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Where Is Squirrel?

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Obituary from: Boston Globe, July 27, 2005

With the 87 children's books she wrote, Catherine Woolley delighted generations of young readers around the world with stories of children, animals, a friendly ghost, and mysterious happenings.

She was so prolific that her publisher told her to use a nom de plume for some books. She chose Jane Thayer, her grandmother's name, for the many picture books she wrote.

For her older readers, she used her real name on books such as the ''Ginnie and Geneva" series about the adventures of two young girls. Many of the books were translated into foreign languages.

Ms. Woolley died Saturday in her Truro home. She was 100 and had been in failing health in recent years.

Until then, said her niece Betsy Drinkwater of Enfield, N.H., Ms. Woolley was a lover of books and a ''lifelong Democrat."

''After her 100th birthday last summer, her goal was to live long enough to vote in the 2004 election, and she did," Drinkwater said.

''She was a character," Drinkwater said. ''She never married, was very independent, and traveled all over the world. ''

A petite woman with blue eyes and curly hair, Ms. Woolley was also feisty, said a Truro neighbor, Peggy Longgood. ''She was clear in what she believed in and thought, and she would not back down on anything. She was indomitable."

Ms. Woolley continued to write into her 80s and 90s, Drinkwater said. Her last published work was 1989's ''Writing for Children," in which she advised adults how to write children's books. It wasn't easy, she warned.

Though Ms. Woolley never had children, she seemed to have a kinship with them, friends said. In her books, she often drew on her own experiences and world travels. She always urged students at the writers' workshops she taught on Cape Cod to write what they knew. In ''Writing for Children," she writes: ''There is a delight in working with words, because if you are a writer you love the magic of words and you love using words to bring children into the world you are creating."

Ms. Woolley was born in Chicago to Edward Mott and Anna Lazelle (Thayer) Woolley. She grew up in Passaic, N.J. Her father was a newspaperman in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ms. Woolley attended both Barnard College in New York and the University of California at Los Angeles, earning her bachelor's degree from UCLA in 1927.

Ms. Woolley's niece said that after college, she worked in public relations in New York and eventually moved back with her parents in Passaic in the 1930s during the Great Depression. She lived in Passaic until she was 60.

Drinkwater believes that Ms. Woolley wrote for magazines before her first book, ''I Like Trains," was published in 1944.

In the early 1960s, she moved into a house she had bought in Truro, pounding out books on an old Remington typewriter. She never used a computer.

Among her many books were ''The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy," about a dog who was looking for a master and found more than one at an orphanage, and a series about ''Gus the Ghost," a friendly apparition.

On Cape Cod, Ms. Woolley was a fixture at writing and book events. She helped start a book club, worked with the Friends of the Truro Library, taught at writing workshops, and held story hours at the library.

When the library opened its new building in 1996, it named its children's room after her.

''Catherine's writing and literary life was paramount to her," said Anne Brock of North Truro, a former library trustee.

One of Ms. Woolley's students was Yoko Kawashima Watkins of Brewster, with whom she worked for a year on a manuscript for Watkins's succcessful young adult novel, ''So Far From the Bamboo Grove."

Ms. Woolley kept one part of her literary life secret. ''She loved to write poetry but was very shy to admit it," said Sara Hutchings of Wellfleet, a schoolteacher in Truro who often t
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