• Happy birthday Daniel San Souci (The Legend of Scarface) and Robert D. San Souci (The Talking Eggs).
  • In 1854 the Naval School, later named the United States Naval Academy, opens in Annapolis. Read Piper Reed, Navy Brat by Kimberly Willis Holt, illustrated by Christine Davenier.
  • In 1978, the United States Congress approves Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. Read Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women’s Rights by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Amy Bates.
  • The cornerstone dedication for Holocaust Museum in New York City was held on this day in 1996. Read Tell Them We Remember: The Story of the Holocaust by Susan D. Bachrach.
  • It’s National Angel Food Cake Day. Read The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson.

Were he still living, I’d be sending  birthday greetings to Jim Marshall today. He died at the age of fifty, much too young and with too many great books still to come. And I have missed him, personally and professionally, for twenty years.

A highly sophisticated human being, Jim grew up in San Antonio, Texas, a place that always loomed large in his work. Whenever possible, he drew the Alamo into his books. But when a career as a violinist failed to materialize, Jim began teaching high school students. He was a sublime doodler. One day lying in a hammock back home in San Antonio, Jim was sketching and placed two small dots on a page. As he drew around those dots, he developed two ungainly hippos. Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was being dramatized on the radio, and so Jim gave those animals the names of Albee’s characters—George and Martha. He went on to create a book of five stories about these engaging characters.

Jim had more friends than anyone I have ever met. There are probably scores of Almanac readers who felt they were close to him. He had a genius for friendship, an ability to sense what someone needed, and then give it to him or her in an unobtrusive way. Once when Jim and I were traveling in California together, he, Laurie Sale of the Children’s Books and Music Center, and Barbara Karlin, critic for the Los Angeles Times, were scheduled to have dinner together. But Barbara had undergone an operation that week and was in the hospital. For Jim this situation created no problems. Since Barbara love sushi, he found the best sushi restaurant in the area and organized a party in the hospital. Although we almost got thrown out for being a bit too raucous, this event proved to be just the medicine the patient needed.

Editors often tell writers to construct books about what they know. When Jim created the seven books about the delicate relationship of George and Martha, he definitely drew on his area of expertise: friendship. In George and Martha, George pour Martha’s split pea soup in his loafers so he doesn’t offend her. In George and Martha Encore Jim delivers one of his signature lines, “But George never said ‘I told you so.’ Because that’s not what friends are for.”

George and Martha have turned forty, but they look as young as ever. Whenever I find myself missing Jim, I pick up these stories or one of the Miss Nelson books. When I read them, it’s like my old friend Jim is with me again, making me laugh.

Here’s a page from George and Martha:

When Martha saw George’s lovely new golden tooth, she was very happy. “George!” she exclaimed. “You look so handsome and distinguished with your new tooth!”

And George was happy too. “That’s what friends are for,” he said. “They always look on the bright side and they always know how to cheer you up.”

“But they also tell you the truth,” said Martha with a smile.


Originally posted October 10, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Friendship
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for George and Martha
One year ago: Morning Girl


  1. leda says:

    You and Jim were so lucky to know each other! What fun you had.

    I just read “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” again and rewatched the movie. Given the choice, I’d rather hang out with the hippos any day, in spite of Richard Burton. Marshall’s got it all: Laughter, friendship, and the perfect line. When I met my husband, I told him he had smiling eyes, as George does in “The Disguise.” I find this hilarious, since George’s eyes are just two dots.

  2. Laurie Sale says:

    What a wonderful memory, Anita. I remember showing up at the train station to pick you two up, wearing G&M puppets, and “them” carrying a sign saying WELCOME JIM MARSHALL. He laughed and then rolled his eyes. The beginning of a much treasured friendship. He was one of the most wonderful, generous, fun and caring people…I miss him so much!!! Thanks for posting this, and congrats on your wonderful work…you continue to awe me with your talents!!! Laurie

  3. Judith Plum says:

    What happened to the book by Michael Dorris that was going to be reviewed today?

  4. musingteacher says:

    I loved all of James Marshall’s books, especially the George and Martha series. When my son was born I bought the hardback of ALL of the George and Martha stories in one volume. We loved that book. (Now my son is 11 and in that phase where he renounces everything from his youth, but someday he’ll enjoy it again.)

  5. What a wonderful tribute to Jim Marshall. It is so nice to get an inside look into the person behind the story!

  6. Anita says:

    Judith: You can find the link at the bottom of the page. Go to the line that says A Year Ago. That essay was posted last year and is still available; the Marshall post is a new one.

  7. Jewell Stoddard says:

    Thank you, Anita. This open the floodgates of my memory dam.
    Jim’s books do not fade.

  8. One of my all time favorite books about friendship. I think of Jim everytime I make pea soup. He is missed.

  9. Anne says:

    And ” The Adventures of Isabel: a verse” written by Ogden Nash and illustrated by James Marshall. What a hilarious pair they were.

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