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Molly Bang: Stories about the Earth and Its Peoples

Growing up with Books and Traveling the World

With a scientist/writer for a mother and a research physician for a father, it’s little wonder that Molly Bang grew up to be a writer and illustrator who would eventually make it her mission to create books that drawn children into the world of science. Her family kept a large library and would often give each other books illustrated by the famous Charles Rackham as gifts. Molly found these to be inspiring.

After she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in French, Molly traveled to Japan to teach English at a university there for 18 months before returning to work on master’s degrees in Oriental studies. Then it was back overseas to illustrate health manuals for UNICEF, as well as Johns Hopkins and Harvard, working, among other places, in Calcutta and Bangladesh.

Telling Its People’s Stories

In 1973, she gathered together stories she had heard from Europe, Japan, and China.  She illustrated them and turned them into a book, The Goblins Wiley and the Hairy ManGiggle, and Other Stories.  These slightly scary stories, together with her black and white illustrations, were praised by School Library Journal and the New York Times Book Review.

Molly went on to retell and illustrate many folktales, one of her most beloved being Wiley and the Hairy Man, a book for early readers which delivers chills and charm. As Booklist reviewer Judith Goldberger wrote, “This tale has all the best elements of entertainment--humor, suspense, action and ethnic color--with the stylistic simplicity befitting an easy reader… “

Caldecott Honors

Three of her books have been awarded the prestigious Caldecott Honor for illustration. The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher is a wordless masterpiece in which an older lady is followed home from the farm market by a mysterious figure who wants her fruit. It is a book that is fascinating visually with much going on in the background of the quiet yet vivid story.

Ten, Nine, Eight is a counting book set at bedtime. The young African-American girl and her father count down the interesting things they see in her room before it’s time for sleep. The book has lots of charming details to convey a deeper story than the lovely words themselves.

When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry is another picture book where Molly Bang’s meaning mostly comes from the illustrations. What can calm Sophie down when she doesn’t want to share and her mother isn’t being fair? It’s not anything that’s said, and it takes time for Sophie to realize how to calm down by being drawn out of her angry self and into the quiet, beautiful world around her.

Sharing Science and Nature

Chattanooga SludgeIn recent years, Molly Bang has taken her gifts for illustration and storytelling and turned them to the service of teaching science. Books such as Chattanooga Sludge and Nobody Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bays combine her continuing interest in science and the environment with storytelling. These are true tales about people who have tried to make the world around them better by stopping the pollution or trying to make it less harmful. Common Ground teaches how groundwater works and what people living on the land do to affect it.

You can read more about her science books and her reasons for turning to science writing (and illustrating!) on her Web site.

Fast Facts:

Born: December 29, 1943, in Princeton, New Jersey, to Frederik Barry (a research physician) and Betsy (an author, translator,and scientist whose maiden name was Garrett) Bang.

Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1965; University of Arizona, M.A., 1969; Harvard University, M.A., 1971.

Married: Richard H. Campbell (an acoustics engineer) on September 27, 1974. Child: Monika.

Occupations: Author, illustrator, and translator. Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, teacher of English, 1965-67; Asahi Shimbun, New York, NY, interpreter of Japanese, 1969; Baltimore Sun papers, Baltimore, MD, reporter, 1970. Illustrator and consultant for UNICEF, Johns Hopkins Center for Medical Research and Training, and Harvard Institute for International Development.When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry

Selected Awards: American Library Association Notable Book award for Wiley and the Hairy Man (1977) and The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher (1980); Boston Globe/Horn Book honor award for illustration, 1980, for The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher, 1984, for Dawn, and 1986, for The Paper Crane; Caldecott Honor Book awards, 1981, for The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher, 1983, for Ten, Nine, Eight, and 2000, for When Sophie Gets Angry--Really Really Angry; Kate Greenaway honor, Library Association, 1983; Giverny Book Award for best children’s science picture book, for Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share.

Home: Woods Hole, MA

Art activity for young ones based on the painting/color outline style she used in When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry can be found in Storybook Art: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of 100 Great Picture Book Illustrators.

Articles about Molly Bang:

These can be found in the CRRL’s online research section. You will need a library card with us to read them or print them out from there.

"Molly Garrett Bang." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Biography in Context. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

"Molly Garrett Bang." Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Biography in Context. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

On the Web:

The Lucy Daniels Center Interview with Molly Bang (6 parts in total). In Part 2, she discusses When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry. In Part 3, she talks about her science books. In Part 4, she explains why reading aloud to children is important.

Molly Bang’s Web Site