de Grummond Collection

McCain Library and Archives
University Libraries
University of Southern Mississippi


Collection Number
Collection Dates
Collection Volume
.60 cu.ft. (2 boxes)

Biographical Sketch | Scope & Content | Related Collections | Series & Subseries | Box Inventory


Materials received from Verna Aardema between 1977 and 1991.


Non-circulating; available for research.


This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials, other than that noted above.

Biographical Sketch

Verna Norberg Aardema Vugteveen, who wrote under the name of Verna Aardema, was born in New Era, Michigan on June 6, 1911. She received a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University in 1934. She was a grade school teacher in Michigan from 1934 to 1973 and staff correspondent for the Muskegon Chronicle from 1951 to 1972. In 1991, she resided in Florida. From the age of eleven, Aardema wanted to be a writer. She won three writing contests as a Michigan State senior. Later, when her daughter refused to eat without a story, Aardema began writing for children. These "feeding" stories tended to be set in Ashantiland or the Kalahari because she often read about Africa. Her first published stories, Tales from the Story Hat (1960), were very successful, and she continued to adapt and retell folktales from other lands for young American readers. Hallmarks of Aardema's stories are expressive animal characters speaking in ideophones (groups of sounds intended to capture a spoken word and that convey a particular idea). In the 1970s Aardema teamed up with illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon to produce three picture books. Their Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1975) received the Caldecott Medal in 1976 and the Brooklyn Art Books for Children Award in 1977. Who's in Rabbit's House? (1977) was the 1977 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award winner in 1978. Aardema received the Children's Reading Round Table Award in 1981, and several of her works have been selected as Notable Books by the American Library Association. Her Oh Kojo! How Could You! won the 1984 Parents' Choice Award for Literature.

Verna Aardema passed away on May 11, 2000.


Scope and Content

The collection contains both autobiographical material and material related to seven books by Aardema. The autobiographical material consists of a typescript autobiography written for the Something About the Author Autobiography Series in 1988 and related correspondence. In the typescript, Aardema not only relates the story of her life but also mentions specific anecdotes connected to several of her published stories. Correspondence related to this autobiography includes letters between Aardema and the editor for Something About the Author, letters to Aardema from her agency, and a letter to the de Grummond Collection from Aardema which documents the donation of these materials.

The seven titles by Aardema represented in the collection are: Bimwili and the Zimwi, Half-a-Ball-of-Kenki, More Tales from the Story Hat, The Riddle of the Drum, The Vingananee and the Tree Toad, Who's in Rabbit's House?, and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. All of these except More Tales from the Story Hat (1966) were published between 1979 and 1985. For each of the six later titles, the collection contains multiple typescript drafts and correspondence between Aardema, her agent at Curtis Brown, and the book's editor concerning revisions and publication details. In most cases, Aardema meticulously dated each typescript and on many of them, before she donated the material in 1979, she noted the date of the draft and other information. Material for the seven books is arranged alphabetically by title; for each title, the correspondence is first and the other material is organized in the probable order in which it was created.

Bimwili and the Zimwi: A Tale from Zanzibar (1985) is the story of a girl who, on her first trip to the beach, is kidnapped by the Zimwi, an old, ugly ogre. The eight typescript drafts and the extensive correspondence between Aardema and a Dial Press editor document the creative process involved in writing the book.

Another African folktale, Half-a-Ball-of-Kenki: An Ashanti Tale (1979), recounts how the leopard got his spots. For this title the collection contains a copy of the 1930 publication upon which Aardema based the story, correspondence with an editor at Dial Press, two typescript drafts, and two reviews. Aardema first published this story along with ten others in More Tales from the Story Hat (1966). The collection has an edited typescript of a 1966 draft of "Half-a-Ball-of-Kenke."

In contrast to Aardema's many African stories is The Riddle of the Drum: A Tale from Tizapan, Mexico (1979), which tells of the efforts of Prince Tuzan to solve the riddle of the drum so he can marry a beautiful princess. For this title there is correspondence between Aardema and a Four Winds editor, three typescript drafts, and an unbound copy of the book, including dust jacket. In the correspondence, Aardema provides background information about the dedication. The correspondence also discusses last-minute changes necessary to reconcile Tony Chen's illustrations and Aardema's text.

Aardema wrote The Vingananee and the Tree Toad: A Liberian Tale (1983) in 1979. The collection contains extensive correspondence between Aardema, her agent, and editors at Frederick Warne, as well as six typescript drafts produced during the four years that elapsed between the first draft and publication. The selection of Ellen Weiss to illustrate the book is also discussed in the correspondence.

Who's In Rabbit's House? A Masai Tale (1977) is the story of a brave frog who claims to be a cobra and tricks The Long One (a.k.a., caterpillar) into coming out of Rabbit's house. The collection contains two typescripts, including the final draft, and correspondence relating to publication details. The correspondence includes letters in 1979 between Aardema and a Dial editor about textual changes made, without Aardema's knowledge, in the page proofs and revisions to be made in the text of all subsequent editions. Also included for this story are two unpublished, shorter versions prepared for Cricket and correspondence concerning its inclusion in a fourth grade reader series.

The Caldecott Medal winner Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1975), illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, is the story of the chain of mischief initiated when Mosquito tells Iguana a tall tale. It was Aardema's eighth book of African folktales. In letters with her agent and editors, she discusses the possibility of a British edition and the publication of the book in Afrikaans. There also is a copy of a congratulatory letter to the Dillons for their receipt of the Caldecott. The collection contains two typescripts of the story, the final draft and another version written with ideophones.

Related Collection

The Tony Chen Papers (DG0178) contain the final black and white and color artwork for The Riddle of the Drum.

Series and Subseries


A. Autobiographical Material (1988-1991)

B. Books (1966-1983)

Box Inventory


A. Autobiographical Material

1/1 Correspondence between Aardema, the de Grummond Collection, Something About the Author editor, and Curtis Brown agent, 1988, 1991, 4 items. Typescript of article published in Something About the Author Autobiography Series,volume 8, [1989], 49 pp.

B. Books

BIMWILI AND THE ZIMWI: A TALE FROM ZANZIBAR retold by Verna Aardema, pictures by Susan Meddaugh (New York: Dial Books, 1985). I/2 Correspondence between Aardema, Curtis Brown agent, and Dial Books editor, 1984-1986, 8 items. Typescript, "Myths and Legends of the Bantu, A Swahili Tale," 3 pp. Typescript, edited, 18 January 1984, 7 pp. Typescript, edited, 19 January 1984, 7 pp. Typescript, edited, 21 January 1984, 8 pp. and pp. 4-10 retyped. 1/3 Typescript, 23 April 1984, 13 pp. Typescript, 7 May 1984, 11 pp. Typescript, 18 May 1984, 10 pp. Typescript, final draft, 26 May 1984, 11 pp. 1/4 Proofs, cover, 2 unnumbered pp. and 30 pp. HALF-A-BALL-OF-KENKI, AN ASHANTI TALE retold by Verna Aardema, pictures by Diane Stanley Zuromskis (New York: Frederick Warne, 1979). 1/5 Correspondence between Aardema and Frederick Warne editor, 1977-1979, 12 items. "How the Leopard's Body Became Spotted," pp. 21-27 from Akan-Ashanti Folk-Tales (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), photocopy, 4 pp. Typescript, edited, 19 September 1979, 7 pp. Typescript, final draft, undated, 9 pp. Reviews, photocopy, 2 items. [See also MORE TALES FROM THE STORY HAT] MORE TALES FROM THE STORY HAT by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Elton Fax (New York: Coward-McCann, 1966). 1/6 "Half-a-Ball-of-Kenke," typescript, 28 July 1965, with revisions, 19 October 1965 and 10 January 1966, 14 pp. THE RIDDLE OF THE DRUM: A TALE FROM TIZAPAN, MEXICO translated and retold by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Tony Chen (New York: Four Winds Press, 1979). 1/7 Correspondence between Aardema and Four Winds Press editor, 1978-1979, 6 items. Typescript, first draft without cumulative refrain, 8 pp. Typescript, first draft with cumulative refrain, 10 pp. Typescript, 7 October 1976, 14 pp. 1/8 Proof, unbound in two signatures, with dust jacket. THE VINGANANEE AND THE TREE TOAD: A LIBERIAN TALE retold by Verna Aardema, illustrations by Ellen Weiss (New York: Frederick Warne, 1983). 2/1 Correspondence between Aardema, Curtis Brown agent, and Frederick Warne editor, 1979-1983, 13 items. Typescript, draft never submitted, 9 pp. Typescript, first submitted draft, 10 December 1979, 11 pp. 2/2 Typescript, 29 December 1979, and edited May 1980, 11 pp. Typescript, edited, 2 July 1980, 11 pp. Typescript, edited, 21 January 1981, 13 pp. Typescript, final draft, 3 May 1982, 11 pp. 2/3 Proof, unbound in three signatures. WHO'S IN RABBIT'S HOUSE? A MASAI TALE retold by Verna Aardema, pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon (New York: Dial Press, 1977). 2/4 Correspondence between Aardema and Dial Press editor, Curtis Brown agent, Cricket editor, and Addison Wesley editor, 1976-1979, 8 items. Typescript, 14 November 1976, 8 pp. Typescript, 2 February 1977, final draft, 9 pp. Revision of last four pages, for editions published after 1977, 3 pp. 2/5 Typescript, "Who's in Rabbit's House? A Masai Tale," prepared for Cricket but never published. Draft, 7 December 1976, 7 pp. Draft, 4 March 1977, 5 pp. WHY MOSQUITOES BUZZ IN PEOPLE'S EARS: A WEST AFRICAN TALE retold by Verna Aardema, pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon (New York: Dial Press, 1975). 2/6 Correspondence between Aardema and Dial Press editor, Macmillan editor, Curtis Brown agent and illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975- 1977, 4 items. Typescript, final draft, 14 January 1976, 8 pp. Typescript, draft for Scribner's Anthology for Young People, with videophones, 6 February 1974, 8 pp.

Processed: February 1991
Revised: June 2001; September 2014

Biographical Sketch | Scope & Content | Related Collections | Series & Subseries | Box Inventory
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The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection

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