TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Robert C. O'Brien

Robert C. O'Brien

Robert C. O'Brien was the pen name of Robert Leslie Conl who was born in New York City in 1918, the third of five children of a well-educated, literate family. At scholl he was admired for his wit, bacame editor of the school paper and showed a great facility with words, especially in writing verse.

Originally he wanted to become a pianist and studied at the Julliard School of Music in New York City. However, he changed to study English at the Unversity of Rochester and got a B. A. dgree in English in 1940. After graduation he worked first for Newsweek Magazine, later, after his marriage in 1943, as a reporter and edior for the Washington Times-Herald and from 1951 until his death for the National Geographic Magazine. He only started writing fiction in the last ten years of his life.

In 1953 he bought a small farm near Wahington, D.C., and lived with his wife and four children as a farmer. In his books, he recreated these experiences with the most accurate detail.

Because of an eye illness he decided to move back to Washington, D.C., in 1963,. It was then that he began to write a novel for children, The Silver Crown, which was published in 1968. It wsa followed by Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in 1971. His adult novel, A Report from Group 17 (1972), was chosen by the Book of the Month Club.

Robert C. O'Brien died in 1973. His last novel, Z for Zachariah, appeared posthumously in 1974. Here, as in his other books, two aspects of his personal life become clearly recognizable: his love of nature and his sympathy for and understanding of the young and vulnerable in their struggle to grow up.