On January 29, 1943 Rosemary Wells was born in New York City. She grew up in New Jersey where her parents and grandmother filled her life with books, stories and art. “When I was a child, I remember drawing more than any other single thing. I loved the outdoors, and I used to play baseball and run around in the woods. But when I came home in the evening, I would draw.”
Wells started college at the Museum School in Boston, but dropped out and married at the age of 19. With her husband, she moved back to NYC and found a job working as a designer at Macmillan Publishing. There she published her first book in 1968. A Song to Sing, O! is an illustrated version of a Gilbert and Sullivan song.
Today, Wells has more than one hundred and twenty books to her credit, including the popular Max and Ruby series, Noisy Nora, and Yoko the cat series. Over the years, her two daughters have been a constant inspiration. “I’d like to think that my own childhood and the childhoods of my two girls provide me with enough stories forever. Here’s why: childhood is really about a set of private emotions and thoughts and sometimes even worries.”
Wells has also illustrated two separate versions of the Mother Goose poems. She says the Mother Goose poems are like “sea glass: warm and smooth with sometimes three and four and five hundred years of history in each rhyme. They are the words and the rhymes of the people, not of individual poets. They are the words of farmers and bricklayers and bakers and millers. It’s how they put their children to sleep; it’s how they taught them their numbers and their ABCs.”
Wells advocates strongly for parents to read to their children starting from a very early age. She equates reading aloud to good nutrition, seatbelts, and vaccinations for the health and well-being of children. But beyond the basic cognition skills, reading together is about closeness, love, affection. “It’s a way of being one-on-one with a parent, and it’s irreplaceable.
“In the school systems that have a Read to your Bunny program (where the parents agree to read to their children 20 minutes a day, come rain or shine), the reports I get are astonishing. What happens in those families is amazing, because the kids slow down, they learn to listen to grownups, they don’t want to buy so much at the shopping mall and they learn to use their imaginations. And it’s the beginning of critical thinking — simply from reading books.”
Wells’s prolific writing and illustrating has inspired many. Libby Gruner talks of Wells in her Literary Mama Column Children’s Lit Book Group, as in this post about how the Voyage to the Bunny Planet helped her in her mothering.
Read more about Rosemary Wells at her website rosemarywells.com.