Erickson, Phoebe

About the author

Phoebe Erickson wrote and illustrated children’s books. Many of them were about animals, and she also illustrated an adaptation of Black Beauty, adapted (and much shortened) by Eleanor Graham Vance for Random House in 1949.

Born in 1907 in North Bay, Wisconsin, Erickson grew up on a farm and was educated at the Chicago Art Institute and Columbia University. Her books reflected her rural upbringing, and her feeling that children should be educated gently. She felt children learned best when the message was not forced, and so the cruelty animals suffered was not necessarily spelled out bleakly; it was evident if the illustrations were studied.

The University of Minnesota, in its collection of her papers, has illustrations for books called Shire Colt and Shy Little Colt and Other Stories. I have not been able to find any evidence of these books being authored by Erickson, and neither have I been able to find books with these titles with Erickson’s illustrations. If you can provide any evidence of what these illustrations were for, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Finding the books
Black Penny can be pricey as a hardback but is cheap in paperback. Wildwing is easy to find, and generally not expensive. Neither was published in the UK. Black Beauty was published in the UK, and her version is reasonably easy to find, and not generally expensive.

Links and sources
National Library of Congress
Terri A. Wear: Horse Stories, an Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press, 1987
Phoebe Erickson’s papers are in the University of Minnesota
Thank you to Christina Wilsdon for the photograph of Black Beauty

Bibliography (horse books only)

Black Beauty

Random House, New York, 1949, 62 pp
Purnell, London, 1949
Publicity Book Services, London, 1953

Illustrated by Phoebe Erickson and adapted by Eleanor Vance

Black Penny

Knopf, New York, 1951, 183 pp, illus the author
Knopf, New York, 1979, pb

Emmy, a Swedish immigrant, knows that the colt Black Penny will have to be sold when he is two, but she puts her all into raising him, just hoping he will not be sold to Gloria and Roderick, their new neighbours. Neither of them are gems.


Harper Row, New York, 1959, 179 pp, illus the author
Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club Edition, 1960

Bronze Feather rescues a buckskin foal which was orphaned by horse hunters. However the foal, which is named Wildwing, pines for the freedom he once knew, and Bronze Feather has a ifficult decision to make over whose needs come first.