A native of Passaic, New Jersey, Tresselt was born on September 30, 1916, to parents Alvin and Elizabeth. At a young age, Tresselt preached to the flowers. Then he decided to be a farmer with a herd of Jerseys in his barn. But when he got a box of blocks for Christmas, he delighted in the wonders of construction. Those blocks and subsequent ones encouraged his imagination and steered him toward architecture, until he found out that he needed to understand trigonometry and calculus to work as an architect. Still searching for a profession, Tresselt graduated from high school and moved to New York City.
New York held opportunities for work, but like the rest of the country, it too faced hardship during the Great Depression. Tresselt needed to work at several jobs to eat and survive. He finally landed work at defense plants because he couldn't gain entrance into the military during World War II due to health issues.
The year 1946 brought change to his life as Tresselt found a job designing interior displays for the department store B. Altman & Co. Tresselt had also made friends with authors Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard who were trying to find acceptance for a different type of children's book. Listening to them discuss books written with stark yet simple words that described a setting stirred Tresselt's memory and invigorated his imagination. He produced Rain Drop Splash
and with Weisgard's illustrations, children could follow a raindrop on its path to the sea. Readers were enchanted with the story, and Weisgard received a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations. Tresselt followed his success with White Snow, Bright Snow
illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, and this book won the Caldecott Medal in 1948.
Gaining recognition, Tresselt continued to write. He also advanced into the advertising department as a copywriter and married Blossom Budney, another children's author. When Tresselt gained employment by Parents' Institute to serve as the managing editor for their new project called Humpty Dumpty
magazine, Tresselt quit his job in merchandising and advertising. It had provided security and an income, but now Tresselt began adventuring into a new career. With Tresselt's leadership, Humpty Dumpty
became well-known and well-respected. As an author Tresselt saw 21 books published by 1964, and he began another path in life.
As a re-teller of folk tales and fantasy pieces, Tresselt undertook penning The Mitten
, a Ukranian story, and many more books based on Japanese folk lore. Tresselt also began editing the Parents' Magazine Press. As vice president and executive editor, he oversaw three magazines and all the company's book publications. His own writing slowed but didn't come to a complete halt.
After spending many years as an editor, Tresselt became a freelance author and editor. He took a position as instructor and dean of faculty at the Institute of Children's Literature in Connecticut where he encouraged and taught writing to numerous students for over 25 years. Toward the end of his life, Tresselt revised and published editions of his stories, and some books had updated illustrations. With poetic prose, Tresselt's works encouraged an appreciation for nature, science, the environment, and a love for reading. This author passed away in Vermont on July 24, 2000.
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