...Jean attended Marshalltown High School and was named first female sports editor of Pebbles, and played saxophone in the marching band. She was active in sports and was offered a chance to play basketball professionally in a barnstorming league. She
chose college instead. During the years of World War ll, she went with her parents to serve sandwiches and coffee when "troop trains" came through town. Jean's uncles Harold and Burlin Johnson died in that war.
She graduated M.H.S., Class of 1948 and attended Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she majored in physical education. Jean returned to Marshalltown after one year and worked at Strand Bakery. Jean's admiration of Amelia Earhart as a
child inspired her to take flying lessons from the Neiderhauser Brothers at Marshalltown Airport. She converted to Catholicism, beginning many years of involvement with St. Mary's Church Alter and Rosary, and later St.Henry's Church. In the 1950s, Jean
gave tennis lessons at Anson School for Marshalltown Parks and Recreation.
Jean married Richard Larson in 1954 in Marshalltown. They divorced in 1972. She raised eight children; Kathy, Rick, David, Rosemarie, B.J., Michael, Patrick and Danny.
In the early 1960s, Jean began a career as an author of children's books. She was inspired by Grace Cooper, longtime Marshalltown public librarian and Laura McCrill, her high school English teacher. In 1966 her first effort, "Palace in Baghdad: Seven
Tales from Arabia" was published by Charles Scribners, Sons. That book was followed by "The Silkspinners", "Jack Tar", "The Glass Mountain and other Arabian Tales", "The Fish Bride and other Gypsy Tales" and "The Norwegian Folktales of Anton and Gurina
Johnson" Her poetry appeared in Michigan Quarterly, Massachusetts Review and Literary Review. Excerpts of her books appeared in Junior Great Books and Scholastic News. In 1967, "The Silkspinners" was named an American Library Association Notable Book. In
1973, "Jack Tar" was given The Lewis Carroll Shelf Award by The University of Wisconsin and deemed to "belong on the same shelf as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll.
In the 1980s, Jean created The Coalition for Social Justice with her good friend, Diane Vajgrt. They served residents primarily in the east and north parts of Marshalltown, advocating for the safety and dignity of home and apartment rentors They were
instrumental in the effort to rebuild the North Third Avenue Viaduct and replace the unsafe elevator in the Tallcorn Hotel. Jean joined in the Catholic Peace Movement, participating in public actions relating to issues of war and peace. She also worked
at Domestic Violence Alternatives as shelter monitor, supporting and counseling those in need of safety.
Jean returned to college, attending M.C.C. and Buena Vista and later taught English at both schools. She earned a Master of Arts Degree in English from Iowa State University in 1992 and taught English and creative writing there. She also taught creative
writing at the Senior Center for Iowa Valley Continuing Education for many years. It was there she encouraged and guided many class members to write down and share their life experiences and many close friendships were formed there. Her passion for
genealogy was sparked as her students shared family stories and histories. Jean and her children spent many happy hours solving the mysteries of their own family history. Jean's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gave her great happiness.
Emma, Brea and Roan, three of her grandchildren called her "The Best Nana in the Galaxy."
Animals were a very big part of Jean's life. Beginning with great danes when she was a child and both dogs and cats as an adult, she had many animal friends and loved them all dearly. She participated in Trap, Neuter and Release efforts in her
neighborhood. She considered these animals "God's innocents" and their care our responsibility...
# Palace in Bagdad: Seven Tales from Arabia, illustrated by Marianne
Yamaguchi, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1966.
("Out of the exotic world of the Middle East come these seven tales of adventure, humor, and mystery. With characters such as a talking
camel, a dullwitted knight who casts his lot with a wicket sorceress, a
gaggle of geese who create havoc in the court of a great caliph et
# The Silkspinners, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, Charles Scribner's
Sons (New York, NY), 1967.
(" Li Po, a determined young hero armed only with his wits and the
superb ability to play the oriental flute, sets out on a quest to find
the lost silkspinners of China. ")
# Jack Tar, illustrated by Mercer Mayer, Macrae Smith (Philadelphia,
("A young sailor boy named Jack Wookey loses his job in disgrace on
the ship and ends up on land trying to restore his name. He sets out
to capture the thief who stole the priceless necklace of black pearls
belonging to the Queen. After a series of misfortunes and a few good
fortunes, he succeeds. ")
# The Glass Mountain and Other Arabian Tales, illustrated by Donald E.
Cooke, Macrae Smith (Philadelphia, PA), 1971.
# (Reteller) The Fish Bride and Other Gypsy Tales, illustrated by
Michael Larson, Shoe String Press, 1999.
("These stories take place in palaces and humble cottages, but also on
the open road, where the Gypsy traditionally felt most at home. The
characters are often surrounded by enchantment and sometimes deal in
magic. Meet Clever Marco, who is outwitted by his own cunning;
encounter a bird who defeats a fox and lion, by knowing "there is
great strength in weakness"; see Sikri, the Gypsy girl who is trapped
at the gates of time weaving upon a starry loom; read about Magda who
lures unwary travelers into traps with her evil eye; laugh at foolish
Noodle who gets tricked out of his clothes; and admire Piccolo who,
though not appreciated for his God-given gift of dance, learns to
appreciate himself. With evil queens, devils, "Foolish Jack" stories,
Welsh black dogs, "green man" tales, and escapes from the
supernatural, The Fish Bride makes the Gypsy outlook on life come
#Norwegian Folk Tales of Anthon and Gurina Johnson, 2014.
("...has stories of maidens and misers, of smelly old goats, and greedy princes, with the requisite cautionary tales for young listeners. You'll find a story on a girl named Dumpling and an orphan named Elsie who understands that "fair is fair." Larson
grew up hearing the stories from her Norwegian family. She told the tales to her children, who referred to the stories as "chimney corner tales," given that the corner fireplace was where family members gathered...")