Madye Lee Chastain


Madye Lee ChastainMadye Lee Chastain was a children's book author and illustrator of the mid-twentieth century. She wrote 17 children's books from 1945-1964, most of them for Harcourt, and she illustrated children's books written by other authors as well as her own. Before her career as a writer and illustrator, she did portraits and etchings.

Madye Lee was born in Texarkana, Texas on December 15, 1908 and married fellow artist Henry Kurt Stoessel in 1936. She studied at Oglethorpe University, but dropped out of the University to attend the Art School of High Museum in Atlanta. She later studied at Grand Central Art School in New York, and at Columbia University. She died in December 1989, in Boulder, Colorado.

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Review of Writings
Family and Genealogy
List of Works
Stories From Madye Lee's Fans

Madye Lee Chastain, Children's Book Author and Illustrator

Madye Lee Chastain was a children's book author and illustrator of the mid-twentieth century. She wrote 17 children's books from 1945-1964, most of them for Harcourt, and she illustrated children's books written by other authors as well as her own. Before her career as a writer and illustrator, she did portraits and etchings.

Madye Lee was born in Texarkana, Texas on December 15, 1908. Her middle name, Lee, was for the doctor who delivered her as a baby. Madye Lee married fellow artist Henry Kurt Stoessel in 1936, whom she met when both were students at Grand Central Art School in New York. She also studied at Oglethorpe University, the Art School of High Museum in Atlanta, and at Columbia University.

Henry Kurt Stoessel was born in Chemnitz, Germany April 17, 1909, and came to the United States in 1910, becoming a citizen in 1917. He was educated at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Grand Central Art School in New York. He was known as Henry when he and Madye Lee met, but in later years he went by Kurt. He contributed illustrations to national magazines, served as Art Director for the Society of Illustrators of New York, and produced a series of paintings based on the Viet Nam war. Twenty-one paintings by Henry Kurt Stoessel are in the United States Air Force Museum collection in Colorado Springs. From 1938 to 1974, he owned Stoessel Studios, a commercial design studio in New York. Madye Lee and Henry were separated in 1968. Stoessel died of pneumonia October 7, 1984 in Boulder, Colorado.

Review of Writings

Madye Lee's work as an author and illustrator falls into three parts:

Roxana PretendsMadye Lee's first children's book, Roxana Pretends, was inspired by her daughter, Roxana. Roxana was named for her grandmother, Roxana Houston Bledsoe, who in turn was named Roxana for an aunt. Roxana Stoessel was four years old when her mother wrote the book. Roxana Pretends was published in 1945 by Rachman Publishing Company. It is a delightful story about imagination. Chastain Central has three hardback copies of this book with two different covers: one with an illustration of Roxana and one with squirrels. Roxana Pretends is the only book for which Madye Lee uses her married name, Madye Lee Chastain Stoessel. All her subsequent books are by Madye Lee Chastain. She chose this name for artistic purposes and so that she would have her own identity as a writer.

Big Big Story BookOver the next few years, Madye Lee wrote four more children's titles: Susan and the Rain (1947), Nellie (1948), Let’s Play Indian (1950), and The Sailboat That Ran Away (1950 ). Let's Play Indian is from Grossett; the others are from Whitman. Whitman Publishing included Susan and the Rain and Nellie in its 1944 collection, The Big Big Story Book. Susan and the Rain was also included in Read Me Another Story (1949), compiled by the Child Study Association of America. A version of The Sailboat That Ran Away was collected by Ginn And Company, under the title, Little Toy Boat, in their Ginn Basic Reader, Under the Apple Tree, revised (1959). Chastain Central is uncertain whether Madye Lee's story appeared in the original edition (1953).

From 1946 to 1949, Madye Lee illustrated four volumes for other authors: Cuba (1946), Cow-Tail Switch and Other African Stories (1947), Sue Ann’s Busy Day (1948), and Sand in Her Shoes (1949). Three of the books are for children, but Cuba is a travel-historical book. Cow-Tail Switch and Other African Stories, by Harold Courlander and George Herzog, is still in print after more than fifty years. In fact, it is the only work of Madye Lee's still in print.

1950 was a significant year for Madye Lee. She released two children's books and her first juvenile title, Loblolly Farm. It was also a transitional year. From this point on, she wrote only juvenile books, not children's stories, and she no longer illustrated the works of other people. Loblolly Farm was published by Harcourt. Madye Lee had worked with Harcourt earlier by illustrating books in 1948 and 1949. Loblolly Farm was the first of twelve juvenile titles to be published by Harcourt over the next fourteen years. Loblolly Farm is set in East Texas in the early 1900s, perhaps in part a memory of Madye Lee's own childhood.

Leave it to the FripseysMagic IslandSteamboat South follows a young lady who makes a steamboat trip from Ohio to her Aunt's home in Texas in the days just before the Civil War. It was dedicated to Roxana. Bright Days, dedicated to her parent's initials, is the first of four Fripsey stories, set in contemporary times (1950s). Dark Treasure, Emmy Keeps a Promise, and Magic Island are related stories set in 1850s New York. Jerusha's Ghost and Plippen's Palace are also set in 1850's New York. Summer at Hasty Cove is set in current times. Magic Island (1964) was Madye Lee's last book. She died in December 1989, in Boulder, Colorado. The University of Southern Mississippi de Grummond Children's Literature Collection holds the Madye Lee Chastain papers, 1955-1964 [manuscript], which consists of one original illustration each from Emmy Keeps a Promise, Fripsey Fun, and Steamboat South.

Family and Genealogy

Madye Lee's parents are listed in Contemporary Authors as Fred C. Chastain and Roxana H. Bledsoe. Fred was a regional manager for a large company, and he added the initial C to his name for greater distinction. It did not stand for anything. Roxana's middle name was Houston, named for the doctor who delivered her, which was a tradition among some. She was known as Roxie. Pierre Chastain and His Descendants Volume Two, page 206, lists the names of Fred Chastain and Rosanna Bledsoe. Rosanna is written incorrectly instead of Roxana. Based on census records, Chastain genealogist Jimmy Chesteen confirms that Fred and Rosanna had a daughter named "Mayde." Note the variation of "Mayde's" name (Madye/Mayde); Madye's name was pronounced MAY-dee, so this misspelling is not unusual as census takers often wrote what they heard rather than confirming the spelling of names.

The 1920 census shows the family in Houston, Harris County, Texas with "Mayde" at 11 years old and no other children listed. This is consistent with the December 15, 1908 birthdate reported in Contemporary Authors. The 1930 census has Fred, Rosie, and 21 year old "Mayde" living in the Peachtree District of Fulton County, Georgia. Madye Lee lived with her parents as she pursued her art studies at Oglethorpe University Art School in Atlanta, which was typical for single women at that time, and she continued to live with them after they moved to New York City during the Depression, until she and Stoessel married in 1936.

If this is the case, then Madye Lee's parents were married July 8, 1907, and she was born 17 months later. She would be an eighth generation Chastain. This connection seems extremely likely. Madye Lee's linage should then be:

  1. Pierre Chastain
  2. Pierre Chastain, Jr.
  3. Abraham Chastain
  4. Elisha Chastain
  5. Joseph Inman Chastain
  6. Sandy Preston Chastain
  7. Fred C. Chastain
  8. Madye Lee Chastain
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List of Works


Roxana Pretends, Rachman, 1945
Susan and the Rain, Whitman Publishing, 1947
Nellie, Whitman Publishing, 1948
Let’s Play Indian, Grossett, 1950
The Sailboat that Ran Away, Whitman Publishing, 1950
Loblolly Farm, Harcourt, 1950
Steamboat South, Harcourt, 1951
Bright Days, Harcourt, 1952
Fripsey Summer, Harcourt, 1953
Dark Treasure, Harcourt, 1954
Fripsey Fun, Harcourt 1955
Emmy Keeps a Promise, Harcourt, 1956
Leave It to the Fripseys, Harcourt, 1957
Jerusha’s Ghost, Harcourt, 1958
Summer at Hasty Cove, Harcourt, 1959
Plippen's Palace, Harcourt, 1961
Magic Island, Harcourt, 1964


Cuba, Alfred A. Knopf, 1946
Cow-Tail Switch and Other African Stories, Henry Holt Company, 1947
Sue Ann’s Busy Day, Harcourt, 1948
Sand in Her Shoes, Harcourt, 1949


The Big Big Story Book, Whitman Publishing, 1944: Susan and the Rain and Nellie
Read Me Another Story, Child Study Association of America, 1949: Susan and the Rain
Under the Apple Tree, Ginn Basic Reader, Ginn And Company, 1959: Little Toy Boat, a version of The Sailboat That Ran Away

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Stories From Madye Lee's Fans

We are delighted to receive the warm stories about growing up with Madye Lee's books from her fans. Do you have a Madye Lee story? If so, we would really like to hear it!

Finding Madye Lee Chastain books: Madye Lee's books are long out of print, but are available as used books. The best sources for us have been eBay and Sometimes we have gotten books in very good condition for less than one would think (sometimes, even twenty dollars or less). In eBay you may sign up for notification whenever a copy is available using keywords susan rain madye. Use the same keywords to search On Amazon, you will likely receive several listings showing how many copies are available and the lowest used price for that listing.

Susan and the Rain

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Katie Nainiger of Madison, Ohio on August 13, 2007.

I have Susan in the Rain it was my moms when she was little, then mine (my grandma would read it all the time), then my 9 year old son, and now my little boy (17 months) has to read her every time he goes to bed and he kisses her goodnight. He loves to look at the horse in the barn, the waterfall, apple and Susan's boots! It has been a special book to all of us. I tried looking for another copy since Susan is beginning to look well loved and my little guy is starting to want Susan to go night night with him, his kitty and his blankies :) As I search the web I see that Susan in the Rain has held her value as it is reflected in the price and the availability. I hope to find a copy soon to keep as a back up and future special times. Thank you to Madye Lee Chastain for creating a special memory that has been passed down through the years. [We responded with some leads on a few available copies at reasonable costs, and she tried to secure a copy. We are unsure if she was able to get it].

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Margaret Duke of Balwyn, Australia on November 2, 2007,

I have spent hours on the internet trying to find information for my Mother, who used to read Susan And The Rain to me when I was a child - I was delighted when I found this website, especially when I found the picture of Madye Lee - There are many of us trying to get our hands on a copy of this story. My family have been scouring second hand bookshops for years trying to find this story - I would be grateful for any help you can give me. [We responded with some leads on a few available copies at reasonable costs. A few days later, we received the following] My Mum is living with us, she’s nearly eighty and she suffers with Parkinson’s disease. Susan and the Rain is actually for her and I had seriously stepped up my search after she moved in with my husband and me in September. She was thrilled to bits when I told her that I’d found a copy and that my friend Naomi had actually managed to buy it for us. I’ll be sure to let you know when it arrives. Feel free to use any of my emails in your web-site, I’d be honoured – it’s as close to being “published” as I am ever likely to get! Once again my heartfelt thanks, Best wishes, Margaret.

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Kim of Seattle on January 23, 2008,

My mom is 88 and has some dementia; she recently started reciting "Susan Amantha Cottonwood...." over and over. She can't remember all of it. Do you know where I can get a reasonably priced copy? I think she would be utterly delighted. Blessings. Kim [Susan Amantha Cottonwood is the main character of Madye Lee Chastain's book "Susan and the Rain". We replied that only used copies are available and sometimes sell for a considerable amount. However, the book can often be found in reasonable condition for $10 or less. We suggested a few sources.]

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Gail Tibbo of Vancouver, Canada on October 3, 2008,

Interesting site. We're Huguenot descendants, too. My sisters and I loved "Susan and the Rain" - every time it rained, we would recite "And complain, and complain, and complain...". We all know the story by heart, we read it so many times.

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Susan Amantha Linkie of Rockville, Maryland on February 15, 2009,

As you can see from name, Susan and the Rain was my mother's favorite childhood story. I would love to get my hands on another copy. The one I have is too tattered and fragile to give to my own toddler daughter. I wish it were in print again so that she could have her own copy.

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Sandra Roufogalis of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on April 16, 2009,

My favorite book as a child was Susan and the Rain. I loved Susan Amantha Cottonwood. Since it came out in 1947 that must have been the year my mother bought it for me as a two year old. I wish I still had the book.

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Luann on July 1, 2009,

I have been looking for a copy of Susan and the Rain by Madye Lee Christian to give to my sister as a gift. My mother read that book to her over and over when she was a child to help her get over her fear of the rain.

Other Titles

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Linda Blessing of Cincinnati on February 20, 2008,

When I was a young girl, I borrowed Emmy Keeps a Promise from the library. It was my favorite book and I remember telling my friends I read it 17 times. Madye Lee Chastain's description of mid-1800's New York was just what was needed to get me interested in reading. I credit her with my lifelong love of reading. I didn't know Emmy was part of a series of books about New York until I was an adult. I found those books plus Emmy on eBay, thankfully. I took care of my mother until her death in 2006. When her sight failed, I read Emmy to her out loud. We laughed together over the clams, chopping onions and all the wonderful adventures. These wonderful books need to be reprinted. I credit Madye Lee Chastain with my lifelong love of reading. I wish I'd had the chance to thank her so I'm thanking her family instead.

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Kara Jeffas of Boston on August 31, 2008,

Fan of Summer at Hasty Cove. Used to take this book out on loan from my school library almost every week. Eventually told by the librarians that I would be restricted from borrowing it because they wanted me to read other books. A few years ago, I did a search and was thrilled to find a used copy on Amazon. Since being reuinted with the book, I have re-read "Hasty Cove" several times. A very warm memory.

From Madye Lee Chastain fan, Mimi Brennan on October 16, 2011,

Madye Lee Chastain's triology, Emmy Keeps A Promise, Dark Treasure, & The Magic Island are among my favorite books. As a child, I loved the stories, characters & 1850's New York. I was lucky to find copies of these books & treasure them. When I first moved to New York in the 1980's I rented part of a loft on White Street; the same street that Arabel & Emmy lived! I live near the city & sometimes visit Old Merchant's house museum. It reminds me of the Spenlow house. I always felt that the Emmy-Lisa Books would be fabulous as a PBS type Series...or produced like the Anne of Green Gables series, a marvelous Canadian production from 1980's. There's too much pop culture influence in children's films today. The Emmy-Lisa stories would be very inspiring to all ages.

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