5 Fun (and unusual!) Facts about Making “Because Barbara: Barbara Cooney Paints Her World”

by | Jun 29, 2024 | Books, Interview, Reading | 3 comments

I recently had the delight of reading Sarah Mackenzie’s latest picture book from Waxwing Books: Because Barbara: Barbara Cooney Paints Her World. 

I have previously enjoyed Sarah’s other picture books (discussed in this post), and this one was also such a treat to read! The text really brings Barbara to life and showcases her incredible career, and the illustrations are so summery and feel-good. I am a big fan of Barbara’s Miss Rumphius and Eleanor, as many others are, and this is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about her in a way that is just as joyous as perusing her own picture books!

Best of all? I asked Sarah if she had some fun facts to share with readers, and here’s what she says:

  1. I have been long devoted to the picture books by Barbara Cooney, especially Miss Rumphius and Ox-Cart Man (my two personal favorites). But it wasn’t until I decided to find out more about the woman behind the books that I realized I had to write a book about her. Here was a busy mother of four who created her art in the midst of full, abundant, often chaotic family life. Here was a woman who read with her children, took them on picnics, lay out on the sun-warmed rocks, took on too many projects, traveled the world (always with a snake-bite kit in hand!) and longed to get the beauty she saw in the world onto the page. Here was a woman whose children remember her with such tenderness and awe.

  2. Barbara was unusually scrupulous about accurate details in her illustrations. In her picture book biography called Eleanor about Eleanor Roosevelt, she made sure all the details were true to life, down to the exact lace and patterns on Eleanor’s christening gown. In Chanticleer and the Fox, every grass and flower is something that would truly have been growing during Chaucer’s time in England. In an effort to honor Barbrara’s affinity for accurate detail, the illustrator of Because Barbara, Eileen Ryan Ewen, went to Damariscotta, Maine, and sat at a kitchen table with Barbara’s son and daughter-in-law, listening to stories, paging through photo albums, and absorbing as much of Barbara’s true life, that we might get some of that particular beauty into our book.

  3. One of my favorite things I found in my research is that Barbara Cooney described a picture book as “a string of beads with the illustrations being the jewels” and the text as “the string that holds them together.”

  4. The real Miss Rumphius (yes, there was a real Miss Rumphius!) was a woman named Hilda Hamlin. Barbara was inspired by her, so she made a book about her! And then she embellished it.

  5. According to her son, Barnaby, Barbara Cooney always always always drew a mouse by starting at the tip of its tail.


    Click here if you’d like to check out Because Barbara!


  1. Joan

    Congratulations Anna Rose. Love the name Golden Moon Cottage.

  2. Marilyn

    Congratulations on your graduation. The cottage is lovely and so is the name. Continued success.

  3. Marion

    Anna Rose congratulations on your graduation. The Golden Moon Cottage is a play house for adults.


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