When I tell people about Berta and Elmer Hader, I ask if they know the Haders’s Caldecott Medal winning book The Big Snow. Sadly many people haven’t read this delightful book. I then ask if they remember the news reel footage from the beginning of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas special. That they usually know. The Big Snow is a picture book about that same real blizzard that buried New York City and is probably the Haders’s best known book in a long career that featured children’s books they wrote and illustrated and a series of widely popular paper dolls.
Before the Haders were married, Berta was roommates with Rose. Laura called her “the little artist girl.” The Haders maintained a lifelong friendship with Rose. Elmer painted a picture of Telegraph Hill that he gifted to Rose and is now on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. When Laura’s first autobiographical manuscript, Pioneer Girl, was rejected, it was Berta who suggested it might fare better as a children’s book. This led to the manuscript being re-written as a picture book. This as yet unpublished picture book was called When Grandma Was a Little Girl. It was this that Knopf asked Laura to extend into the chapter book that eventually became Little House in the Big Woods.
Today the Haders have started to fade into obscurity. Now some of their relatives are trying to reverse that trend. Read all about the Haders and see examples of their work here.
Please look for some of their books. I personally recommend The Big Snow and The Stone House. The Stone House tells the story of them building their dream house slowly, doing much of the work themselves. It’s a great story. Today the house still stands, but has been remodeled beyond recognition. Rose was a guest here. In any of the Hader books look for their delightful signature self-portraits which are different in each book.
Sarah S. Uthoff, Trundlebed Tales