Oliver Butterworth

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Oliver Butterworth was born on May 23, 1915, in Hartford, Connecticut, a town which had once been the residence of the famous American authors Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. One of three children, he grew up in a nearby farmhouse surrounded by pasture and woodland. Raised by his father after his mother's death, Butterworth attended high school at a boy's boarding school in the western part of the state. After graduation he attended Dartmouth and earned a bachelor's degree in 1937.

Butterworth began his teaching career as an instructor in English and Latin at a school for boys. In 1940 he married Miriam Brooks, a young woman who shared his enthusiasm for the outdoors, and together they raised four children. In the meantime, he continued his schooling and spent a single summer at Harvard as a graduate student in 1941. He obtained his master's degree from Vermont's Middlebury College in 1947. For the next two years Butterworth taught elementary school in his hometown of Hartford, which had now grown into a sizable city. Eventually he became an instructor at the Hartford College for Women, serving as a trustee of the college and of the Mark Twain Memorial.

Butterworth's interest in writing was sparked by the desire to provide more interesting books for his elementary students' reading programs. He decided to write a book, using humorous ideas and a rich vocabulary that would stimulate the imaginations of students and teachers alike. In 1956 he published The Enormous Egg, a funny and gently satirical story of a New Hampshire boy and his dinosaur. Much of the setting of the story was inspired by Butterworth's experiences raising chickens at his family's summer home in rural New Hampshire. The Trouble with Jenny's Ear, his second book for young people, was also based on family experiences.

The Butterworths enjoy traveling, particularly into wilderness areas, and they lived in Europe for a year. The author incorporated these experiences into his third book, The Narrow Passage, a sequel to The Enormous Egg. Oliver Butterworth still resides in West Hartford and has recently produced two new books: The First Blueberry Pig and The Visit to the Big House. The Enormous Egg, which made the New York Times list of the one hundred best children's books of 1956, remains a great favorite among young readers. The Trouble with Jenny's Ear was chosen as an Honor Book for the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival in 1960.