Bill Martin, Jr.
Portrait of a Kansas children’s book author
Bill Martin, Jr. (1916-2004) has been called “America’s favorite children’s book author.” Born and raised in Hiawatha, he experienced difficulty reading until he attended Kansas State Teacher’s College at Emporia (now Emporia State University). There he memorized poems an instructor read aloud, then related the words to what was on the page. After graduation, Martin taught English and journalism at Newton and St. John, Kansas.
He served as a newspaper editor in the Army Air Corps during World War II and wrote his first book, The Little Squeegy Bug illustrated by his brother Bernard in 1945. Eleanor Roosevelt praised the book that went on to sell over a million copies. The Martin brothers collaborated on 10 books, and the Morrill Public Library in their hometown of Hiawatha dedicated the Bill and Bernard Martin Children’s Library in 2000 in their honor.
Martin continued as an educator, became a school principal in Illinois, and earned a doctorate in early childhood education from Northwestern University in 1961. He moved to New York to join publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston as editor-in-chief of the school division and developer of innovative reading programs.
In 1972 Martin became a full-time writer, eventually publishing over 300 books. In 1993 he moved to the east Texas woods near Commerce where he continued to write until his death in 2004. He wrote many other classics in addition to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; see the Read-Alikes page for more titles.
Martin's long-time collaborator, Michael Sampson, said, “Poetry allowed him to become a reader - if he could hear it, he could read it. And as a writer, Bill worked with his ear. How his writing sounded was the most important thing. Poetry was his mentor. It inspired and guided him.”
We're proud to honor this native Kansan during our sesquicentennial year as our featured Kansas Reads to Preschoolers author.
2010 - Up Down and Around
2009 - Wiggle
2008 - Bear Feels Sick
2007 - Safety
2006 - Bunny Cakes
2005 - No Matter What
Kansas Children's Book Awards
Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award
William Allen White Children's Book Award