Bill Martin Jr. Author study


William Ivan "Bill" Martin, Jr. was born March 20, 1916. He was born and raised in Hiawatha, Kansas. His father was a paperhanger and his mother was a housewife. He also had had 4 other brothers. When Bill was in elementary school he couldn't read. His family never had any books in his house, and no one had the desire to teach him or to read to him.

He said one of the best things that happened to him was when his teacher read to him and the rest of the student's in his class. Even though the teacher was reading in front of all of the student's he felt like she was reading just to him because he could not read and getting read to was special to him. Bill quoted, "Even when type on a page didn't make sense to me, I considered myself a reader, because I loved the sound and cadence of the language, the power of the narrative, and the images words concocted in my head."

His first book reading came to him when he was twenty and in college. Even non-readers who had enough money to pay tuition could get into college back then. He learned to read with his ears. He learned to listen to the voice of the story. At Kansas State Teacher's College in Emporia Kansas he memorized poems that a teacher read aloud in class, and was able to relate the words to what was on his page. He graduated from Kansas State with a master's in early childhood education. Bill finished his college education at Northwestern University with a doctoral degree in early childhood education.

After attending Kansas State Teachers College, Martin taught high school journalism, drama, and English until 1941. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Air Force and served throughout World War II as a military newspaper editor. He then taught in Kansas and was an elementary school principal in Chicago before he moved to New York City in 1961 to work for Holt, Rinehart and Winston, where he developed the literature-based reading programs Sounds of Language and The Instant Readers. Seven years later, Bill left Holt and launched his career as a writer of children's book and as a consultant to teachers. He lived in New York until 1993, when he moved to Texas. He wrote his first book in 1945 called "Little Squeegy Bug--The Story of a Firefly."

First copy published in 1946, and then was re-published in 2005.

In 1972 Bill became a full time writer. He revitalized his publishing career when he met John Archambault in 1983 at UC Riverside. They went on to collaborate on more than a dozen award-winning books, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Barn Dance! and Knots on a Counting Rope, both Reading Rainbow featured selections, illustrated by Ted Rand. Their first joint work, "The Ghost-Eye Tree" won an IRA Children's Choice award and has remained in print for almost 30 years.

Martin married Betty Jean Bachmann in 1942 and they divorced in 1978. They had one son and one daughter. Bill Martin Jr. died in Commerce, Texas in 2004 at the age of eighty-eight.

Sounds of Language

The Sound of Language is a reading program with a series of 18 books that Bill published. Most of the books start with Sounds of or Sound that... They are concept books that help students hear and see what they are learning. Bill thought that this was a better way for students to learn. Most of the books are written in rhythm so it is easy to grasp. There are poems, rhymes, short stories, and many pictures in each book

Sounds After Dark

Sounds Around the Campfire

Sounds Around the Clock

Sounds Around the Mountain

Sounds I Remember

Sounds in theWind

Sounds of a Distant Drum

Sounds of a Hound Dog

Sounds of a Powwow

Sounds of a Young Hunter

Sounds of an Owly Night

Sounds of Children at Play on the Hill

Sounds of Home

Sounds of Laughter

Sounds of Mystery

Sounds of Numbers

Sounds of our Heritage from the Southest

Sounds of the Storytellers

Bill's Writing


"I don't write books, I talk them. Of course, words do get set down on paper at some point, but that's not where I begin. My writing process is talking; I talk a story through many times to see if I'm saying what I mean. I need to hear what I have to say."

Seeing as Bill Martin Jr. couldn't read as a child, many of his books show this in a sense. "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" is a perfect example of this. This book includes not only patterns, but a rhythm and predictable text as well. This is a great book for a young child to pick up after it being read to them a couple of times and them being able to "read"it. We all know that predictable text can help build confidence in children and that is what Bill Martin Jr. was trying to develop when he wrote many of his books. He didn't just stop at "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" either. He went on to write more books just like this such as "Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? and "Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?"

He shows a lot of his belief in children in his books as well as lessons he's learned. He grew up not being able to read, but he was and still is a well known author which you wouldn't think is possible. In his book, "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," he uses the alphabet in a fun way to teach children the letters. In "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" and his other books just like it, he teaches children other lessons as well such as color.

Bill Martin Jr. wrote his books based off of experiences that children actually have. For instance, in "White Dynamite and Curly Kidd," the little girl looks up to her father and wants to be just like him. This book is something that children can relate to. This is the same as in "Listen to the Rain." This book describes the sounds that rain makes. Every child has at one point experienced rain.


*The Little Squeegy Bug [illustrations by Bernard Martin] (picture book) 1945; revised edition, 2001

Chicken Chuck [illustrations by Bernard Martin] (picture book) 1946; revised edition, 2000

Knots on a Counting Rope [illustrations by Joe Smith] (picture book) 1966; revised edition, 1987

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? [illustrations by Eric Carle] (picture book) 1967

Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire [illustrations by Ted Schroeder] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1995

The Happy Hippopotami [illustrations by Bob Velde] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1990

The Maestro Plays [illustrations by Sal Murdocca] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1994

Old Devil Wind [illustrations by Robert J. Lee] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1993

The Turning of the Year [illustrations by Samuel Maitin] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1998

The Wizard [illustrations by Sal Murdocca] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1994

The Ghost-Eye Tree [with John Archambault; illustrations by Ted Rand] (picture book) 1985

Barn Dance! [with John Archambault; illustrations by Ted Rand] (picture book) 1986

Here are My Hands [with John Archambault; illustrations by Ted Rand] (picture book) 1987

Listen to the Rain [with John Archambault; illustrations by James Endicott] (picture book) 1988

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom [with John Archambault; illustrations by Lois Ehlert] (picture book) 1989

The Magic Pumpkin [with John Archambault; illustrations by Robert J. Lee] (picture book) 1989

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? [illustrations by Eric Carle] (picture book) 1991

A Beautiful Feast for a Big King Cat [with John Archambault; illustrations by Bruce Degen] (picture book) 1994

Swish! [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Michael Chesworth] (picture book) 1997

A Beasty Story [with Steven Kellogg; illustrations by Steven Kellogg] (picture book) 1999

Adam, Adam, What Do You See? [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Cathie Felstead] (picture book) 2000

Little Granny Quarterback [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Michael Chesworth] (picture book) 2001

Rock It, Sock It, Number Line [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Heather Cahoon] (picture book) 2001

Caddie, the Golf Dog [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Floyd Cooper] (picture book) 2002

I Pledge Allegiance [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Chris Raschka] (picture book) 2002

Trick or Treat? [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Paul Meisel] (picture book) 2002

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? [illustrations by Eric Carle] (picture book) 2003

Most known Books

His more than 300 books, among them the bestselling classics Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, are a testament to his ability to speak directly to children.

Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award

The Bill Martin, Jr. Picture Book Award was established in 1996 by the Kansas Reading Association. The purpose of the award is to promote an appreciation of quality literature in young children across Kansas. The titles are suggested by teachers, parents, communities, and librarians. A committee of KRA members choose nominations from the list of suggested titles. Then the nomination list is presented to the body of KRA members to vote on, the title with the most votes wins the year's award. Voting usually takes place throughout the month of February.

Texas A&M

A library on the campus of Texas A&M University–Commerce is named in his honor and contains all his books and many artifacts.

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.