,[5][6] and Sam Riddleburger.[7]

Science in Miss Pickerell[edit]

MacGregor included valid scientific facts in her Miss Pickerell books. Some of the topics she addressed were weightlessness in space travel, atomic energy and carbon-14 dating, nuclear-powered submarines and the continental shelf, the "bends" affecting divers who surface too rapidly, and many others.

To Mars, to the Arctic, above the ground or below, Miss Pickerell is dauntless, intrepid, and eager. It's all good fun, but with a bonus. The scientific basis of each of the Miss Pickerell stories is scrupulously accurate. Although she was careful not to overburden her fragile plots with didactic passages explaining gravity, radiation, etc. Ellen MacGregor managed very skillfully to incorporate a good deal of information that a child reader could absorb almost without realizing it. With rare judgement, she gauged just how much to present to the 8-12’s who are Miss Pickerell's audience. A clear picture in bald outline, rather than a mass of confusing and discouraging detail, is most apt to appeal to and instruct that active age group. [8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Biographical entry for Ellen MacGregor at RootsWeb (Ancestry.com). Retrieved 2008-06-21. [1]
  2. ^ The Miss Pickerell series.[2].
  3. ^ The Miss Pickerell series. Iowa Public Schools. Retrieved 2008-06-21.[3].
  4. ^ Author/Editor Interview at Baen Books, 2005. "I think I found the Miss Pickerell stories and the Mushroom Planet books when I was in about the third grade." Retrieved 2015-09-04. [4].
  5. ^ At the Chat 'n' Chew Cafe' with Crystal Laine Miller – Interview with Susan Page Davis. Her Favorite Childhood Book: Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars. Retrieved 2008-06-21. [5].
  6. ^ Susan Page Davis - Author. Retrieved 2008-06-21.[6].
  7. ^ Sci Fi For Kids. With a "ridiculousness rating" of 3. Retrieved 2008-06-21.<http://riddleburger.wordpress.com/category/sci-fi-for-kids/>
  8. ^ Good science fiction, like good nonsense or fantasy. must be firmly grounded in the world of reality. RootsWeb at Ancestry.com, bio of Ellen MacGregor. Retrieved 2008-06-21. [7].

External links[edit]