Kate Seredy was born on 10 November 1899 in Hungary. She grew up in Budapest and the surrounding area. Seredy trained at the Academy of Arts in Budapest where she earned an art teacher's diploma. When World War I interrupted her studies, she served as a nurse and studied anatomy sporadically "between bouts of patching up anatomy." Following the war, in 1922, she immigrated to the United States where she spent twelve years learning English while working odd jobs ranging from factory work to painting landscapes and stenciling greeting cards. By 1928, she had illustrated children's first-grade textbooks. During the Depression, she "haunted editors' offices" seeking illustrating jobs because it was difficult to find work as an artist.
In 1935, after running a children's book store from1933 to 1934, Seredy reached a turning point when May Massee, children's editor at Doubleday, recommended that she write a book about her childhood in Hungary. The result of this exchange was Seredy's first book, The Good Master (1935), which received Newbery honor status in 1936. Eleven books followed over the next seventeen years, all of which were both written and illustrated by Seredy, including The White Stag (1937), which won the prestigious Newbery Award in 1938, and The Singing Tree (1940), which also received honors from Newbery. The other books were: Listening (1936), A Tree for Peter (1941), Open Gate (1943), The Chestry Oak (1948), Gypsy (1951), Philomena (1955), The Tenement Tree (1959), Brand New Uncle (1961), and Lazy Tinka (1962).
Seredy illustrated many books for other authors, including Caddie Woodlawn, written by Carol Ryrie Brink, which won the Newbery Award in 1936. She also illustrated several of her close friend Blanche Jennings Thomspon's books including With Harp and Lute (1935), Oldest Story: The Story of the Bible for Young People (1943) and A Candle Burns for Frances (1946). Other books to Seredy's credit include: Prince Commands, Being Sundry Adventures of Michael Karl, Sometime Crown Prince and Pretender to the Throne of Moravia (1934) by Andre Norton, Broken Son (1934) by Sonia Daugherty, Selfish Giant and Other Stories (1935) and Gunniwolf and Other Merry Tales (1936) collected by Wilhelmina Harper, Mademoiselle Misfortune (1936) by Carol Ryrie Brink, Winterbound (1936) by Margery Will Bianco, a Newbery honoree in 1937, Smiling Hill Farm (1937) by Miriam Evangeline Mason, Ear for Uncle Emil (1939) by Eva Roe Gaggin, Michel's Island (1940) by Mabel Leigh Hunt, Christmas Anna Angel (1944) by Ruth Sawyer, which earned Seredy Caldecott honors in 1945, Living Together at Home and at School (1944) by Prudence Cutright, The Wonderful Year (1946) by Nancy Barnes, Fun at the Playground (1946) and Fun in swimming (1946) by Bernice Osler Frissell, Hoot-Owl by Mabel La Rue, Adopted Jane (1947), Mary Montgomery, Rebel (1947), and Pilgrim Kate (1949) by Helen F. Daringer, Little Vic (1951) by Doris Gates, Finnegan II, His Nine Lives (1953) by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, and A Dog Named Penny (1955) by Clyde Robert Bulla. Seredy also translated Who is Johnny? (1939), written and illustrated by Leopold Gedo, from Hungarian to English.
Seredy's illustrations and writings emphasize the human connection to the landscape and its creatures and reveal the profound influence of her father on her work. Louis Peter Seredy was a teacher and served as a mentor to neighborhood boys who came to him for inspirational stories and moral guidance. His great love for the outdoors and appreciation of carvings and paintings of landscapes probably influenced his daughter's similar affection for rural scenes. At age nine, Kate accompanied her father on a visit to the Hungarian countryside to observe peasant life. She recalls her awe at the natural surroundings as well as the novelty of the daily chores and experiences of the peasants.
The themes of Seredy's books range from mischievous children and their escapades to outsiders' alienation from social groups. Seredy's treatment of "aliens," that is children from other countries who must fit into an unfamiliar culture, represents a unique contribution to the genre of children's literature. Additionally, her illustrations of heroic characters in addition to common folk demonstrate the full range of her sensibility and her appreciation for the Hungarian folk tradition. Her studies of anatomy served her well as her illustrations of animals capture their postures and movements perfectly.
Seredy lived in Montgomery in Orange County, New Jersey on a farm that she "tried to run" but ended up just living there while she "let the grass grow wild." her farm was in the Town of Montgomery, Orange County, New York. She referred to her "farm" as a "game preserve" where the "fields are teeming with creatures." Later she moved into the Village of Montgomery, also in Orange County, New York. According to sources consulted, Seredy never married and had no children. Seredy enjoyed making furniture, clothes and pottery by hand and carving wood until her death on March 7, 1975.
The Kate Seredy Papers contains two oversized boxes of illustrations, including all but one of the original illustrations for Caddie Woodlawn, which won the Newbery Award in 1936, and most of the illustrations for With Harp and Lute. The collection, while not complete, provides a representative sampling of Seredy's career as an illustrator by capturing her rural landscapes, realistic animals, sentimental and historical figures and religious iconography. The illustrations are drawn from books that Seredy authored and from those she illustrated for other authors.
The illustrations contained in this collection are arranged by the title of the work in which they appeared. Illustrations not identified with a published book, or those that were not published, are placed at the end of the collection and labeled by their content. All illustration folders list the name of the book in which the illustration appeared, and, where applicable, the title given to that illustration in the published book, a brief description of the subject of each illustration, and a note about the illustration's medium. All charcoal and pastel drawings have been encapsulated, to avoid smudges, and grouped into a separate box.
Researchers interested in the book Little Vic, illustrated by Kate Seredy, may want to consult the Doris Gates Papers (Coll 180), especially dates May 2-May 13 1949, March-April 1950, May 1950, March 1950, April-July 1951, and October-November 1951. Correspondence during this period refers to the author's progress on Little Vic, the editor, May Massee, and the illustrator, Kate Seredy. The Doris Gates Papers are accessible in Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Oregon.
Researchers also may be interested to know that the William David McCain Library at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, home of the De Grummond Children's Literature Collection, contains Kate Seredy's papers from 1941 to 1985, including correspondence with her publisher, Viking.
Restrictions on Access :
Collection is open to the public.
Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.Restrictions on Use :
Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.
If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.Preferred Citation :
[Identification of item], Kate Seredy Papers, Ax 517, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.
Detailed Description of the Collection