Originally posted at School Library Journal on November 7, 2009.
I started working at the Central Children's Room at the Donnell Branch of NYPL around four years ago. While working there I often spoke with author Esther Hautzig, an author and volunteer who dedicated much of her time and energy to the place. Esther was lovely, and I understood her to be an author. What I did not understand was her history, and how it informed her work over the years.
At the age of nine, in 1939, Esther and her family were put on a deportation train by the invading Russian army and shipped to Siberia. This later appeared in her memoir for children, The Endless Steppe. After that she was sent to America and eventually ran the publicity and library services department for the Thomas Y. Crowell Company back in the '50s and 60s. She wrote even more and she died at the age of 79.
As one friend of mine said, "She is the kind of person who'll never appear in a history of publishing but contributed so much to the children's books field when it was all librarians and retailers had not yet reared their ugly, Mammon-worshipping, heads."