Inducted 2014
Born: February 2, 1899
Harlan County, Kentucky
Died: October 2, 1985
Urbana, Illinois

Rebecca Caudill Ayars was one of Kentucky’s best-known children’s writers, having published 23 books between 1934 and 1985.  She was the middle child in a family of 10 that lived at Poor Fork (now Cumberland) in Harlan County. After her family moved to Tennessee, she worked her way through Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, where she received a B.A degree in 1920. She was the first in her family to attend college.

Caudill taught English and history at Sumner County High School in Portland, Tennessee in 1920-1921. The next year, she earned a master’s degree in international relations from Vanderbilt University.  She taught English as a second language at Collegio Bennett in Rio de Janeiro for a short time.  She also worked as an editor for the Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee.

After she moved to Chicago for a job with a publishing house, she met and married James Sterling Ayars in 1931. Their two children, Jimmy and Becky Jean, were born after they moved in 1937 to Urbana, Illinois, where James had taken a job as editor of the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois campus.

Caudill’s first book was the juvenile novel Barrie and Daughter (1943), based on her experiences growing up in rural Kentucky and Tennessee. Tree of Freedom (1949) was runner-up for the Newbery Award in 1950 and was selected as a New York Herald Tribune Honor Book the same year. A Pocketful of Cricket (1964) was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1965. Six of her books were selections of the Junior Literary Guild.

A Quaker, she was active in the peace movement and co-founded the Champagne-Urbana Peace Council in Illinois.  The public library in Cumberland is named for her.

Selected bibliography

Barrie & Daughter.  New York: Viking Press, 1942.

Tree of Freedom. New York: Viking Press, 1947.

Saturday Cousins. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1953.

House of the Fifers. New York: David McKay Co., 1954.

Susan Cornish. New York: Viking Press, 1955.

Time for Lissa. New York: Thomas Nelson, & Sons, 1959.

The Far-off Land. New York: Viking Press, 1964.

Somebody Go and Bang a Drum. New York: Dutton, 1974.

Series: The Fairchild Family Story:
Happy Little Family. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1947.

Schoolhouse in the Woods. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1949.

Up and Down the River. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1951.

Schoolroom in the Parlor. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1959.

Contrary Jenkins.  New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1969.

Home for Christmas: Stories for Young & Old. (with Pearl Buck, et al.)  Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2002.

Picture Books:
Higgins and the Great Big Scare. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1960.

The Best Loved Doll. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1962.

A Pocket Full of Cricket. Henry Holt & Company, 1964.

A Certain Small Shepherd. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1965.

Did You Carry the Flag Today Charley? New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1966.

Florence Nightingale. New York: Harper & Row, 1953.

My Appalachia: A Reminiscence. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1966.

Come Along. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1969.

Wind, Sand, & Sky. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1976.

We hope to see you soon at the Carnegie Center, home to writers, lifelong learners, & the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

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