Wahl, Jan


Born: April 1, 1933

Ohio connection: Birth

Jan Wahl, son of Russell Rothenberger and Nina Marie (Boyer) Wahl, was born in 1933 in Columbus, Ohio. He began writing while living with his grandparents in northwest Ohio during the Depression. His first effort was an attempt to rewrite “Jack and the Beanstalk,” which he felt could be improved. He also loved art as he was growing up, and the love of the visual had a clear effect on his later efforts as a writer/illustrator. His love for the movies was also a factor in his writing; as he stated: “In a way, I was writing the films I wished I could see. A picture book is related to an animated cartoon.” Wahl received a B.A. degree from Cornell University in 1933, and did graduate study at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, 1954-55. While there, he worked with film director Carl Theodore Dreyer during the making of the prize-winning film Ordet. Wahl received an M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1958. He then returned to Denmark to work as a secretary to writer Isak Dinesen. He also served as a correspondent from Copenhagen for Dance magazine. He worked with illustrators Garth Williams in Mexico, and Erik Blegvad in England, 1966-67. Most of his career since that time has been devoted to the writing of children`s fiction books. He is a creative and prolific author, having published more than a hundred books for children. The first, Pleasant Fieldmouse, published in 1964, was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Some of his most popular titles are The Woman with the Eggs; The Teeny, Tiny Witches; Rabbits on Roller Skates!; The Toy Circus; Tailypo!; My Cat Ginger; Little Eight John; I Met a Dinosaur ; and The Field Mouse and the Dinosaur Named Sue. Wahl also wrote a book of children’s verse, The Beast Book; a young adult fiction title, Youth’s Magic Horn: Seven Stories; and a play, Paradiso! Paradiso!, first produced in 1964. Jan Wahl lives and works in Toledo, Ohio.

Fulbright scholar in Copenhagen, 1953-54; Avery Hopwood Award in fiction, University of Michigan, 1955, for a group of short stories collectively entitled Seven Old Maids (the stories appeared in various magazines); Young Critics’ award at International Children’s Book Fair, Bologna, Italy, 1969, for Pocahontas in London; Ohioana Book Award winner, 1970, for The Norman Rockwell Storybook; American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book citation, 1974, for The Woman with the Eggs; Bowling Green State University, Ohio, declared May 1, 1980, as “Jan Wahl Day”; Parents’ Choice literary award, 1982, for Tiger Watch; Redbook award, 1987, for Humphrey’s Bear.