Rosemary Wells is “Mother Goose’s second cousin,” declares Iona Opie, the renowned authority on children’s rhymes who edited My Very First Mother Goose, Here Comes Mother Goose, and Mother Goose’s Little Treasures. Each acclaimed collection features Rosemary Wells’s illustrations, fanciful images that abound in witty cross-references and absorbing details that “children love pointing out to grown-ups who probably haven’t noticed them,” Iona Opie says.
Born in New York City, Rosemary Wells grew up in a house filled with “books, dogs, and nineteenth-century music.” After a brief tenure at the Museum School in Boston, she married and began a career as a book designer, then published her own first picture book in 1968. From the start, Rosemary Wells’s work has been recognized for its strong sense of humor and realism and its gently rebellious approach to childhood. Her books have received numerous honors, including a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year award for My Very First Mother Goose.
Young children everywhere have adored the more than sixty picture books Rosemary Wells has created over some three decades. “Simple incidents from childhood are universal,” she says. “The children and our home life have inspired many of my books.” Among them are two endearing books she wrote and illustrated, Felix Feels Better (a New York Times bestseller) and Felix and the Worrier, both about a lovable little guinea pig. “Most of my books use animals rather than children as characters,” Rosemary Wells admits. “People always ask why. There are many reasons. First, I draw animals more easily and amusingly than I do children. Animals are broader in range—age, time, and place—than children are. They also can do things in pictures that children cannot. They can be slapstick and still real, rough and still funny, maudlin and still touching.”
Indeed, not all of Rosemary Wells’s ideas come from within the family circle. “I put into my books all of the things I remember,” she says. “I am an accomplished eavesdropper in restaurants, on trains, and at gatherings of any kind. These remembrances are jumbled up and changed, because fiction is always more palatable than truth. Memories become more true as they are honed and whittled into characters and stories.”
Rosemary Wells lives in Connecticut.