Many talented educators earn recognition for achievements outside their classrooms. Marcia Joan Brown is a spectacular example of this. She is an internationally renowned author and illustrator of children’s books. Marcia has published over thirty books in her lifetime, and she is a three-time winner of the coveted Caldecott Medal, the highest award for excellence in children’s picture book illustrations bestowed by the American Library Association.
Marcia Brown was born in Rochester, New York, on July 13, 1918, one of three daughters of the Reverend Clarence Edward and Adelaide Elizabeth (Zimber) Brown. As a young child, Marcia lived in several small towns in upstate New York, including Cooperstown and Kingston, as her father moved from one ministerial post to another. She was raised in a family that supported artistic expression, and she decided at an early age to become an artist. In a videotaped interview in 1996, Marcia reminisced about the books and artworks in her local public library in Cooperstown, New York, that as a child nurtured her sense of wonder and joy in beautiful things.
After her high school graduation in 1936, Marcia enrolled in New York State College for Teachers (NYSCT), the University at Albany’s predecessor, where she majored in English and Drama. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1940. While in college her literary and artistic talents blossomed, as she made numerous contributions to the college’s literary and humor magazines.
After graduating from NYSCT, Marcia accepted her first position as a high school teacher at Cornwall High School in New York City. In 1943, she began working in the New York Public Library’s Central Children’s Room. She spent the next six years gaining valuable experience as a storyteller ,while also delving into the library’s extensive international and historical collections. She published her first four books while working in the library’s Central Children’s Room.
During her long career as a writer and illustrator, Marcia produced over thirty children’s books, and many of her titles have been reprinted in other languages, including Afrikaans, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Xhosa-Bantu. Critics have marveled at her use of spare texts, strong images, and a variety of media, including woodcuts, pen and ink, and gouache. Her characters are described as lively, humorous, magical, and enchanting, and they include handsome princes, sly cats, evil sorcerers, flying elephants, and snow queens.
From 1955 to 1983 Brown won a total of three Caldecott Medals, the award bestowed annually to the illustrator of the year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children” by the American Library Association. She had been a runner-up six times from 1948 to 1954, and those six books have been designated Caldecott Honor Books.
Today, Marcia Brown lives in California and continues to produce works of writing and illustration.