Marjorie Flack was born on Long Island in Greenport in the state of New York on October 2nd 1897. From a very early age Marjorie showed a considerable interest in storytelling. In Marjorie’s own words taken from her entry in The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators, “As far back as I remember, pictures were always an important part of my life… For every picture there would be a story, even before I could write.” When she was eighteen Marjorie entered the Art Students League in New York City. In 1919, while still in New York City, Marjorie married her first husband, Karl Larsson. After one year of marriage the couple had a daughter, Hilma, who would collaborate with her mother on several picture books. Flack and Larsson would divorce in 1940.
Marjorie published her first book Taktuk, an Arctic Boy in 1928. Tak Tuk was based upon the experiences of her friend, Helen Loman, who spent many years living in the Alaska observing the daily activities of the Eskimo people. Flack both wrote and illustrated this book and continued to both write and illustrate her books until late in her career. In 1929 Flack wrote All Around the Town: A Story of a Boy in New York that described Flack’s current life with her daughter in New York City. Flack then published the “Angus” series in 1930-1932, which are some of her most well known books. There are four “Angus” books that follow the adventures of a terrier. Flack again took inspiration from the world around her as “Angus” was inspired by her own dog and the other animal characters in the “Angus” books were other animals in their neighborhood. In addition many of the events in the “Angus” books were real life occurrences in the life of her dog. The first book of that series, Angus and the Ducks, would inspire her to create her most important contribution to the picture book genre.
While creating Angus and the Ducks Flack was inspired to find out more about ducks particularly Peking ducks. After discovering the origins of Peking ducks Flack began work on The Story of Ping. Since Flack had no familiarity with Chinese culture she collaborated with Kurt Wiese for illustrations because Wiese had first hand knowledge of China from his experiences living in China. Their collaboration was a very successful one as the combination of Flack’s gentle text and Wiese’s lithograph illustrations were received happily by critics and children. The Story About Ping reached its high level of popularity due to it being frequently featured on the television show “Captain Kangaroo”. Though none of her other books match the popularity of The Story of Ping several of Flack’s books are still in print.
Flack eventually moved to Pigeon Cove Massachusetts, which formed the backdrop for many of her later books. Flack went on to publish several other books including Ask Mr. Bear and The Boats on the River illustrated by Jay Barnum, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1947. Flack collaborated on many of her later books with her daughter Hilma and her second husband poet William Benet. On August 30, 1958 Flack died at her home in Pigeon Cove, Massachusets.
Bibliography of Biography Resources
Barrett, Mary. “Majorie Flack.” The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
“Marjorie Flack.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Accessed on May 3 2011.
“Marjorie Flack, Author, 61, Dead.” New York Times. New York: NY Times, August 31 1958.
Barnum, Greg. “Marjorie Flack: Author and Illustrator of Children’s Books.” Accessed on May 3 2011, http://marjorieflack.com/.