11 Literary Giants Who Have Penned Delightful Children’s Books

Oscar Wilde and Sylvia Plath are not names usually associated with children’s books.

1. T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cat

T. S. Eliot, is best known for his Modernist poems, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Wasteland. But, throughout the 1930s, Eliot wrote a series of poems about cats, under the pen name “Old Possum,” in letters to his godchildren.

In 1939, those letters were collected and published as Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The book was also a childhood favorite of Andrew Lloyd Weber and is the basis for the musical Cats.

2. Virginia Woolf, The Widow and the Parrot

In 1923, Virginia Woolf (who at that time was already an established author) wrote this charming story of kindness, after being solicited by her young nephews to contribute a story to the family’s newspaper The Charleston Bulletin.

3. Leo Tolstoy, Fables and Fairy Tales

The Russian author is primarily known for writing two of the greatest novels of all time, Anna Karenina and War and Peace. But, Leo loved kids and wrote these fables as text books for a school he set up on his estate for peasant children.

4. Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Stories

The Happy Prince and Other Tales is a collection of five short stories by Oscar Wilde, who was inspired to write the book after the birth of his two sons.

5. Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Like Oscar Wilde, Salman was inspired to write the book by his son.

Weirdly, this was also the first book he wrote after his very controversial novel The Satanic Verses.

6. James Joyce, The Cat and the Devil

James Joyce may be best known for his literary classic Ulysses, but in 1936, he mailed a short story to his grandson, Stevie, that would later be published posthumously as the children’s book The Cat and the Devil.

7. Aldous Huxley, The Crows of Pearblossom

Aldous Huxley, best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World, wrote the story for his five-year-old niece. It was eventually published in 1967, four years after his death.

8. Sylvia Plath, The Bed Book

Originally rejected when it was written in 1959, this magical story was published in 1976, 13 years after Sylvia’s suicide.

9. John Updike, A Child’s Calendar

The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, John Updike, is best known his Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series, but he actually wrote several children’s books.

10. Toni Morrison, The Book of Mean People

Although, Toni Morrison is best known for her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved; she has also co-authored a series of children’s books with her son Slade.

11. William Faulkner, The Wishing Tree

William Faulkner’s The Wishing Tree was published in 1967, and it is the only children’s story he ever wrote. It had originally been written back in the late 1920s as an attempt to win back his childhood sweetheart, Estelle Oldham, by giving the story as a gift to her daughter, Victoria Franklin, for her eighth birthday.

Also, William did win Estelle back, they married in 1929.

Bonus author: Ian Fleming, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car

Okay, so Ian Fleming is not a literary giant, but it is pretty cool that the man who created the James Bond series, also wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

To see more unlikely children’s authors check out: Brain Pickings and We Too Were Childern.

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