Ruth Sawyer, the last of five children and the only girl, grew up in the late 19th century in a household where, in addition to her family, she had and Irish storytelling nanny who would prove to be strongest influence on her future career.
After secondary school, the young Ms Sawyer, enrolled in Garland Kindergarten Training school and after two years, she went to Cuba to teach storytelling to teachers organizing kindergartens for orphans. This led to a scholarship at Columbia where she majored in folklore and storytelling.
After graduation, her new employer, The New York Sun, sent her to Ireland on assignment. In her spare time she roamed the back country listening to “seanachies”, traditional Irish historian/storytellers. Upon her return she would share some of her Irish tales with children at the New York Public Library.
Ms Sawyer married in 1911 and throughout her children’s early years, she continued to tell, and to collect new stories and folktales, many of which would make it into her own books. Her own son, David Durand became the main protagonist in her second book, a collection of Christmas tales, “This Way to Christmas”
Winner of the prestigious Newbery Medal and two Caldecott Honor medals, Ms Sawyer’s long and productive career will be best exemplified for a long time to come by her humorous tale, “Journey Cake, Ho!” made all the more luminous with illustrations by Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings), Ms Sawyer’s son-in-law.