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Maine Writers Index - Detail   (Return to List)

Elizabeth J. Coatsworth (1893 - 1986)

Genre: Children's Literature

Coatsworth, born in Buffalo, NY, and a graduate of Vassar (BA 1915) and Columbia (MA 1916), was the wife of Henry Beston (married 1929) and lived with him in Hingham, Mass., and then on a farm in Nobleboro for decades; she's buried in the cemetery on Chimney Farm. Their daughter Kate Barnes was Maine's first poet laureate. Coatsworth travelled widely, spending time in England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Japan, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and the Yucatan. She incorporates her travel memories into her writing.

Coatsworth wrote over 90 books, most of them children's books, including:

  • The Cat and the Captain (1927)
  • Toutou in Bondage (1929), the adventures of a fox terrier in Morocco
  • The Boy With the Parrot (1929), a story of Guatemala
  • Away Goes Sally (1934): Sally and her aunts and uncles make a journey to a new home in Maine, in a little house on sled runners, pulled by oxen
  • Sword of the Wilderness (1936), tale of a Maine boy captured by Indians
  • Alice-All-By-Herself (1937), about a 10-year-old girl in Damariscotta
  • Five Bushel Farm (1939): Maine pioneer story, companion to Away Goes Sally
  • Houseboat Summer (1942), in which two children explore Damariscotta
  • Thief Island (1943): Dave Little and his two children live on a deserted island off the Maine coast. Lobstering, storms and even a friendly ghost enliven the tale.
  • The Little Haymakers (1949), the story of a boy and his pair of oxen
  • The Captain's Daughter (1950): Thomaston in the days when ships sailed from Maine to the Orient
  • The Enchanted: An Incredible Tale (1951): Magical fantasy. The moving story of a young man's strange romance in the "Enchanted," an actual, magical place in the northern Maine woods. Novel of a young man starting a wilderness farm, the encroaching forest, adjustment to marriage, etc.
  • Dollar for Luck (1951): An adventure in the summer of 1882 of a boy from the land trading places with a girl from the sea.
  • Silky: An Incredible Tale (1953): The second in her series of Incredible Tales, set in the haunting countryside of Maine. When Cephas Hewes calls out in despair, a young stranger with grace and silken beauty appears.
  • Door to the North, A Saga of 14th Century America (1952)
  • Giant Book of Cat Stories (1953)
  • Old Whirlwind: A Davy Crockett Story (1953/1964)
  • Mountain Bride (1954), modern version of old Abenaki Indian legend
  • The Last Fort, A Story of the French Voyageurs (1958)
  • The Peaceable Kingdom and Other Poems (1958)
  • The Nobel Doll (1961)
  • Bob Bodden and the Goodship Rover (1968): Homesick for the Maine farm where he grew up, Captain Bob sets up a farm on his ship
  • The White Room: An Incredible Tale (1958): The real and the imagined become indistinguishable. Novel set on a hilltop on the Maine coast. A woman fights for control of herself her family from the loneliness of the land and the strong will of her husband's sister.
  • The Sailing Hatrack (1972): Fictitious account of life on a store-boat off the coast of Maine
  • Marra's World (1975): Spellbinding adventure, set in the haunting landscape of a Maine island. Raised by a harsh grandmother and an indifferent father, Marra comes to understand her world with the help of a seal mother.

Coatsworth won the 1931 Newbery Award for her children's book, The Cat Who Went To Heaven (1930),which is set in Japan.

Her first novel, Here I Stay: A Maine Novel, was published in 1938. Her Maine Memories: Vignettes of Life around Damariscotta (1944) was the first of several autobiographical books, including Personal Geography: Almost an Autobiography (1976). Maine Ways (1945) contains stories and anecdotes of the Maine way of life. Books of poems include Country Poems (1942) and Summer Green (1948).

Books of poems include her first book, Fox Footprints (1923), Atlas and Beyond (1924), Compass Rose (1929), Country Poems (1942), and Summer Green (1948). Her children's poems are also included in Sung under the Silver Umbrella: Poems for Young Children (1935), which also includes poems by Rachel Field, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Laura E. Howe Richards. The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi has a short autobiography, photos, letters, and some material pertaining to Coatsworth's writing, as well a good and concise biographical sketch of her life and work.

Last Update: 08/21/2007

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