Science Book a Day Interviews the Hader Connection

Joy Hoerner RichKaren Tolley

Special thanks to Joy Hoerner Rich and Karen Tolley from Hader Connection for answering 5 questions about Berta and Elmer Hader’s recently featured book – The Big Snow

Hader Connection bio: Joy Hoerner Rich was steward to a good many of her aunt and uncles pieces of art and felt they needed to be displayed, seen and enjoyed but she felt stymied in knowing how to go about accomplishing that. A friend recommended she create a non-profit organization. She did that in 2008, Hader Connection, Ltd. A Board of Directors was formed. Ideas began to crystallize, connections were made, monies were raised. In the past six years presentations about the Haders have been made on the west coast of the United States, on the east coast and in the southern states. Exhibits have been viewed by thousands of people. and thousands of children have benefittd by an art lesson being brought into their schools by a team of two from Hader Connection.

Hader Connection Homepage:

#1 – The Haders appear to have a wonderful legacy of books. How many books did they write and illustrate and over what sort of a time period?

The Haders’ first book was published in 1927. Their last book came out  in 1965. Actually, they did finish three more after that date but refused to turn them over for publication unless the quality of the art reproduction was guaranteed to meet the Haders’ expectations. They were disappointed toward the end of their career that the quality of color reproductions was, due to budgetary constraints, diminishing.  In their career they did write and illustrate 54 children’s book as well as illustrate another 37 for others.

#2 – Can you talk about the legacy of the Haders? How have they been remembered in the US?

The Haders passed away in the 1970s. Now, forty years later, their books seem to be looked upon by the critics as a bit overly wordy and their children as perhaps a bit too cheribic–but their animals and nature drawings are seen as timeless as is their message. Ed and Elaine Kemp, two retired librarians from the University of Oregon, who happened to personally know the Haders said, “What made and makes the Hader books so admired and loved? The Haders gained the respect of children, adults, librarians, and, now, collectors, not through a series of devices, tricks, attention getters, and clever promotion. Rather, they reached their readers through a genuine appreciation and understanding of nature. Their work is timeless, sincere, and candid.. The Haders were able to tell a story with a simple message and a specific purpose, yet without the need to moralize. They captured the songs of birds in spring, the peace of animals in hibernation, the effect of a silent snow, and the love of a child for all things good and honest. Their regard for human life, their concern for animal welfare, and their reverence for the outdoors–all are apparent to the reader of any age and of any time.”

#3 – Can you tell us any history about the book ‘The Big Snow’? How does it fit into the context of their body of work?

The Haders lived just north of New York City on four wooded acres overlooking the Hudson River. They loved sharing their land with an abundance of wildlife. In the winter of 1947/1948 a huge snow storm dumped more snow in the New England states than had been seen for over 50 years. Radio announcers were alerting the general public as to the need to put food and water out for the wild llfe as their normal food sources were buried. Berta and Elmer had not needed to be told. They diligently tended to their feathered and furry friends and as they did so the idea for The Big Snow formulated and the book nearly wrote itself. It was published in the fall of 1948 and won the Caldecott Award for best illustrated picture book of the year in 1949. The majority of the Haders’ books had to do with animals. The Big Snow fitted right in.

#4 – Your website ‘Hader Connection’ looks like a celebration of their work. What are the aims of the website and how did it originally start?

Hader Connection, an educational non-profit organization, was created in 2008 with the mission of sharing he Haders’ work, via exhibits, presentations, and other programs with the public. Since the time of its inception Hader Connection has arranged nearly a dozen exhibits, has given nearly two dozen presentations, and has taken a Hader art lesson into nearly 100 third and fourth grade classrooms. The web site was created by Hader Connection as a method of sharing Hader creations.

#5 – How do you hope the Haders and their work will be remembered?

We hope that the Haders’ message of caring for the earth, its peoples, and its animals will be remembered. Once, when asked why they created children’s books the Haders answered, “We write and illustrate books for children in the hope that pictures and stories will: 1) Interest and amuse our young readers. 2) Awaken and cultivate a kindly feeling toward other children, as well as the birds and domestic animals about the house and the gentle creatures of field and forest, who share the world they live in. 3) We write for children, not to preach, nor moralize, but to suggest that the world about them is a beautiful and pleasant place to live in, if they but take time out, to look. And perhaps in so doing, our young readers will develop an interest to save what is good of their world for others to enjoy.” We hope that the Haders will be remembered as important contributors to children’s literature in the 20th century and we hope that their work will be remembered as genuine, whimsical, and beautiful.

[Images supplied by Hader Connection]

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