Virginia Lee Burton

also available in German

Born 30 August 1909 in Newton Centre, Massachusetts

Died 15 October 1968 in Boston, MA

American author and illustrator of children’s books; graphic artist and teacher; founder of Folly Cove Designers
45th Anniversary of death on 15 October 2013

BiographyQuotesLiterature & Sources


Werke von Virginia Lee Burton

Virginia Lee Burton believed in trying to give children what they like and want. The popular children’s book author always wrote and illustrated her books in collaboration with her two sons and their friends; if something didn’t appeal to them it would be changed. In this way books such as The Little House or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (in German: Klas und sein Bagger) were created and became classics of children’s literature.

Virginia Lee Burton

Her books often feature large machines (the steam shovel Mary Anne, or Katy the tractor) or humanized objects (such as the Little House) which must overcome threatening forces (Stott). They demonstrate how to meet sociological and technological changes in order to survive. Interestingly, the courageous machines of her tales are always female. Between 1937 and 1962 Burton wrote and illustrated seven books, all of which distinguish themselves by their unusually careful detail and unified integration of text and image.

“Jinnee” was the daughter of Lena Yates Burton, a lyric poet and dramatist from England who later took the name Jeanne D’Orge, and Alfred E. Burton, the first dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who was 30 years older than his wife. When Jinnee was eight the family moved to Carmel, California, at the time a lively artists’ colony. Lena fell in love with a younger man, left her family and began to paint. Jinnee herself was awarded a scholarship to the California School of Fine Arts and Design; she also took ballet lessons and planned to go on tour as a dancer. But when her father, who had returned to Boston, broke his leg, she decided to stay with him and attended drawing classes at the Boston Museum School. The following year she married her teacher, the sculptor George Demetrios, and moved to Folly Cove in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Werke von Virginia Lee Burton

There she wrote and illustrated her books, and beginning in 1938 also gave lessons in design to neighbors from the surrounding Cape Ann community. Out of this enterprise came the Folly Cove Designers, which grew to become a nationally recognized artistic community in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Textiles intended for practical use and printed with natural motifs were exhibited and sold in New York, among other places. When Burton died of lung cancer in 1968 the group dissolved. After 30 years working together, it was inconceivable to the artists to go on without their charismatic Jinnee.

For additional information please consult the German version.

Joey Horsley


Whether you belong to the posse that’s intent on fending barbarians off the heritage, or whether you acquire a taste for the wreckling ball depends on whether you grow up with the books of Virginia Lee Burton.

(Charles Clark)

Werke von Virginia Lee Burton

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Andersen 2004 – The emperor's new clothes

Bontemps 1937 – Sad-faced boy

Burton 1973 – Das kleine Haus

Andersen, Hans Christian (2004): The emperor’s new clothes.
Designed & illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton Boston. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618344209.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (1937): Sad-faced boy.
Illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton Boston. Houghton Mifflin.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (1942): The fast sooner hound. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1975. ISBN 0395186579.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (1939): Klas und sein Bagger. (=Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel)
Reinbek. Carlsen. 1968. (Reinbeker Kinderbücher)
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (1970): Das kleine Haus. (=The little house)
Aus dem Englischen von Max Bolliger Zürich. Artemis. 1973. ISBN 3-7608-0281-8.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton 1988 – Choo Choo

Burton 1996 – Calico, the wonder horse

Burton 1999 – Katy and the big snow

Burton, Virginia Lee (1937): Choo Choo. The story of a little engine who ran away. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1988. ISBN 0-395-47942-8.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (1941): Calico, the wonder horse, or The saga of Stewy Slinker. New York. Houghton Mifflin. 1996. ISBN 0395845416.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (1943): Katy and the big snow. Story and pictures.
Neuausgabe mit CD erscheint im Oktober 2009 unter ISBN 0547252641 Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 1999. ISBN 0395959918.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton 2001 – Maybelle, the cable car

Burton 2002 – Mike Mulligan and more

Burton 2006 – Mike Mulligan and his steam

Burton, Virginia Lee (1952): Maybelle, the cable car. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 2001. ISBN 0618164405.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (2002): Mike Mulligan and more. A Virginia Lee Burton treasury.
Enthält: Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel – The little house – Katy and the big snow – Maybelle the cable car Boston. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-25627-X.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (1939): Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel. Story and pictures.
Buch und CD Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 2006. ISBN 0618737561.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton 2007 – The little house

Burton 2009 – Life story

Malcolmson, Castagnetta et al. 2000 – Song of Robin Hood

Burton, Virginia Lee (1942): The little house.
Buch und CD Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 2007. ISBN 0618916512.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Burton, Virginia Lee (1962): Life story. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 2009. ISBN 0395160308.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Malcolmson, Anne Burnett; Castagnetta, Grace et al. (1947): Song of Robin Hood. Voice and piano.
Selected & edited by Anne Malcolmson. Music arranged by Grace Castagnetta. Designed & illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton Boston. Houghton Mifflin. 2000. ISBN 0618071865.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Secondary Literature

Elleman 2002 – Virginia Lee Burton Elleman, Barbara (2002): Virginia Lee Burton. A life in art. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618003428.
(Amazon | Eurobuch | WorldCat)

Stott, Jon C. (1983): Virginia Lee Burton. In: Cech, John (Hg.): American writers for children, 1900-1960. Detroit. Gale Research (Dictionary of literary biography, 22). ISBN 0810311461
(Amazon | Eurobuch)

Werke von Virginia Lee Burton

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Hedwig Dohm