(1880–1970), American storyteller who collected folk tales in Ireland and Spain, as well as writing extensively for both children and adults. From the Garland Kindergarten Training School, Sawyer went to Cuba in 1900 to teach storytelling to teachers organizing kindergartens for orphans. She received a BS from Columbia University in 1904 with a major in folklore and storytelling, after which she told stories to immigrant children via the New York Lecture Bureau and public school system. After her 1910 debut as a storyteller with the New York Public Library (at the invitation of Anne Carroll Moore), she extended her work nationally in various venues, including rural communities and reformatories. Sawyer's tempestuous childhood— heavily influenced by an Irish storytelling nanny named Johanna—provided lively background for her 1937 Newbery Medal Book, Roller Skates (1936), about a young girl's exploration of New York City, with characters reflecting many facets of social class and ethnicity. Her grounding in folklore enriched the 1945 and 1954 Caldecott Honor books that she authored, The Christmas Anna Angel (1944) and Journey Cake, Ho! (1953). Sawyer's oral presentations were mesmerizing, and her writing style was personable. The Way of the Storyteller (1942) still enriches storytelling courses, combining historical, theoretical, and practical knowledge with some of her favorite tales. Sawyer's written texts are stylistically cadenced and folklorically structured in accordance with her belief that oral literature served as a bridge of literacy between children and reading. Most fundamental, however, was the idea that stories were first and foremost entertaining and thus extended children's sense of humanity. Sawyer won the Regina Medal and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for her versatile lifetime achievements. Married to Dr. Albert Durand, with two children (her daughter was a children's librarian married to the author-illustrator Robert McCloskey), Sawyer maintained her work at the crossroads of folklore and literature into old age, returning to the Austrian Tyrol in 1961 to do extensive research on the Alpine trickster-goblin King Laurin for one of her last books.
From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature in Oxford Reference.