Biographical Sketches

KJELGAARD, James Arthur 1910-1959
(Jim Kjelgaard)

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "kel-guard"; born
December 6, 1910, in New York, NY; died July 12, 1959,
in Milwaukee, WI; son of a physician; married Edna
Dresen, 1939; children: Karen. Education: Attended Syra-
cuse University for two years.

CAREER: Author of books for young people. Worked
variously as a trapper, teamster guide, surveyor’s assis-
tant, factory worker, and plumber’s apprentice.

AWARDS, HONORS: Boys Club Award, 1948, for Big
Red: Spur Award, Western Writers of America, 1958, for
Wolf Brother; Boys Life Award, Dodd Mead, 1959, for
Ulysses and His Woodland Zoo.

SIDELIGHTS: James Arthur Kjelgaard imbued each of
his many books for children with his two great loves: na-
ture and dogs. Although born in New York City, he spent
his childhood living on farms located in the Allegheny
Mountain Range that runs through the state of Pennsylva-
nia. Combining his personal experiences of the wild coun-
try he know as a boy with the animals he came to know
and love, Kjelgaard wrote many popular animal stories for
children before his untimely death at the age of forty-
eight.

As a young man, Kjelgaard held various jobs--trapper, la-
borer, and surveyor’s assistant--but in 1938, at age twen-
ty-eight, he decided to focus his energies on writing stories
for children. He began setting down his own recollections
of the woodland regions of North American and from there
fashioned stories featuring colorful, enigmatic characters
long with, of course, dogs. Kjelgaard’s first book, Forest
Patrol, is based on adventures he and his brother John en-
countered in their time spent in the wilderness. Set in the
Allegheny back country, it is the story of a young man’s
efforts to go to forest ranger school. The plot reflects Kjel-
gaard’s own concerns about conservation and the balance
of nature within the forest environment.

Although his favorite breed was the Irish setter, Kjelgaard
featured many other dogs in his books: a greyhound in De-
sert Dog, a collie in Double Challenge, a golden retriever
in Stormy, an Alaskan husky in both Snow Dog and Wild
Trek, and a bloodhound in A Nose for Trouble. He went
on to write about other animals in some of his later books,
incorporating such wildlife characters as polar bears, deer,
beavers, foxes, and moose into his tales. But he always re-
turned to write about his favorite animal: "I’ve always had
at least one dog and sometimes as many as seven dogs at
one time," Kjelgaard wrote in a 1949 article for Young
Wings. "Most of them were valiant dogs. Bud, an Aire-
dale, held a bear at bay alone three times in one year. Any
good bear hunter will tell you it take a pack of dogs to
do that. Mac, a little spaniel, would trot through pheasant
swamps all day long and never tire. . . . My present dog
. . . Jerry . . . has a heart as big as the outdoors, where
he and I go hunting. He’ll swim icebound creeks, hunt all
day in rough goings, and do anything except quit! Jerry
is one of the best dogs I’ve ever had."

Kjelgaard’s most popular book had its source very close
to home, in the shape of an Irish Setter named Big Red.
Published in 1945, Big Red is the first in a series of three
books--containing Irish Red, Son of Big RedandOutlaw
Red, Son of Big Red--about a champion Irish setter and
his friendship with a young trapper named Danny. The
book has continued to be popular with young readers and
as made into a major motion picture by Buena Vista
more than fifteen years after it was first published. The
timeless appeal of Kjelgaard’s stories is due to both the
never-changing relationship between man and nature and
the author’s straightforward approach to the lives of his
human characters. In Big Red, as in the rest of his books,
people are involved in avocations very closely related to
the out-of-doors. Whether a hunter or trapper, as in Big
Red, a game warden in both Trailing Trouble, and A
Nose for Trouble, a naturalist as in Wild Trek, or a nature
photographer as in Wildlife Cameraman, Kjelgaard’s
books provide well-researched insight into many occupa-
tions involving nature, making them an excellent voca-
tional resource for young readers.

Among his own books, Kjelgaard’s personal favorite was
Buckskin Brigade. Told in the author’s unique, down-to-
earth manner described as "muscular prose" by M. C.
Scoggin in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, the
book is a series of short stories representing many inci-
dents highlighting the exploration and settlement of
North America. Kjelgaard wrote several other works of
"historical" nature fiction, including The Lost Wagon,
about the Oregon Trail.

"Story hunts have led me from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
and from the Arctic Circle to Mexico City," Kjelgaard
once wrote in Young Wings. "Stories, like gold, are where
you find them. You may discover one three thousand
miles from home or . . . right on your own doorstep."
Kjelgaard’s "story hunts" yielded a wealth of colorful
tales which continue to bring his great love of both the wil-
derness and his many canine friends to life for young readers.

WRITINGS:

JUVENILE FICTION: EXCEPT WHERE NOTED

Forest Patrol, illustrated by Tony Palazzo, Holiday House, 1941.
Rebel Siege, illustrated by Charles Banks Wilson, Holiday House, 1943.
Big Red, illustrated by Bob Kuhn, Holiday House, 1945,
      revised edition illustrated by Shannon Stirnweis, 1960
Buckskin Brigade, illustrated by Ralph Ray, Jr., Holiday House, 1947.
Snow Dog, illustrated by Jacob Landau, Holiday House, 1948.
Kalak of the Ice, illustrated by Kuhn, Holiday House, 1949.
A Nose for Trouble, illustrated by Collett, Holiday House, 1949.
Wild Trek, illustrated by Faye, Holiday House, 1950.
Chip, the Dam Builder, illustrated by Ray, Holiday House, 1950.
Irish Red, Son of Big Red, illustrated by Ed Ames, Holiday House, 1951.
Fire Hunter, illustrated by Ray, Holiday House, 1951.
The Explorations of Pere Marquette (juvenile nonfiction),
       illustrated by Voorhies, Random House, 1951.
Trailing Trouble, Holiday House, 1952.
Outlaw Red, Son of Big Red, illustrated by Ames, Holiday House, 1953.
The Spell of the White Sturgeon, illustrated by Stephen J. Voorhies,
       Dodd, 1953.
The Coming of the Mormons (juvenile nonfiction), illustrated by Voorhies,
       Random House, 1953.
Haunt Fox, illustrated by Glen Rounds, Holiday House, 1954.
Cracker Barrel Trouble Shooter, illustrated by Albert Orbaan, Dodd, 1954.
Lion Hound, illustrated by Landau, Holiday House, 1955.
The Lost Wagon, illustrated by Orbaan, Dodd, 1955.
Desert Dog, illustrated by Sam Savitt, Holiday House, 1956.
Trading Jeff and His Dog, Dodd, 1956.
Wildlife Cameraman, illustrated by Savitt, Holiday House, 1957.
Double Challenge, illustrated by Chris A. Kenyon, Jr., Dodd, 1957.
(With Savoie Lottinville) We Were There at the Oklahoma Land Run,
      illustrated by Kenyon, Grosset, 1957.
Wolf Brother, illustrated by Wilson, Holiday House, 1957.
Swamp Cat, illustrated by Edward Shenton, Dodd, 1957.
(Editor) The Wild Horse Roundup: A Collection of Stories by
Members of Western Writers of America, illustrated by Paul Brown,
      Dodd, 1957.
Rescue Dog of the High Pass, illustrated by Shenton, Dodd, 1958.
(Editor) Hound Dogs and Other Yarns: A Collection of Stories by
Members of Western Writers of America, illustrated by Brown,
      Dodd, 1958.
The Land is Bright, Dodd, 1958.
The Black Fawn, illustrated by Erk, Dodd, 1958.
The Story of Geronimo (juvenile nonfiction), illustrated by Wilson,
      Grosset, 1958.
Hi Jolly, illustrated by Kendall Rossi, Dodd, 1959.
Stormy, illustrated by Louis Darling, Holiday House, 1959.
Ulysses and His Woodland Zoo, illustrated by Rossi, Dodd, 1960.
Boomerang Hunter, illustrated by W. T. Mars, Holiday House, 1960.
The Duck-Footed Hound, illustrated by Marc Simont, Crowell, 1960.
Tigre, illustrated by Everett Raymond Kinstler, Dodd, 1961.
My Father’s Collie, Dodd 1961.
Hidden Trail, illustrated by Darling, Holiday House, 1962.
Fawn in the Forest, and Other Wild Animal Stories, illustrated by
     Savitt, Dodd, 1962.
Two Dogs and a Horse, illustrated by Savitt, Dodd, 1964.
Furious Moose of the Wilderness, illustrated by Mort Kuenstler,
      Dodd, 1965
Dave and His Dog, Mulligan, illustrated by Savittt, Dodd, 1966.
Coyote Song, illustrated by Robert MacLean, Dodd, 1969.

Some works appear under the name Jim Kjelgaard. Contributor
of short stories to magazines.

Kjelgaard’s manuscripts are housed in the Kerlan Collection,
University of Minnesota.

ADAPTATIONS: The Explorations of Pere Marquette has
been adapted into a filmstrip, released by David J. Good-
man, 1957; Big Red has been adapted into a motion pic-
ture of the same name, released by Buena Vista, 1962; the
motion picture Big Red has been adapted into the film-
strips Big Red, Big Red’s New Trainer, and Big Red to the
Rescue, released by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, 1962.

BIOGRAPHICAL/CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

New York Herald Tribune Book Review, October 31, 1948, p. 8.
New York Times, December 28, 1941,page 9; November 14,
      1943, p. 7; June 19, 1949, p. 30; June 3, 1951, p. 24.
Young Wings, January, 1949.

OBITUARIES:

PERIODICALS

Publishers Weekly August 10, 1959.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1959.

Acknowledgment:

(Taken from Contemporary Authors, v. 137 pages 250-252. Edited by Susan M Trosky & Donna Olendorf. Copyright @ 1992 Gale Research. All rights reserved. Reproduction by permission.)

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Background graphic from dust jacket of Forest Patrol - 1941, permission to
display granted by Holiday House, Inc.

Last Updated: September 10,1998