Children's Author Mary E. Lyons Papers

The Mary E. Lyons Papers represents the work of Mary E. Lyons as an author of children’s fiction and nonfiction books.  These papers include her research, manuscripts, revisions, proofs, and illustrations used for books and teaching resources written between 1985 and 2008, as well as correspondence, reviews and awards, articles, and presentations from those years. 

Photo caption: Cover images of Mary E. Lyons’ African American Artists and Artisans series.

Mary E. Lyons (b. 1947) is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction books for children.  Lyons' works delve into the lives of marginalized people in history, from women to African Americans to impoverished Irish during the potato famine.  Lyons has written, edited, or co-authored twenty-one books.  Lyons received a Bachelor of Science from Appalachian State University in 1970, and returned to earn a Master of Science in reading in 1972.  Before becoming a full-time writer, Lyons was a reading teacher at elementary and middle schools in North Carolina and Charlottesville, VA.  She has also been a school librarian in elementary, middle, and high schools in Charlottesville.  

Among the research materials for various titles one can see this author’s careful attention to historical accuracy, including a pocket-sized ledger for Woodvill Farm in Virginia, dated 1847-1851.  Lyons’ used this while writing Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs, which is based on the true story of life in slavery from a woman’s point of view. 

Photo caption: Woodvill Farm Ledger, 1847-1851

Another example of Lyons’ thoughtful attention to historical detail is her pages and pages of research on the dialect and culture of different time periods and peoples.  This is seen with Letters from a Slave Girl, as well as The Poison Place: A Novel, which tells the story of Moses Williams’ life as the slave of Charles William Peale in Philadelphia in the early 1800s.  The research of Knockabeg: A Famine Tale also shows Lyons’ faithfulness to dialect and culture by telling the story of the Irish potato famine through faeries as main characters and Gaelic words. 

Photo caption: Research for The Poison Place.

Mary E. Lyons’ books in the University Libraries catalog:

Hunter, Clementine, and Mary E. Lyons. Talking with Tebé: Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Lyons, Mary E. Sorrow's Kitchen: The Life and Folklore of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner's, 1990.

Lyons, Mary E. Raw Head, Bloody Bones: African-American Tales of the Supernatural. New York: Scribner's, 1991.

Lyons, Mary E. Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs. New York: Scribner's, 1992.

Lyons, Mary E. Starting Home: The Story of Horace Pippin, Painter.  New York: Scribner's, 1993.

Lyons, Mary E. Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers. New York : C. Scribner's Sons, 1993.

Lyons, Mary E, and Bill Traylor. Deep Blues: Bill Traylor, Self-Taught Artist. New York: Scribner's, 1994.

Lyons, Mary E. Master of Mahogany: Tom Day, Free Black Cabinetmaker. New York: Scribner's, 1994.

Lyons, Mary E. Keeping Secrets: The Girlhood Diaries of Seven Women Writers. New York: H. Holt and Co, 1995.

Lyons, Mary E, and Mannie Garcia. Catching the Fire: Philip Simmons, Blacksmith. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Lyons, Mary E. The Poison Place: A Novel. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997.

Lyons, Mary E, and Muriel M. Branch. Dear Ellen Bee: A Civil War Scrapbook of Two Union Spies. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000.

Lyons, Mary E. Knockabeg: A Famine Tale. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Lyons, Mary E. Feed the Children First: Irish Memories of the Great Hunger. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002.

Lyons, Mary E, Zora N. Hurston, and Terry Widener. Roy Makes a Car. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005.

Lyons, Mary E. Letters from a Slave Boy: The Story of Joseph Jacobs. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007.

Lyons, Mary E. The Blue Ridge Tunnel: A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia. Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2014.

Lyons, Mary E. The Virginia Blue Ridge Railroad. Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2015.

RB.8019: Mary E. Lyons Papers, Special Collections, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.

by Anna Smith, Archives Processing Assistant

Published: Oct 7, 2020 6:10am