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Robie H. Harris

As a child

I went to a wonderful progressive elementary school in Buffalo, New York, called the Campus School. I loved going to this school – loved going through every grade from kindergarten through eighth grade. I was sad I had to miss the first month of kindergarten – in the US kindergarten is for five-year-olds – because at the end of the summer I broke my leg and was still in a cast. A question kids and adults always ask me is: “When did you publish your first book?” “In kindergarten.” I answer. And they all look surprised. In my kindergarten class, the first thing we did every morning was to draw a picture and tell our teacher a story about our drawing. Each day our teacher would write down our story. At the end of the year each student’s stories and drawings were compiled into a book. I named that book – my first book – Robie’s Stories. It was "published" in June 1946.

As an adult

My family – being a wife and mom, and now a grandmother – also influences my writing. My husband’s work, and the work of my two grown children and their spouses, centres on children. I learn from my entire family all the time. And I can’t wait to see the ways in which my wonderful new grandchildren will weave themselves into my future books! After graduate school I became an elementary school teacher in New York City, and taught children how to write. A few years later, I worked with two veteran and talented children’s book authors, Irma Black and Bill Hooks, at the Bank Street Writers’ Laboratory. Five mornings a week, sitting together with pencil, paper and a toy piano, we wrote a song and the five-minute opening segment for ABC’s Captain Kangaroo show – a morning TV show for young children. Here I learnt to spend the morning writing, and the rest of the day rewriting, and to work with others to create something better than anything I could create by myself.

As an artist

I grew up in a home where all the neighbourhood children played and hung out. The home my children grew up in was that way as well. My mother adored and respected children. I, too, love and respect children – from babies to adolescents – and find them refreshingly honest and always fascinating. Perhaps that’s why children, not animals, are the characters in my books. The Bird and Bee characters I created, are really the voices of children. What I love to write about are the real and powerful feelings children have, and the ways in which they express those strong and perfectly normal feelings. Hence, it’s no surprise that my picture books explore the inner life of children and deal with topics such as love, attachment, independence, loss, sibling rivalry, and even anger and hate. I have written over twenty picture books and non-fiction books, which have been published around the world, and have received numerous awards.

Things you didn't know about Robie H. Harris

  1. I can’t draw for beans!
  2. I love to bike – even when it rains.
  3. I love living in a city and being in cities. But I do like being in the country or the mountains in the summer.
  4. I get very cranky when the weather is over 85° Fahrenheit. I hate it when it’s hot out!
  5. I don’t like Brussels sprouts one bit.
  6. I do like escargots – that’s snails in French – cooked, of course!
  7. I am short. But when I was a child, I loved to play basketball.
  8. Sometimes I think that babies and kids are more fun and more interesting than grown-ups.
  9. ’m a slow writer, and it takes me a long time, sometimes even two or three years from the first time an idea pops into my brain, until a book is completed.
  10. I love to take hikes high up into the mountains – but I don’t like looking over the edge of a sheer drop!

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