Eleanor Frances Lattimore was born in Shanghai, China, on June 30, 1904, to David and Margaret (Barnes) Lattimore, American nationals living in China. Her father, a professor at Chinese government universities, educated his five children at home. Eleanor studied art at the California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley after the family moved to the United States in 1920. In 1924, David Lattimore commenced a long career at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Eleanor continued her art education at the Art Students League and Grand Central School of Art in New York City. She worked as a free-lance artist for five years until she published her first children's book, Little Pear: The Story of a Little Chinese Boy, in 1931.
Lattimore both wrote and illustrated almost all of her books. She wrote at least fifty-seven books over a forty-five year period. Lattimore composed books for very young readers and invented characters with personalities appealing to that age group. Although her works feature settings and characters from across the world, she is best known for her books set in China. Karen Nelson Hoyle remarked, "China was introduced to young children by one author primarily—Eleanor Lattimore." Lattimore drew on her upbringing in China to make elements from Chinese culture indispensable features in the plot of Little Pear. Its success generated three sequels and several other books exploring China and relationships between Chinese and American characters. Interracial understanding was a prominent goal in Eleanor Lattimore's writing.
Lattimore married Robert Armstrong Andrews, a free-lance writer and designer, in 1934. They had two sons before his death in 1963. Eleanor Frances Lattimore died on May 12, 1986.
She was the sister of Richard Lattimore, the translator, and Owen Lattimore, an expert on China.
Something About the Author, ed. Anne Commire (Detroit: Gale Research, 1975), 7:155-156.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, ed. D. L. Kirkpatrick, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983), 456-457.
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