MacGREGOR, Ellen. American. Born in Baltimore. Maryland. I5 May 1906. Educated at schools in Garfield and Kent, Washington: University of Washington. Seattle. B.S. in library science 1926: University of California. Berkeley. 1931. Children's Librarian in Wyoming,. California. Idaho. Florida. Oregon. and Hawaii : Research Librarian. International Harvester. Chicago. Died 29 March 1974.
Tommy and the Telephone. illustrated by Zabeth. Chicago. Whitman. 1947.
Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill,
1951: London. Blackie. 1957.
Miss Pickerel! and the Geiger Counter. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York.
McGraw Hill. 1953: London. Blackie. 1958.
Miss Pickerell Goes Undersea. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill.
1953: London. Blackie. 1959.
Miss Pickerell Goes to the Arctic. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw
Hill. 1954: London. Blackie. 1960.
Theodore Turtle. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw Hill. 1955:
London. Faber. 1956.
Mr. Ferguson of the Fire Department. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York.
McGraw Hill. 1956.
Mr. Pringle and Mr. Buttonhouse. illustrated by Paul Galdone. New York. McGraw
Miss Pickerell on the Moon. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New York.
McGraw Hill. 1965
Miss Pickerell Harvests the Sea, with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New
York. McGraw Hill. 1968.
Miss Pickerell and the Weather Satellite. with Dora Pantell, illustrated by Charles
Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 19 7 1.
Miss Pickerell Meets Mr. H.U.M. with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles Geer. New
York. McGraw Hill. 1971.
Miss Pickerell Takes the Bull by the Horns, with Dora Pantell. illustrated by Charles
Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1976.
Miss Pickerell and the Earthquakes. with Dora Pantel. illustrated by Charles
Geer. New York. McGraw Hill. 1977.
Good science fiction, like good nonsense or fantasy. must be firmly grounded in the world of reality. as Ellen MacGregor understood so well. A minor but genuine original in the field of science fiction for very young readers is her Miss Lavinia Pickerell, heroine of a series of slightly cockeyed scientific adventures.
Miss Pickerel! is the last person you'd expect to find up in the air or down a mine shaft -- until you become properly acquainted. She isn't quite the prim, spinsterly person her appearance suggests. True, she is angular and stiff, wears old‑fashioned clothes and an outlandish hat: looks, indeed, like a model for New England Gothic. But she is full of fun, and always ready to try something new. She has a good memory for facts, and plenty of common sense, but is by no means an intimidating scientific genius. With her seen busy nieces and nephews, Miss Pickerell is a lot like everybody's favourite maiden aunt.
Miss Pickerell's first adventure took her to Mars ‑ quite by mistake, as an inadvertent stowaway on a space ship. Naturally, once having arrived, Miss Pickerell made the best of her opportunity to add Martian red rocks to her famous collection. Which led indirectly to her next adventures, with a Geiger counter to test for radioactivity and later in an undersea search for a sunken ship containing her rock collection, lost at sea en route to an exhibition. No salvage company was going to claim HER belongings. And so on, one adventure leading into another.
To Mars. to the Arctic, above the ground or below, Miss Pickerell is dauntless, intrepid, and eager. It's all good fun, but with a bonus. The scientific basis of each of the Miss Pickerell stories is scrupulously accurate. Although she was careful not to overburden her fragile plots with didactic passages explaining gravity, radiation, etc. Ellen MacGregor managed very skillfully to incorporate a good deal of information that a child reader could absorb almost without realizing it. With rare judgement, she gauged just how much to present to the 8-12’s who are Miss Pickerell’s audience. A clear picture in bald outline, rather than a mass of confusing and discouraging detail, is most apt to appeal to and instruct that active age group.
And such diverse information is provided! Simple but sound explanation, weightlessness in space travel, atomic energy and carbon 14 testing, nuclear-powered submarines and the continental shelf, the "bends” affecting divers who surface too rapidly -- there seems no end to it. Just as there is no end to the curiosity, and enthusiasm of the young readers who love Miss Pickerell.
Ellen MacGregor herself completed only four of these well‑loved books before her early death; but most fortunately for her eager young public she left boxes of notes and plans for further Miss Pickerell adventures. In the sympathetic hands of Dora Pantell, faithful to the spirit of the original works. Miss Pickerell continues to learn and to teach.
-- Joan McGrath, Childrens Writer