Cicely Mary Barker
Cicely Mary Barker suffered from epilepsy, so that she was unable to go to school and was educated at home. When she was 15 her father submitted her drawings to a stationery printer, who bought four of them for greeting cards. Her father died when she was 17, and Cicely Mary Barker's art sales became the main source of income for herself, her sister, and her mother. Her first book, Flower Fairies of the Spring was published in 1923, and it was a hit.
I love her illustrations because the fairies look like real children.This is appropriate as Cicely Mary Barker used live models for all her illustrations, usually children from her sister's kindergarten class. She would paint the child with a flower in his or her hand, enlarging the flower to the size of the child in the paintings. These flower fairies were often given characteristics similar to their live models.
In today's world of Barbie, and overly sexualized Disney Pixies, I love to see beautiful fairies that haven't reached puberty. Her poems are lovely, though not really geared to kids. In fact when Flower Fairies of the Spring first came out I think it was marketed to adults. She wrote a total of seven books, complete with flower fairy illustrations and accompanying verses. These books are all still in print, and I think they just put a new "cooler" cover on them this year.
But more than what she wrote, I love the books that Cicely Mary Barker's work inspired. Penguin, the publisher that owns the rights to her work, has stories about the fairies that are based on the characteristics she gave each one in her original verses. They have pop-ups and newly discovered flower fairy journals. These are the books for kids, and they are wonderful.