of the Center for Children's Books:
|Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books..
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Barbara Leonie Picard
"When I was a small child, polite people said of me that I was shy; I never was, I was merely unsociable. When I was grown up, they called me reserved; I was, but only because I was unsociable. Now that I am old, they speak of me as a recluse: and I am a recluse-because I am still unsociable."
--Barbara Leonie Picard
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, V. 10, p. 229-30
Barbara Leonie Picard is a name sometimes vaguely recalled from shelf-reading the 398s. More positively, hers is name recalled with gratitude by young readers struggling with arcane retellings of Odysseus, Gilgamesh, and King Arthur, as they seize upon her cogent retellings of classical myths and legends. Picard's own experiences in English public schools and during two world wars could be the plot of a novel by Bawden, or Phipson, or even Cresswell. Determined to be a writer from her youngest days, Picard wrote plays for her own pleasure, always planning at some point to write novels for adults. Her first published book was not for adults, however, but for children. The Mermaid and the Simpleton is a collection of literary fairy tales of the kind she loved and admired by authors Wilde, Andersen, and Housman. Other collections of original fairy tales followed, and Picard made her mark in a genre that includes Eleanor Farjeon and Howard Pyle. In 1952 Picard was given the opportunity to retell Homer's Odyssey; other adaptations of classical myths, legends, and epics followed. What is striking about Picard's prose in these retellings is the resonant, almost ceremonial language she uses to convey both story and feeling. Her narratives have the ring of tales told by skald and bard, and her choice of words would fill great halls. Her literary fairy tales are lushly romantic, with poetic language and an almost other-worldly knowledge that informs and enriches them. Today's library collections are often strongly influenced by contemporary trends and popular genres, and Picard's older, and, sadly, perhaps forgotten works nestle quietly among the myths, legends, and fairy tales. Open one of her books and read it aloud. See how her words will still echo in the storytelling rooms and libraries that have become our great halls.
--Janice M. Del Negro, editor
This page was last updated on May 1, 2000.