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Prolific Children’s Author Hailed From Binghamton

Traci Taylor
Traci Taylor

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to read and through the years, I’ve managed to amass a book collection in the thousands. Rare and ‘antique’ books are my preference, especially those I remember reading as a little girl.  Among my collection are quite a few Bobbsey Twins books and I’m excited that my son (a fellow book lover, much to his mama’s delight) will begin to read soon because the Bobbsey Twins books are a good place to start!

Every once in a while I find myself curious about the authors of the books in my collection and will research them. My research on the author of the Bobbsey Twins books led me to a man named Howard R. Garis. If you know anything about the Bobbsey Twins, this might seem a bit peculiar because the book series author was Laura Lee Hope. Or was it?

Contrary to popular belief, Laura Lee Hope wasn’t the author of the Bobbsey Twins series. As a matter of fact, Laura Lee Hope wasn’t even a real person. The Bobbsey Twins series saw several authors, all of whom wrote under the pseudonym, Laura Lee Hope. It’s widely believed that Edward Stratemeyer (head of Stratemeyer Syndicate, a producer of several series of books for kids, most notably Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys) wrote the first book in the Bobbsey Twins series. Books two and three were written by Lilian Garis, books 4-28 were written by Howard R. Garis. Books 29-72 were written by several different authors.

The reason my eye caught the author name of Howard R. Garis is that I remembered someone mentioning that a famous children’s author came from the Southern Tier, but couldn’t remember the name. Garis looked vaguely familiar. According to Syracuse University, that author was, in fact, Garis, who was born in Binghamton in 1873 and graduated from Binghamton High School. Not only did Garis and his wife both write several of the Bobbsey Twins books, but Garis is actually most well-known for a series of children’s books that he created and wrote under his own name- the Uncle Wiggily series. In addition to his book series, Uncle Wiggily also had his own board game.

I vividly remember playing the Uncle Wiggily board game with my mom as a little girl and when I asked her what she remembered most about playing the game with me, she wrote, “All I remember is that you didn’t like rheumatism and wanted him [Uncle Wiggily] to drop the cane and hop right. You loved the graphics but didn’t like the time it took to play.  You wanted ALL the turns and to make the rules. We never really finished a whole game because you got so upset at Uncle Wiggily not hopping.”  Several years ago, I found an old Uncle Wiggily board game which sits tucked away safely in storage, waiting for the day that I’m able to pull it out and play with my little boy.

In addition to writing several Bobbsey Twins books, and the Uncle Wiggily series, Garis also contributed to several other series including, the Motor Boys (as Clarence Young), the Great Marvel series and books featuring Baseball Joe (as Lester Chadwick), and the Camp Fire Girls (as Marion Davidson). According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Garris  retired in 1947, but not before writing, “more than 15,000 stories and about 500 books.

Garis also managed to find the time to write as a reporter for the Newark Evening News and he worked for a time as a Syndicate writer and DJ on WNJR-AM. Garis passed away in 1962. He was predeceased by his wife, Lilian who was quite the prolific writer herself, having written hundreds of juvenile fiction books from the early 1900’s to the early 1940’s.

[via Statemeyer.org/Syracuse University/Old Newark/Encyclopedia Britannica/Good Reads]

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