Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story (Hardcover)
From a Caldecott medalist Emily Arnold McCully comes Queen of the Diamond, the story of the groundbreaking female baseball player Lizzie Murphy.
Lizzie Murphy was good at baseball. In fact, she was better than most of the boys. But she was born in 1900, and back then baseball was not a game for girls. Lizzie practiced with her brother anyway, and then she talked her way onto the local boys' team, first as a batboy, then as a player. Everyone was impressed by her hard catches and fast pitches. By the time she turned fifteen, she was playing for two different amateur boys' teams. When she turned eighteen, Lizzie did something else that women weren't supposed to do: she signed up with a professional baseball team, determined to earn her living playing the game.
I was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1939, but grew up in Garden City, New York. My father was a writer/producer of network radio shows, and my mother had been an actress and singer. Noticing that I was trying to draw people and objects, my mother once said to me, "Why don't you practice that and get it right?" She saw a talent to be developed so that I could support myself when I grew up.
As a child, I doodled and sketched and created my own stories, binding them into books. As class artist in school, I designed posters, backdrops, and programs for concerts and plays. I often visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and sketched people sitting on benches in Union Square. The city fueled my ambitions for an active life in the arts, theater, and publishing.
I attended Pembroke College (now part of Brown University), majoring in art history and acting in plays. I also collaborated on an award-winning musical. For years, people stood around me as I drew, marveling that I could reproduce someone or something. If art was a performance, I wanted to try out other roles.
After graduation, I worked as a mat cutter in an advertising agency and earned an M.A. in art history at Columbia University. Realizing I had no future in the advertising agency, I put together a portfolio of drawings and took it around to art directors. Gradually, jobs trickled in, mostly for book covers. Finally, an editor at Harper & Row Junior Books spotted a poster I had done that featured children. I received my first book illustration assignment, which led to another, and so on.
Meanwhile, I wrote fiction and published a short story that was selected for the O. Henry Collection. It was followed by two novels. I was able to try acting again when the chance arose to audition for a friend's play. It opened in Albany and moved to Off Broadway in New York. It was a wonderful experience, but I knew I had to go back to books. I have now written or illustrated more than two hundred books for children.
My advice for aspiring artists and writers is this: You can't aim to please other people. Do what matters most to you, then hope readers respond.
I believe that books, rather than be palliative or merely instructive, should stir the imagination. I share Isaac Bashevis Singer's belief that children's books are the last refuge of storytelling.
Emily Arnold McCully divides her time between New York City and upstate New York. She has won many awards for her children's books, including the Caldecott Medal for Mirette on the High Wire.
“McCully shows a keen eye for the attire and social mores of the era in a rousing story of a girl's dedication to the sport she loves.” —Publishers Weekly
“Using the classic struggle between the underdog and the powerful, McCully introduces Lizzie Murphy, who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, parlays her love for baseball into a successful career.” —The Horn Book
“Caldecott medalist McCully tells this compelling story skillfully . . . A rewarding sports biography.” —Booklist
“McCully's book is both a good all-round baseball story and an inspirational story about believing in oneself and overcoming opposition. An excellent choice.” —School Library Journal