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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
Marguerite Henry
Marguerite Henry
13 April 1902 -- 26 November 1997

Marguerite Breithaupt was born on April 12, 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Anna and Louis Brithaupt. Marguerite, who was the youngest of five children, three sisters , named Marie, Elsie, and Gertrude, and a brother named Fred. Louis Brithaupt was a very respected publisher.

On Christmas Day, 1909, seven-year-old Marguerite was greeted by the sight of a little red table that her father had set up for her. The table was complete with a small pitcher containing an array of pencils, scissors, paste, a hole punch, paper clips, and even a pencil sharpener. Best of all, were the stacks of colored paper that her father had included. On the top sheet was a hand-written note: " Dear Last of the Mohicans: Not a penny for your thoughts, but a tablet. Merry Christmas! Pappa Louis XOX." [6] It was this gift that started her on the road to her future writing career.

The following year, Marguerite suffered from rheumatic fever, a serious childhood illness. It left her confined indoors, unable to enjoy the company of animals. She was not even able to attend school with other children her own age. As a result, Henry soon learned the joy that reading could open up magical worlds for her. She would also spend hours in the kitchen in "Marguerite's Corner" just writing with her beloved Christmas gifts.

On Saturdays, Marguerite would join her father at his publishing house. The sound of printing presses was music, and Marguerite would scamper between rows of paper stacked high.

Marguerite sold her first published story in 1913 for $12 to a woman's magazine called The Delineator, which was Anna Breithaupt's favorite reading pleasure. Anna told her daughter that the magazine was looking for submissions from children about any of the four seasons. After a great deal of thought as to which season to write about, Marguerite completed an essay called "Hide-and-Seek in Autumn Leaves."

Every other day after school Marguerite visited the North Side Branch Library. Her father had once told her about someone who had read every book in his local library when he was a child. Marguerite vowed to be the second. Her favorite books were biographies and mysteries,but that did not stop her from falling in love with the Western adventures of Zane Grey. It did not take her long to decide that she wanted to own a ranch someday where horses could romp and play.

She knew that she would need money to be able to own such a farm. After convincing her mother that she could work while keeping her grades up and keeping up on her household chores, Marguerite took a job at the library mending books.

While she always wanted to be a writer, Marguerite flirted with acting while she attended Riverside High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Upon graduating in 1920, she attended the Milwaukee State Teachers College. Marguerite still wanted to write, but she did not think that it was a practical career choice. Since she enjoyed children, loved literature, and could write for a pastime, she decided to become an English teacher. She finished the program two years later.

During the summers, Marguerite joined her sisters on a trip to a fishing camp at Hubert's Resort in northern Wisconsin. It was here that she met her future husband Sidney Crocker Henry. Henry was a business sales manager. He attracted Marguerite's attention on their first meeting. They spent afternnons fishing, sharing their thoughts, and even their dreams for the future. At night, they danced on the resort patio in the moonlight.

When they were all preparing to return home from vacation, Henry invited the Breithaupts to his family's home in Sheboygan. Marguerite and her family did go with him. At the end of the summer, Henry promised to meet Marguerite at the resort the following summer. It was a promise he broke.

A month later, he arrived at the front door of the Breithaupts' home. Once inside, he impressed Louis and Anna as quickly as he had Marguerite. Louis, who was now quite ill, died in 1923. Marguerite felt that "My father passed the torch to Sidney, who kept the flame of love for me burning all through our lifetime. Marguerite and Henry married on May 5, 1923.

It was not long after that they moved to Philapelphia. Henry suggested that Marguerite, who was still writing pieces for magazines, try to contact The Saturday Evening Post. Marguerite followed his suggestion and ended up with a multi-part assignment, which was published not only in the Post, but also in Reader's Digest, Forum, and Nation's Business.

Because Henry's job meant a great deal of moving around, he and Marguerite decided to find a home in the centralized location of Freeport, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. With this move, Marguerite was able to concentrate more on the type of writing she always wanted to do. After listening to two of her friends share tales of their native Finland, Marguerite decided to record the tales in a book called Auno and Tauno, which was published in 1930 by Albert Whitman Publishing.

Marguerite continued writing. With the publication of her first children's book, she had decided to write primarily for children. As a result, she was able to work with all of her effort. Her work was received moderately well.

Marguerite came across a slender picture book called Flip by Wesley Dennis. She loved the illustrations and was amazed to find out that it was his first book. She decided to send one of her books called Justin Morgan Had a Horse, a full-length book, to see if he would be willing to provide illustrations for it. He granted her request and the team of Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis was born. Their first collaboration was named a Newberry Honor Book.

In 1945, Marguerite received a letter "concerning the legend of the Spanish moor ponies that were washed into the sea, centuries ago, when a Spanish galleon was wrecked on a hidden reef ... the ponies swam, unhurt, for the nearest shore, which happened to be Assateague Island off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Today, descendents of these ponies still run wild on that island. One day a year, called Pony Penning Day, oystermen and clam diggers from Chincoteague Island nearby turn cowboy. They round up the wild ponies, drive them into the sea, swim them over to their own island, and sell the colts in a big auction." [2]

After receiving the letter, Henry decided to go to the Pony Penning Day in search of a story. In the summer of 1946, she was joined by Wesley Dennis. She and Dennis returned with the story and a colt named Misty. This was the beginning of Misty of Chincoteague, which was published by Rand McNally in July of 1947. The book was an instant success. Book stores could barely keep copies on the shelf. The book won numerous awards as well as being named a Newberry Honor Book. The book was such a success that the American Library Association even invited Misty to their annual convention in 1948.

The success of the book spread as Marguerite turned the book into a series with King of the Wind, which won the Newberry Award, in 1947 and a number of other titles.

In September of 1966, the writer and illustrator team was divided when Wesley Dennis suffered a heart attack and died. It was a major loss for Marguerite, who relied on his energy, enthusiasm, and constant good humor to make work easier. His drawing had always captured what she had written in words.

Misty, the horse that inspired Marguerite's success, died on October 16, 1972 at the Chincoteague Pony Farm on the island of Chincoteague. She was 26 years old. She was stuffed and can be viewed by the visitors of the Misty Museum on Chincoteague Island.

Sidney Crocker Henry died in 1987. Marguerite and Henry had been married for 64 years. Biologically, they had never had any children, but together, they had shared a pony, a burro, three fox cubs, a horse, a dachsund, a mom-cat who never stopped having kittens, and a poodle named Patrick Henry. Marguerite missed her husband greatly, but was comforteb by the words of her Grandma Beebe. "No one ever dies, not a person or a single pony. Nothing dies as long as there is the memory to enfold it and a heart to love it." [1]

Marguerite Henry died of complications from aa series of strokes on November 26, 1997 at her home in Rancho Sante Fe, California. Henry has written 58 books.

Information for this biography was taken from:
    1) David R. Collins. Write a Book for Me: The Story of Marguerite Henry; Morgan Reynolds, Inc.: Greensboro, N.C., 1999
    2) Anne Commire (ed.). Contemporary Authors, #11; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1977.
    3) Marguerite Henry. Dear Marguerite Henry; Rand McNally: Chicago, 1969.
    4) Marguerite Henry. The Pictorial Life Story of Misty; Rand McNally, Chicao, 1976.
    5) Marguerite Henry [et.al.]. The Illustrated Marguerite Henry; Rand McNally, Chicao, 1980.
    6) "Marguerite Henry", Misty of Chincoteague Foundation (http://www.modelhorses.com/mcf/mhenry.html).
    7) Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. St. James Guide to Children's Writers; St. James Press: Detroit,Mich., 1999.

Titles by Marguerite Henry
J-P-HEN King of the Wind (1984) -- Sham and the stable boy Agba travel from Morocco to France to England, where Sham's majesty is finally recognized, and he becomes the "Godolphin Arabian," ancestor of the most superior thoroughbred horses.

J-P-HEN Misty of Chincoteague (1947) -- Two youngsters' determination to own a Chincoteague pony is greatly increased when the Phantom and her colt are among those rounded up for the annual auction.

J-Henry Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague (1949) -- A wild colt rescued by two children is raised by a mare who has lost her own way.

J-P-HEN Stormy, Misty's Foal (1963) -- A foal, born in the aftermath of a great storm, and her famous mother help raise money to repair the storm damage on Chincoteague Island and restore the herds of wild ponies on Assateague Island.

J-636.1-HEN Album of Horses (1951) -- Filled with unusual and little-known facts, this book presents fascinating information about the most familar breeds of horses.

"Marguerite Henry", Misty of Chincoteague Foundation (http://www.modelhorses.com/mcf/mhenry.html) -- This site provides a brief biography and obituary for Marguerite Henry. 

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