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"I Was the Boy Whom That Tomboy Mopped Up" from Writing Books for Boys and Girls

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Writing Books for Boys and Girls
I Was the Boy Whom That Tomboy Mopped Up
by Ellis Parker Butler

No one had to tell me much about girls when I began writing Jo Ann, Tomboy. I have three daughters -- one single and one pair of twins -- and out home in Iowa where I was a boy, I had four sisters. So right in my own family I have had Elsie, Marjorie, Jean, Daisy, Pearl, and Edith, and I know enough about girls to write forty books.

But the girl I had in mind when I sat down to write Jo Ann, Tomboy, and the adventures of that lively tomboy was none of these. She was a girl who lived across the street from me when I was a boy. She had brown hair and snappy brown eyes, and she was as full of energy as a bunch of firecrackers, and just about my age. She was as pretty as a picture, and she could throw me ten times out of ten in a wrestle, climb higher in trees, jump off higher roofs, and outdare any boy in the neighborhood. I learned about tomboys from her.

I was the Tommy Bassick of the Jo Ann book. I was the boy who was always being beaten in foot races, chased off the block in snowball fights, and generally thrown down and mopped up by the tomboy girl. So you need not feel too sorry for Tommy. The Tommies of the world get a lot of pleasure from being slung around by vividly alive girls.

One day this Iowa tomboy came over into my yard and threw me down our steep terrace. Every time I climbed up, she threw me down again. Thus we passed a long summer afternoon, I going down the terrace head over heels, and my Iowa tomboy daring me to come up again. It was good for me. It jolted out of me a lot of nonsensical ideas that boys were superior in muscle, vim, and vigor, and it was good exercise for me. It also incited me -- when the time came -- to write Jo Ann, Tomboy. I wanted to show a tomboy in action.

I also wanted to put in print some of the laughs I did not laugh that afternoon. I did not laugh at all that afternoon. I have an exceedingly distinct recollection that I bawled steadily for about three hours with rage, humiliation, and the discovery that when that tomboy put me down a terrace, I stayed down the terrace.


Jo Ann, Tomboy, illustrated by Ruth King, was published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1933.



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