Eleanor Estes (May 9, 1906 – July 15, 1988), born Eleanor Ruth Rosenfield in West Haven, Connecticut was best known for her award-winning children’s books, notably Ginger Pye, The Hundred Dresses, and The Moffats series. The town of “Cranbury” in which the Moffat books were set was based on her life in West Haven.
Upon graduating from high school, she joined the staff of the New Haven Free Public Library. Within a few years she was promoted to Head of Children’s Services there. A scholarship allowed her to attend the library school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn NY. There she met her future husband, Rice Estes. Eleanor Estes launched her career as a children’s librarian in the New York Public Library.
The Moffats series
Eleanor’s first book, The Moffats, was published in 1941, followed closely by The Middle Moffat, and Rufus M. The Moffats series was an immediate success, both at home and abroad, semi-autobiographical tales of the author’s own childhood. The Moffats are the four children of a widowed working mother in the early twentieth century.
The Hundred Dresses
The Hundred Dresses, published in 1944, is another Eleanor Estes classic, based upon her own recollections of growing up. Recalling how a classmate of hers was harassed due to her foreignness and shabby clothing, it’s a timeless story on the damaging effects of bullying.
A move, a daughter, and Ginger Pye
Eleanor and Rice Estes moved to Los Angeles, in 1948, and there Helena, their only daughter, was born. During this California sojourn, Eleanor wrote Ginger Pye, the story of a dog also set in the fictional “Cranbury.” This book was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1952. Three of her other books received Newbery Honors, and in the course of her career, many other awards and accolades for being able to encapsulate ordinary childhood experiences into compelling and readable stories. She was also the illustrator of many of her own books.
A return to New York and a prolific career
In the mid-fifties, Eleanor and Rice Estes returned to New York when he was appointed Librarian at Pratt Institute. Eleanor continued to write, and produced The Witch Family, The Alley, and other stories. When her husband retired, the couple moved to New Haven, Connecticut. In all she, produced some twenty books for children, a sampling of which is listed below. She died in Hamden, Connecticut in 1988.
More about Eleanor Estes on this site
- The Moffats (1941)
- The Middle Moffat (1942)
- Rufus M. (1943)
- The Hundred Dresses (1944)
- Ginger Pye (1951)
- Pinky Pye (1958)
- The Witch Family (1960)
- The Moffat Museum (1983)
- Eleanor Estes on Wikipedia
- Reader discussion of Eleanor Estes’ works on Goodreads
- Eleanor Estes Page on Amazon
Articles, news, etc.
- Eleanor Estes obituary in the New York Times
- The Hundred Dresses is a Powerful Book to Read and Share
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