Ursula Nordstrom, director of Harper's Department of Books for Boys and Girls from 1940 to 1973, is regarded as the single most creative force for innovation in children's book publishing in the United States during the twentieth century. Considered an editor of maverick temperament and taste, she dared to publish groundbreaking, sometimes controversial books for an audience that was used to the often condescending material deemed "appropriate" for children. Her unorthodox vision of what she called "good books for bad children" helped create such classics as Goodnight Moon, Charlotte's Web, Where the Wild Things are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and the Giving Tree.But it took a lot more than editorial genius to juggle such a diverse roster of talent as Margaret Wise Brown, Shel Silverstein, E. B. White, Maurice Sendak, and John Steptoe; it took immense intuition and a generous heart. Recognizing that artists need emotional as well as financial support, Nordstrom gave to each what she or he needed to thrive and flourish. She could be a best friend, a teacher, a mother, and sometimes even a taskmaster. Most of all, she was always available - ready to talk, to listen, to encourage, and to guide. Leonard S. Marcus has culled an exceptional collection of letters from the HarperCollins archives.
What I didn't like was the lack of context, the disconnected nature of only getting one side of the conversation.
What drove me crazy is maybe only something I don't understand, perhaps some scholarly convention- but I found it maddening that the editor assigned "short" names to some of the authors as if he would be referring to them by these compressed names but then continued to use the whole name, followed by the shortened version in parentheses throughout.
In summation I see the merit of a book of letters but I'd have been much, much happier with a biography.