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Helen Sewell

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Helen Sewell
Born27 June 1896
Died24 February 1957 (aged 60)
EducationPratt Institute, Packer Collegiate Institute

Helen Sewell (June 27, 1896 – February 24, 1957) was an American illustrator and writer of children's books. She won a Caldecott Medal Honor as illustrator of The Thanksgiving Story[1] by Alice Dalgliesh and she illustrated several novels that were runners-up for the Newbery Medal.

Some of her papers were donated to the University of Minnesota,[2] and other papers are at Cornell University. [3]

Early life[edit]

Sewell was born in Mare Island, California,[2] the daughter of Minnie Moore, a watercolor artist,[1] and William Elbridge Sewell, a Navy commander who later became Governor of Guam.[4] She had two younger sisters.[1]

Her mother died in 1901, before the family moved to Guam. Because of her father's naval career she had also lived in England, France and Sweden. Her father died before her eighth birthday, and Sewell and her sisters moved to Brooklyn to live with an aunt and uncle. At age twelve she became the youngest person to attend the Pratt Institute.[1] She also studied under Alexander Archipenko, who influenced her drawing style. She graduated from Packer Collegiate Institute.[5]

Art career[edit]

Sewell began earning money by illustrating greeting cards.[1] The first book she illustrated was The Cruise of the Little Dipper and Other Fairy Tales, written by Susanne Langer.[2] In 1932 Sewell was the first illustrator of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.[1][6] For the Limited Edition Club Sewell illustrated the poems of Emily Dickinson, plus Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.[5]

Most of the characters in Sewell's art work were drawn from her imagination, and she rarely used artist models.[4] When illustrating the Little House series she consulted photographs of the Wilder family.[7]

Starting with the 1947 book Three Tall Tales Sewell began using a comic book style to add fun to amusing stories, for children had told her that her animals were too true to life for humorous books.[4]


She died on February 24, 1957, in New York City,[2] after a long illness.[4]

Works illustrated[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]