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Glen Rounds: Cowboy Storyteller

Artist and author Glen Rounds was neither a tenderfoot nor a city slicker. He was the real deal of the nearly Wild West--though he wasn’t beyond telling a few tall tales, too, here and there. Born in a sod house in the Badlands of South Dakota, when he was just a babe he and his family traveled by covered wagon to the open spaces of Montana.

Spinning Tales for His Supper
 
Glen grew up on a horse ranch and worked as a mule skinner, a cowboy, and a carnival artist, but eventually his talents took him into the big city—Kansas City’s Art Institute where he studied for two years. In 1930, he moved to New York City and started taking night classes at the Art Students League and tried to sell stories during the day. He would visit publishers’ houses to sell his work, arriving in the late morning so he could grab a free meal—a trick he managed by starting a good story and offering to finish it over lunch. His artistic style was spare and rather rough, but it was perfect for the often funny, sometimes somber stories he wove about the American West.
 
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, from 1941 to 1945 in the coast artillery and infantry where he became a staff sergeant. After his service he remarried and settled in North Carolina where he was able to work at his craft full-time, including contributing to the classic collection, A Treasury of American Folklore.
 
Many Happy Trails
 
By the time he rode off to his last sunset, Glen had written and illustrated more than 50 children’s books. He had also given illustrations for more than 60 publications. Many of his books focused on the frontier life he knew so well, such as The Prairie Schooners, Cowboys, and Sod Houses on the Great Plains.
 
During his last years, Glen developed terrible arthritis in his drawing hand. His solution: he said rather than take up pitching horse shoes, he thought he’d best learn to draw with his other hand—which he did, going on to illustrate several more books.
 
Fast Facts:
  • Born: April 4, 1906, near Wall, South Dakota
  • Studied: Kansas City Art Institute, 1926 to 1927, and at the Art Student’s League (NYC) in 1930 and 1931.
  • Best-known series: “Whitey,” featuring a young cowboy, Mr.Yowder (tall tales), many nature and books on frontier life.
  • First book: Ol’ Paul, the Mighty Logger (1936, revised 1949)
  • Last book: Beaver (1999)
  • Died: September 27, 2002, in Pinehurst, North Carolina
 
Only a Few of His Many Awards:
Whitey’s First Roundup, Picture Book Honor, Spring Book Festival, 1942
Ol’ Paul, the Mighty Logger, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1958
Blind Colt, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1960
Wild Horses of the Red Desert, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1971
Tomfoolery: Trickery and Foolery with Words, New York Times Outstanding Book, 1973
The Morning the Sun Refused to Shine, Parents’ Choice Award, 1984
Washday on Noah’s Ark, Parents’ Choice Award, 1985
 
More to Explore:
 
Glen Rounds, 96, Folk Author
His obituary in the New York Times gives a round-up of important events and people in his life. Please note the correction at the end of the article.
 
These online references, available to CRRL card holders, are good sources for reports:
 
“Glen (Harold) Rounds”
Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, 2002.
 
“Glen (Harold) Rounds”
Contemporary Authors Online, 2003.
 
“Glen (Harold) Rounds”
St. James Guide to Children’s Writers, 1999.