Open main menu

Vera Baker Williams (January 28, 1927 – October 16, 2015) was an American children's writer and illustrator. Her best known work, A Chair for My Mother, has won multiple awards and was featured on the children's television show Reading Rainbow.[1] For her lifetime contribution as a children's illustrator she was U.S. nominee in 2004 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books.[2] Additionally, she was awarded the 2009 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature.[3]

Vera B. Williams
BornVera Baker
(1927-01-28)January 28, 1927
Hollywood, California, USA
DiedOctober 16, 2015(2015-10-16) (aged 88)
Narrowsburg, New York, USA
OccupationWriter and illustrator
GenreChildren's literature, picture books
Notable worksAs writer:
It's a Gingerbread House (1978)
A Chair for My Mother (1982)
SpousePaul Williams (-1970)



Early life and educationEdit

Vera Baker was born January 28, 1927 in Hollywood, California.[4] She has one sister, Naomi.[5] As a child, her family moved to the Bronx, New York, where her father was frequently absent during her early childhood. In New York City, she danced, acted, and painted at the Bronx House, a local community center.[6] Her book Scooter, published in 1993, is based on her childhood in the Bronx.[7] Encouraged by their parents to explore the arts, she studied at The High School of Music & Art[5] and Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she received her BFA in Graphic Art in 1949.[4]

Marriage and childrenEdit

While at Black Mountain College, she married fellow student Paul Williams. The couple divorced in 1970. Together they had three children:

  • Sarah Williams
  • Jennifer Williams
  • Merce Williams

She has five grandchildren:

  • Hudson Williams
  • August Williams
  • William Babcock
  • Rebecca Babcock
  • Clare Babcock


Williams was a co-founder of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. She taught at alternative schools in New York and Ontario throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Following her divorce, she emigrated to Canada, where she committed to becoming a children's author and illustrator. In 1975 she was invited by Remy Charlip to illustrate Hooray For Me, which she did while living on a houseboat in Vancouver, British Columbia.[5] She established a publishing relationship with Greenwillow Books that continues to this day. Most recently, Ms. Williams resided in New York City and remained active in local issues such as The House of Elder Artists[8] and participated in the 2007 PEN World Voices literary festival.[9] She died on October 16, 2015.[10]

Philosophical and political viewsEdit

Williams long supported nonviolent and nuclear disarmament causes. In 1981 she spent a month in Alderson Federal Prison Camp following arrest at a women's peaceful blockade of the Pentagon.[11] She served on the executive committee of the War Resisters League from 1984 to 1987.


As authorEdit

  • It's a Gingerbread House (1978)
  • The Great Watermelon Birthday (1980)
  • Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe (1981)
  • A Chair for My Mother (1982)
  • Something Special for Me (1983)
  • Music, Music for Everyone (1984)
  • My Mother, Leah and George Sand (1986)
  • Cherries and Cherry Pits (1986)
  • Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea with Jennifer Williams (1988)
  • "More More More" Said the Baby (1990)
  • Scooter (1993)
  • Lucky Song (1997)
  • Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart (2001)
  • A Chair for Always (2009)
  • Home at Last with Chris Raschka (2016)

As illustratorEdit

  • Hooray For Me!, Remy Charlip (1975)
  • Long Walks and Intimate Talks, Grace Paley (1991)
  • Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Authors & Illustrators (1996)


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ PBS. Reading Rainbow episode "A Chair for my Mother" Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "2004". Hans Christian Andersen Awards. International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". IBBY. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b "Williams, Vera B." Something About the Author, vol. 102, pp. 200-205.
  5. ^ a b c Williams, Vera B. (January 2002). "BookWire speaks with... Vera B. Williams, author of Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart". BookWire (Interview). Interviewed by Neela Sakaria. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  6. ^ Wiliams, Vera B. (2010). "The Reading Child Inside This Writer". World Literature Today. 84 (2): 50–57. JSTOR 27871030.
  7. ^ Wolff, Virginia Euwer (2010). "Bringer of Solace and Delight: A Tribute to Vera B. Williams". World Literature Today. 84 (2): 58–60. JSTOR 27871031.
  8. ^ Brown, Patricia Leigh (2000-08-24). "GENERATIONS; Raising More Than Consciousness Now". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  9. ^ "PEN World Voices 2007". Archived from the original on 2006-04-08. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Williams, Vera B. (2001-12-12). "Vera B. Williams". (Interview). Interviewed by Molly McVeigh. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  12. ^ a b "Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards: Winners and Honor Books 1967 to present". The Horn Book. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-16.
  13. ^ a b "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA)
     "The Randolph Caldecott Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-07-16.
  14. ^ Library of Congress Exhibition Features Work of Children's Author/Illustrator Vera Williams
  15. ^ "Regina Medal" Archived 2012-04-27 at the Wayback Machine. Catholic Library Association. Retrieved 2013-07-16.

External linksEdit