An early love of books

Author, Author

August 22, 1999

Children's author Virginia Lee Burton credits her parents' emphasis on reading for her success as a writer. As a child in Massachusetts, she and her siblings were given books rather than toys or games for Christmas and birthdays. Her father, the first dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would read the books aloud to them.

When New England winters got to be too much for her poet-musician mother, the Burton family moved to California. As a junior in high school, Burton won a state scholarship to the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

While there, she practiced sketching during her hours of commuting. After only a year of art school, Virginia returned to Boston. Shortly thereafter, she started working as a "sketcher" for the now-defunct Boston Transcript newspaper.

When she was 21, Burton enrolled in a drawing class taught by artist George Demetrios and later that year, they were married. They had two children, Aris and Michael, who would become the author's most frank critics.

Burton, who died in 1968, drew her books before adding in text. This year celebrates the 60th anniversary of one of her most famous books, "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel."

-- Randi Kest

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