Although best remembered for his nature books for young children and young adults, Sterling North also wrote a number of biographies of American literary and historical figures that added to his reputation as one of the most popular twentieth-century writers for young adults. He was born on November 4, 1906, on a small farm overlooking Lake Koshkonong, near Edgerton, Wisconsin. North first found literary fame through his poetry, which he sold to literary magazines throughout his high school and college years. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1929, North worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. In 1932 he became the newspaper’s literary editor, a position he later held at the New York Post and at the New York World Telegram and Sun. In 1957 he accepted a post with Houghton Mifflin, his primary publisher, as editor of North Star Books, a series of historical books for children. Sole author of twenty-six novels, biographies, and children’s books, North edited over twenty other books and anthologies as well. He also contributed poems, articles, and stories to a variety of national publications, including the Atlantic, Harper’s, Poetry, and The Nation.
Critical acclaim for North’s work has centered on its appeal to all generations. This is especially true in the case of North’s most famous works, Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era and Raccoons Are the Brightest People, both set near the author’s rural home in New Jersey. Rascal was a Newbery Medal runner-up in 1964 and received the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award and the Dutton Animal Book Award. The Wolfling also won a Dutton Animal Book Award. Sterling North died in Morristown, New Jersey, on December 22, 1974, after a series of strokes.