Ursula Nordstrom

Ursula Nordstrom
Born (1910-02-02)February 2, 1910[1]
Manhattan, New York
Died October 11, 1988(1988-10-11) (aged 78)
New Milford, Connecticut
Occupation Editor, Author
Nationality American
Genre Children's Literature
Partner Mary Griffith

Ursula Nordstrom (February 2, 1910 - October 11, 1988) was publisher and editor-in-chief of juvenile books at Harper & Row from 1940 to 1973. She is credited with presiding over a transformation in children's literature in which morality tales written for adult approval gave way to works that instead appealed to children's imaginations and emotions.[2]

She also authored the 1960 children's book The Secret Language.[3] A collection of her correspondence was published in 1998, as Dear Genius: the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom.


Ursula Nordstom was born in Manhattan and grew up in New York City. She took business courses at The Scudder School for Girls in New York, before being hired in 1936 as a clerk in the textbook department of Harper & Brothers, and later as an assistant in the Harper Books for Boys and Girls section. Nordstrom was promoted to Harper's editor in chief of the Department of Books for Boys and Girls in 1940. In 1960 she became Harper's first female vice president.

While at Harper, she edited some of the milestones of children's literature, including E. B. White's Stuart Little (1945) and Charlotte's Web (1952), Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon (1947), Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955), Syd Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur (1958), Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, (1963), Karla Kuskin's Roar and More (1956), and Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974).[2][4]

Other authors she edited included Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ruth Krauss, Charlotte Zolotow, John Steptoe, M.E. Kerr and Arnold Lobel, among others.[5]

She stepped down as publisher in 1973, but continued on as senior editor with her own imprint, Ursula Nordstrom Books, until 1979.[2]

She was succeeded by her protege, author Charlotte Zolotow, who began her career as Nordstrom's stenographer.[6]


Nordstrom died in 1988, aged 78, from ovarian cancer. With her at the time of death was her longtime companion, Mary Griffith.


  1. Date of birth info (2/2/1910)
  2. 1 2 3 Anderson, Susan Heller (1988-10-12). "Ursula Nordstrom, 78, a Nurturer Of Authors for Children, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
  3. The Secret Language
  4. Sinkler, Rebecca Pepper (1998-03-22). "Confessions of a Former Child". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
  5. Marcus, Leonard S. (1997). The Making of Goodnight Moon. New York: HarperTrophy. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-06-446192-4.
  6. Nordstrom, Ursula (1998). Marcus, Leonard S, ed. Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom. New York: HarperTrophy. ISBN 0-06-446235-8.
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