Skip to Main Navigation | Skip to Content

University Relations

University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Author’s Passion for Children’s Literature Preserved through Estate Gift

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Aug. 29, 2008) – With a passion for writing that began as a young boy studying in a one-room schoolhouse in King City, MO, Clyde Robert Bulla enjoyed a highly successful professional career in children’s literature. Although he died May 23, 2007, at age 93, his legacy and desire to share his interest in writing with young readers is being preserved through an estate gift to UCM.

Gift Includes Royalties and Lifetime Collection

The gift was made through the UCM Foundation in support of children’s literature activities at the James C. Kirkpatrick Library. This support comes through the transfer of copyright ownership and royalties to the library for the sale of Bulla’s books that are still in print. It also includes a collection of Bulla’s own books and drawings, as well as printed works and original art by other well-known children’s authors and illustrators who were his longtime friends. All of these items will be housed in the Philip A. Sadler Research Collection for Children and Young Adults, located on the library’s second floor.

Clyde Robert Bulla
Clyde Robert Bulla

A Legacy of Encouraging Young Readers

The gift is already providing a financial boost for children’s literature. The library recently received first-year royalties totaling more than $56,000 from the Bulla estate.

“Children’s literature provided Clyde with a very decent living all of his life. He was one of the few children’s authors who became well known in the ‘50s,” said Mollie Dinwiddie, dean of library services. “He made an outstanding contribution to his field, and we’re excited that this gift allows us to share his legacy.” She added that Bulla’s gift to the library also demonstrates his desire to help continue to provide an environment that stimulates an interest in reading among young people.

Friendships Result in Gift

Naomi Williamson, associate professor of library services, oversees the Sadler Research Collection and serves as director of the annual Children’s Literature Festival, which brings thousands of young readers to campus every spring. She said it was the friendships that developed between Bulla and individuals such as Philip Sadler, a UCM professor emeritus and festival co-founder, which ultimately led to his decision to leave an estate gift to UCM. She noted that although he spent much of his working life in Los Angeles, where he was well-connected with people in the publishing industry, he moved to Warrensburg at age 87 and resided here until his death.

“This gives us an opportunity to remember Clyde,” Williamson said in talking about his gift. “There were a lot of other people he knew and could have recognized, but to choose the library because of his connection with the Children’s Literature Festival and the friends he made here, I think that is pretty amazing.”

A Tireless Dedication to Young Readers

No less impressive was Bulla’s tireless dedication to writing for young readers. After establishing himself as a children’s author with The Donkey Cart in 1946, he went on to write dozens of children’s books. The Sword in the Tree, Shoeshine Girl, The Chalk Box Kid, and Daniel’s Duck are just a sampling of his 71 published works that are in library’s inventory. He didn’t venture far from his young audience, with the exception of a book he once wrote for adults about the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. His readers also got a glimpse at the man behind the children’s stories in 1985 when Bulla published his autobiography, A Grain of Wheat: A Writer Begins.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Bulla was also an accomplished musician.

“He was very artistic, very creative. He taught himself to play the piano. He wrote children’s plays that were produced and included some of his music,” Williamson said.

Letters Also Included

Williamson noted that among the many items that have been given to the Sadler collection from the Bulla estate are a series of leather-bound books that were presented to him by his publisher, Thomas Crowell, after each new work was printed. It also includes a number of small spiral-bound notebooks packed with research notes that he kept as he was working on a new book, as well as some more personal items.

“We have correspondence from Clyde for about 40 years,” Williamson said, describing letters and notes his friends kept that are now part of the collection.

Such items provide a goldmine of research opportunities, according to Williamson and Dinwiddie. Coupled with other materials available in the Philip A. Sadler Research Collection for Children and Young Adults, the library continues to serve as an outstanding resource for individuals who want to learn more about authors and illustrators, the creative writing process, or simply enjoy a sample of some 60,000 volumes dedicated to young readers.