Rebecca Caudill

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Rebecca Caudill
Born(1899-02-02)February 2, 1899
Poor Fork, now Cumberland, Kentucky
DiedOctober 2, 1985(1985-10-02) (aged 86)
OccupationWriter, editor, teacher
EducationM.A. International Relations
Alma materWesleyan College
GenreAppalachian fiction, Children's literature
Notable worksTree of Freedom
A Pocketful of Cricket
Barrie and Daughter
The Far-off Land
Susan Cornish
SpouseJames 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 eleven children in the family of Susan and George Caudill of Harlan County, Kentucky. She was born in Poor Fork, now Cumberland, Kentucky.[1] 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."[2]


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.


Many of these works are translated into at least five other languages besides English.

  • Barrie and Daughter (1943)
  • Happy Little Family (1947)
  • Schoolhouse in the Woods (1949)
  • Tree Of Freedom (1949)
  • Up and Down the River (1951)
  • Florence Nightingale (1953)
  • Saturday Cousins (1953)
  • The House of the Fifers (1954)
  • Susan Cornish (1955)
  • Schoolroom in the Parlor (1959)
  • Time for Lissa (1959)
  • Higgins and the Great Big Scare (1960)
  • The Best-loved Doll (1962)
  • A Pocketful of Cricket (1964)
  • The Far-off Land (1964)
  • A Certain Small Shepherd (1965)
  • The High Cost of Writing (1965)
  • Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley? (1966)
  • My Appalachia: a reminiscence (1966)
  • Come Along (1969)
  • Contrary Jenkins (1969)
  • Rebecca Caudill (1969)
  • The World of Rebecca Caudill (1970)
  • Somebody Go and Bang a Drum (1974)
  • Wind, Sand and Sky (1976)
  • From Hardshell Baptist to Quaker (1979)
  • The Joyous Land: a play for childhood and youth week (n.d.)

See the website for a list of Caudill's books by interest level, genre/theme and grade level equivalency.

Awards and honors[edit]

In the fall of 1963, the University of Kentucky, Southeast Center honored her with Rebecca Caudill Day. Harlan County's first community library was located in Cumberland, Kentucky, and in 1965 it was named the Rebecca Caudill Public Library in her honor.[3]

Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame[edit]

Rebecca Caudill was inducted into The Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame at an induction ceremony on Thursday, January 23, 2014, at the Carnegie Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Caudill was the Kentucky Hall of Fame's first children's author.[4]

Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award[edit]

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 Grade 8, vote each year for their favorite of twenty nominees.


  1. ^ Warner, Mary. "The Contributions of Rebecca Caudill and Dorothy Hoobler to Appalachian Literature for Young Adults." AppLit. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  2. ^ Caudill, Rebecca. My Appalachia: A Reminiscence (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966), 31.
  3. ^ "Guide to the Rebecca Caudill Papers, 1955-1962". Special Collections at Belk Library. Appalachian State University. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame 2014". WUKY. NPR Digital Network. Retrieved 27 February 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Collier, Laurie and Nakamura, Joyce. Major Author and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. 6 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993.
  • Rebecca Caudill Papers, 1928-1963, Special Collections Research Center, University of Kentucky. Finding Aid
  • Rebecca Caudill Papers, 1955 - 1962, Special Collections at Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC - Finding Aid
  • Rebecca Caudill in Southern Appalachian Writers Collection, D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville - Finding Aid

External links[edit]