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West Virginia Women Writers: Betsy Byars

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Betsy Byers (1928- ) Morgantown, Monongalia County

Betsy Byars lived in West Virginia from 1960 to 1980. In that period she wrote 16 young adult novels and won several writing awards including the coveted Newbery Award for best young adult fiction for Summer of the Swans in 1971. Also her House of Wings was a finalist for the 1973 National Book Award for Young Adults, and she won the American Book Award for Children’s Fiction for her 1980 title Night Swimmers. Goodbye Chicken Little was a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year in 1979.  Although she was born in North Carolina, and currently resides in South Carolina, some of her most productive work was accomplished during her time in Morgantown when her husband was the chairman of West Virginia University’s Mechanical Engineering Department.

Four of the titles Byars completed in Morgantown are set in West Virginia: Goodbye Chicken Little, After the Goat Man, Summer of the Swans, and Midnight Fox. Often, as these titles reflect, the natural world--swans, whooping cranes, foxes,etc., shares the stage with Byar’s characters as they work through difficult situations.  As a realistic writer, the spark for many of Byars stories begins in the real world. Two titles she wrote in West Virginia began as part of everyday life. Summer of the Swans is based on students she tutored in schools and Night Swimmers was initiated when a friend, who has a swimming pool, mentions her personal fear of neighbors swimming in the pool when the family is not home.


After the Goat Man New York: Puffin Books, 1982, c1974. illustrated by Ronald Himler.

Boo’s Dinosaur. New York : Henry Holt, 2006. Ill. by Erik Brooks.

Cybill War  New York : Viking Press, 1981.

Eighteenth Emergency   New York : Viking Press, 1973.

Golly Sisters Ride Again New York: HarperCollins, 1996, c1994. Ill. by Sue Truesdell.

Go and Hush the Baby New York, Viking Press [1971] Ill. by Emily A. McCully.

Good-bye, Chicken Little New York : Harper & Row, 1990, c1979.

Keeper of the Doves New York : Viking, 2002.

Midnight Fox New York : Viking Press, [1968] Ill. by Ann Grifalconi.

McMummy New York : Viking/Penguin, c1993.

Not Just Anybody Family Old Greenwich, CT : Listening Library, 1988, c1986.

Rama, the Gypsy Cat. New York : Viking Press, [1966]. Ill. by Peggy Bacon

Summer of the Swans    New York : Viking Press, 1970.

Two Thousand Pound Goldfish New York : Harper & Row, 1982.

TV Kid   New York : Viking Press, c1976.

Cammarano, Rita. Betsy Byars. Philadelphia : Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.

Usrey, Malcolm. Betsy Byars. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1995.


Author's Website



1970  --  Lewis Carol Shelf Award, Midnight Fox                 

1971  -- Newbery Medal, Summer of the Swans  

1973  -- National Book Award finalists, House of Wings            

1975 -- Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, Eighteenth Emergency  

1981 -- American Book Award for Children’s Fiction, Night Swimmers 

1992 -- Edgar Allan Poe Award, Wanted Mud Blossom    

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