Frank Gelett Burgess

gelett burgess children's book awardsFrank Gelett Burgess was born January 30th, 1866 in Boston, Massachusetts. He made his first literary contribution to the world when he began carving his initials, in the form of a monogram based on the Phoenician alphabet, near the top of every church steeple in the city. (The design of the Gelett Burgess Children's Book Award is based on this monogram) Though much of Burgess' work has been overlooked in recent years, many of his lasting contributions often go uncredited.

The word "blurb" was invented by Burgess in 1917 when he humorously inscribed a book to Miss Belinda Blurb. From that day forward descriptive copy used for marketing purposes has been called a "blurb." If you the word "blurb" isn't part of your vocabulary, perhaps you've heard Burgess' famous lines, "I never saw a purple cow, I never hope to see one; But I can tell you, anyhow, I'd rather see than be one." (From Gelett Burgess' poem The Purple Cow)

In 1895, Burgess became founding editor of The Lark, a San Francisco-based magazine devoted to humorous poetry — which, in the 1890s, meant a healthy dollop of nonsense. He contributed a steady stream of quatrains in that genre, all accompanied by his uniquely-styled cartoons, and most of which had rhyming titles. The title of his "Purple Cow" quatrain, for example, was "The Purple Cow's Projected Feast: Reflections on a Mythic Beast, Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least."

Another of Burgess' lasting creations was his Goops series which brought humor to the subject of polite behavior and child rearing, and opened doors for many popular books and television series later in the century. Through the publication of his books Goops and How to Be Them, More Goops, Goop Tales, and so on, Goops have come to be associated with less-than-perfect children.

Frank Gelett Burgess died on September 18, 1951, in Carmel, CA. Since then, several important writers and illustrators have cited Gelett Burgess as an inspiration for their work. "Dr. Seuss' mother fostered the pleasure her son took in the music of words when she presented him with Goops and How to be Them by Gelett Burgess as a child primer in etiquette: "Like little ships out to sea, I push my spoon away from me." (Theodor Seuss Geisel by Donald E. Pease)

The Gelett Burgess Center for Creative Expression recognizes Burgess' disctinct style in both writing and illustration, and holds this standard to the books and scholarship applicants we award.