Verna Aardema was an award-winning American writer of children's books. Verna researched folk tales from various cultures and rewrote the tales as stories for children. In 1960, she published her first set of stories, Tales from the Story Hat, which were very successful. An elementary school teacher for more than 25 years, Aardema loved to conduct story times and was known as Muskegon’s “Story Lady.” She is the author of Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1975), which won the Caldecott Medal.
Verna Norberg Aardema Vugteveen was born in New Era, Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University in 1934 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She worked as an elementary school teacher from 1934 to 1973, and in 1951 she became a correspondent for the Muskegon Chronicle, where she worked until 1972, a year before retiring.
After her initial success, she continued to adapt traditional tales and folklore from foreign cultures. She developed into a full-time author and folklorist, retelling the lore of Mexico and, especially, Africa for children ages 4 to 8.
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, received the Caldecott Medal in 1976 and the Brooklyn Art Books for Children Award in 1977.
Who's in Rabbit's House? 1977 was the 1977 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award winner 1978.
Aardema received the Children's Reading Round Table Award in 1981, and several of her works have been selected as Notable Books by the American Library Association.
Her Oh Kojo! How Could You! won the 1984 Parents' Choice Award for Literature.
Aardema had 33 books published. The last one, Koi and the Kola Nuts: A Tale From Liberia, was released in 1999.
The New York Times noted that her books became popular because they carried a natural storyteller's rhythm that lent itself to being read aloud by parents. Aardema's stories were attractively illustrated and appealing to listeners of all ages.
Verna Aardema died at 88 in Fort Myers, Florida. She is buried in Norton Cemetery, Muskegon.