“What do I like about writing for children? Everything,” said Florence Parry Heide (1919–2011), the award-winning author of more than sixty children’s books, including the classic The Shrinking of Treehorn, illustrated by Edward Gorey. “I like the connection with children,” the author said. “I like the connection with all kinds of book people. And I like the connection with my childhood self, which is the most of me. It is the most welcome and familiar of worlds. There miracles abound—indeed it is magical that something I might think of can be put into words, stories, ideas, and that those words end up in the heads of readers I will never meet.”
Florence Parry Heide wrote Some Things Are Scary, a humorous look at childhood bugaboos, more than thirty years ago. “I had finished another book and was in the mood to write something else,” she says. “I decided to get some kindling from the garage, reached into the kindling box and—good grief!—grabbed something soft and mushy. I fled back to the house, scared to death.” A brave return visit to the kindling box revealed the object of terror to be nothing more than a discarded wet sponge, but the thought remained: some things are scary. As she recalls, “What scared me as a child was that I’d never learn how to be a real grown-up—and the fact is, I never did find out how it goes.”
One thing Florence Parry Heide did have a good handle on is the concept of friendship, in all its humorous manifestations. That’s What Friends Are For, a tongue-in-cheek tale cowritten with Sylvia Van Clief in 1967, pokes at the tendency of well-meaning friends to offer advice instead of help, and presents a valuable lesson about what true friendship means. “One of my many (true) sayings is ‘A new friend is around the corner of every single day,’” the author declared. “Also true: Friendships last. And last.”
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Florence Parry Heide worked in advertising and public relations in New York City before returning to Pittsburgh during World War II. After the war, she and her husband moved to Wisconsin, where they raised five children, two of whom have co-written critically acclaimed books with their mother.