Phyllis Krasilovsky: Children’s author talks about her career

Phyllis Krasilovsky sits in her apartment at Meadow Ridge with one of her children’s books, “The Cow That Fell into the Canal.” —Jane Hickok

While engaged to her husband, Bill Krasilovsky, New York native and Meadow Ridge resident Phyllis Krasilovsky would tell stories to her husband’s 5-year-old cousin Johnny, who was dying of cancer.

“I would sit all day at my desk working at a magazine and on my lunch break I would write him stories,” she said.

The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes was one of the many stories Ms. Krasilovsky told Johnny.

“He loved that story. He had to hear it 10 times a day,” she said.

Before the Krasilovskys married, they traveled around Alaska for a couple of months before relocating to upstate New York. The two took college classes, but returned to Alaska for Mr. Krasilovsky to take the bar exam.

Before heading back to Alaska, Ms. Krasilovsky decided it was time for her to earn some money by taking the stories she wrote and read to Johnny to book publishers.

In 1956, after insisting on a meeting with Doubleday publishing, Ms. Krasilovsky met with Margaret Lesser, an editor, who agreed to take her stories.

The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes and The Very Little Girl were both published. Then Ms. Krasilovsky went on to become a leading children’s author.

“I say that with pride. I was the first of writers to do kids books,” she said.

She went on to write The Cow Who Fell in the Canal after bicycling through Holland. That story was published in several different languages. In total, she wrote 24 children’s books and also published 17 editorials in The New York Times.

“They were mostly funny,” she said about her published works.

She has also had at least 350 articles published in leading magazines.

“They’re really a mixed bunch. Mainly humorous and about travel,” she said.

With her husband, Ms. Krasilovsky has traveled to 147 countries and has written for 50 newspapers.

“I was occasionally an editor of a magazine. I was editor of the Westchester Spotlight, an area newspaper,” she said.

In 1970, Ms. Krasilovsky taught the history of children’s literature at Marymount College for three years.

“I would’ve taught longer but it took a lot out of me. I got a lot of students published,” she said proudly.

After teaching, Ms. Krasilovsky went on to write The Popular Girls Club, a teenage-based novel.

“It took a long time for someone to publish it,” she said. “It was one of the first books about mean kids. I should’ve pushed it earlier.”

When it comes to children’s and preteen writing, Ms. Krasilovsky said, she is envious of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books.

“I’m disappointed she didn’t make it in the adult world,” she said. “She’ll come back.”

For inspiration, Ms. Krasilovsky wrote stories based on her four children, Margaret, Jessica, Alexis, and Peter.

“I write whatever comes easily. I do believe writers have a muse. Someone there to push me along,” she said.

All four children traveled with Mr. and Ms. Krasilovsky.

“We took the kids everywhere; they’re great travelers now,” she said.

On her list to still visit is Elba, an island between France and England, Fiji, and “some other countries that are probably in a war,” she said.

“We’ve done all the United States except Alabama. I don’t know why,” she said.

However, being ill with Lyme disease has prevented Ms. Krasilovsky from traveling and is the reason she and her husband moved to Meadow Ridge two years ago, she said.

“It’s a great place. It’s a great place to read. There is a wonderful library and in town there is the Mark Twain Library — I can’t say enough good things about it,” she said. “You can get whatever you want [to read].”

With technology evolving and with the popularity of electronic readers like the Kindle and Nook, Ms. Krasilovsky still loves the real thing.

“I think those things are awful. There is nothing like the feeling of a book. It’s comfortable and wonderful. You can read pages from the past with new thoughts,” she said.

Ms. Krasilovsky said she would like to write a book about Meadow Ridge.

“There are a lot of people here,” she said.

On Friday, Dec. 28, Ms. Krasilovsky will be reading some of her stories at Meadow Ridge at 1:30 p.m.

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