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Ellis (Credle) Townsend

Photo & article taken from Picturebook of Tar Heel Authors
Richard Walser

ELLIS CREDLE is a North Carolina author greatly admired by the younger children.  She is a painter too, and has prepared the pictures for many of her books.  The way she started is quite a tale.  Born in 1902 in Hyde County on Pamlico Sound, she attended Louisburg College at sixteen.  Then in 1922 she went to the Blue Ridge Mountains to teach school.  Four years later she was in New York studying interior decoration.  While taking courses in art she earned money by serving as governess for two children.  When she was telling them stories she got the idea that she might try to write and illustrate books for children.  Though the publishers did not accept her first efforts, she would not give up.  Then the opportunity came to draw reptiles for the American Museum of Natural History, and she took the job but kept at her writing all the time.  At one point she was asked to paint a series of murals in oil for the Brooklyn Children's Museum.  One day a book was accepted.  It was the beloved Down Down the Mountain (1934), the first picturebook ever done of the Blue Ridge country.  Immediately it was a success.  She had based it on things she remembered when she was teaching in the mountains.  By now, Down Down the Mountain is a classic; it is as widely read today as when it was first published.

After her marriage to Charles de Kay Townsend, she moved about a great deal.  The Townsend's have one son.  Once in the western North Carolina mountains, she had a trailer studio for her workshop.  This she laughingly called Ellis Credle's Toonerville Trolley.  For many years now, she has resided in the little Mexican village of Zapopan in the state of Jalisco.  My Pet Peepelo (1948) is a story of Mexico for children.

Across the Cotton Patch (1935) recalls her girlhood days on a grandfather's farm in Nash County.  Little Jeems Henry (1936) is about a Negro boy.  Here Comes the Showboat (1949) tells of the time when real showboats visited the eastern Carolina coastal towns.  There are other mountain books.  Tall Tales from the Hills (1957) is a collection of humorous folk tales including the previously published That Goat That Went to School (1940) and Janey's Shoes (1944).  Librarians and teachers report that primary school youngsters are always enthusiastic about Ellis Credle books.

McGowan / Sheppard