Verna Norberg Aardema Vugteveen, best known by the name Verna Aardema, was an American author of children's books, a folklorist who brought tales from Mexico and Africa to children of all ages.
Verna was born June 6, 1911, in New Era, Michigan. She had eight brothers and sisters. As a little girl, she loved to read and sometimes she went to her dark "secret room," a cavelike place inside a clump of trees, surrounded by wild flowers and squawberries in the cedar swamp near their house. When Verna was older, she went to the secret room and imagined many kinds of stories which she later wrote down.
After graduating from what is now Michigan State University in 1934, she married Albert Aardema (on May 29, 1936), became a schoolteacher, and started a family. They had two children, Austin and Paula. Little Paula was a fussy eater and demanded stories with every meal. Verna told her stories based on African folk tales. She sent off one of her "feeding stories" to a book publisher. He liked it, and Verna went on to write an entire collection of African stories, Tales from a Story Hat (1960). Aardema ended up writing thirty-three books, including Bringing the Rain to Kaputi Plain (1981), which was featured on the Reading Rainbow, Rabbit Makes a Monkey of Lion (1989), and Koi and the Kola Nuts (1999), which was her final work. Her Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears won the Caldecott Medal in 1975.
After her husband Albert died in 1974, she remarried Joel Vugteveen in 1975. She died on May 11th, 2000, in Fort Myers, Florida. Her legacy is not only the sum of the many wonderfully entertaining books she wrote for children, but also the kindness and mentoring she gave to young people who attended her storytelling sessions and were inspired to become writers themselves.
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