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Margaret Bloy Graham (2 November 1920 – 22 January 2015) was a Canadian creator of children's books, primarily an illustrator of picture books. She is best known for her work on Harry the Dirty Dog (1956) and other books in the Harry series written by her then husband Gene Zion.

Early life

Graham was born in Toronto. Her father, Malcolm Robert Graham, was a physician and her mother Florence (née Bloy) was a nurse. When Graham was one, the family moved to Sandwich, Ontario (now part of Windsor), where her father became the superintendent of the sanatorium. Her childhood was spent in Ontario, but she spent her summer holidays abroad, either with her grandfather in England or an aunt in the United States. The family returned to Toronto when she was ten. She attended Saturday morning classes at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Graham majored in art history at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1943. After graduation, she attended a summer course at the venerable Art Students League in New York City. She later supplemented her studies at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and also the New School for Social Research.

She decided to stay in New York to establish a career as a commercial artist. From 1944 to 1945 she worked as a ship draftsman for Gibbs & Cox and in 1946 she started work in the art department of Condé Nast Publications, where she remained until 1956.

Writer and illustrator

Graham met her first husband Gene Zion (1913-1975) at Condé Nast. They were married in July 1948.

Zion was urged by his new wife and also his editor, Ursula Nordstrom of Harper and Brothers, to write children's books. He remembers that it was Graham’s sketch of children gathering apples in an orchard, done several years earlier in Canada, that inspired his first book, All Falling Down (1951).

The husband-and-wife team became famous for the Harry series of books, beginning with Harry the Dirty Dog (1956) and followed by No Roses for Harry! (1958), Harry and the Lady Next Door (1960) and Harry By the Sea (1965). The collaboration ended with their divorce in 1968.

Graham received two Caldecott Honors, one for her work on All Falling Down, the second for her work on The Storm Book.

Graham launched her own writing career around the time of the divorce with Be Nice to Spiders (1967). She later developed her own canine hero, Benjy, through a series of books.

Later life

Graham was remarried in 1972 to a merchant-ship officer, Oliver W. Holmes, Jr. She lived in retirement in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Major works

Author and Illustrator

Title Year Publisher
Be Nice To Spiders 1967 HarperCollins
Benjy and the Barking Bird 1971 HarperCollins
Benjy’s Dog House 1973 HarperCollins
Benjy’s Boat Trip 1977 HarperCollins
Benjy and His Friend Fifi 1988 HarperCollins


Title Year Author Publisher
All Falling Down 1951 Zion G. HarperCollins
The Storm Book 1952 Zolotow C. HarperCollins
Hide and Seek Day 1954 Zion G. HarperCollins
The Summer Snowman 1955 Zion G. HarperCollins
Harry the Dirty Dog 1956 Zion G. HarperCollins
Really Spring 1956 Zion G. HarperCollins
Dear Garbage Man 1957 Zion G. HarperCollins
Jeffie's Party 1957 Zion G. HarperCollins
No Roses for Harry 1958 Zion G. HarperCollins
The Plant Sitter 1959 Zion G. HarperCollins
Harry and the Lady Next Door 1960 Zion G. HarperCollins
The Meanest Squirrel I Ever Met 1963 Zion G. Scribners
The Sugar Mouse Cake 1964 Young M.B. Scribners
Harry by the sea 1965 Zion G. HarperCollins
The Green Hornet Lunchbox 1970 Shirley Gordon Houghton Mifflin
The Pack Rat’s Day and Other Poems 1974 Prelutsky J. Macmillan
What if? 1987 Minarik E.H Greenwillow
It’s spring! 1989 Minarik E.H Greenwillow

Biographical sources

  • Commire, A. (1977). GRAHAM, Margaret Bloy 1920- . In Something about the author (Vol. 11, pp. 119–120). Detroit MI: Gale Research
  • Commire, A. (1980). ZION, (Eu)Gene 1913-1975. In Something about the author (Vol. 18, pp. 305–306). Detroit MI: Gale Research
  • Graham, M.B. (1963). Margaret Bloy Graham 1920- . In M. Fuller (Ed.), More junior authors (pp. 102–103). New York: H.W. Wilson
  • Kingman, L., Foster, J., & Lontoft, R.G. (Eds.). (1968). Graham, Margaret Bloy. In Illustrators of children’s books: 1957-1966 (p. 116). Boston: The Horn Book
  • Literature Resource Center. (2002). Margaret Bloy Graham 1920- . In Contemporary authors online, from [University of Toronto Libraries]
  • Pitchford, T.R. (2006). Graham, Margaret Bloy. In J. Zipes (Ed.), The Oxford encyclopedia of children’s literature [Electronic version]. Retrieved October 19, 2006, from [University of Toronto Libraries]
  • Silvey, A. (Ed.). (2002). Graham, Margaret Bloy. In The essential guide to children’s books and the creators (p. 181). Boston: Houghton Mifflin
  • Ward, M.E., & Marquardt, D.A. (1975). GRAHAM, Margaret Bloy, 1920- . In Illustrators of Books for Young People (2nd ed., p. 69). Metuchen NJ: Scarecrow
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