Former U children’s literature professor Norine Odland dies

Courtney Lewis

Norine Odland, a retired University professor and recipient of the Kerlan Award for excellence in children’s literature, died March 20 of multiple sclerosis. She was 83.

After her retirement in 1989, Odland continued her work in children’s literature and became an advocate for multiple sclerosis awareness.

Odland received her master’s degree in 1951 and doctorate in 1959 from the University. As a children’s literature professor, she brought children’s authors such as Mary Stolz and Tomie de Paola to speak to the campus community.

Odland asked her students to read children’s books, not just the reviews. Her goal was for students to place themselves in the child’s mind.

Karen Ritz said she came to the University in 1977 specifically to work with Odland, who Ritz said was known nationally for her proficiency in children’s literature. Ritz continued to work with Odland as a teaching assistant.

Ritz said Odland set a high standard for the students she taught and demanded quality in their literature.

“Everything I’ve learned from her is reflected every day in how I teach and how I illustrate,” Ritz said. She said Odland’s classes taught her and her classmates much about their field.

Odland created a class called “Writing For and By Children,” which was offered to students every summer.

Local authors were always welcomed on campus, as Odland extended invitations for them to speak to her classes. Friends remember her admiration for local authors’ successes.

Many students Odland taught such as Ritz began careers in children’s literature or illustration. Friend and
co-worker Karen Nelson Hoyle said she remembers Odland’s respect for her students.

“When I visited her office, I could tell how proud she was of her doctorate students,” said Hoyle, a professor in the Library Collection of Development and Management. “She kept their dissertations in her office.”

Odland died at Clarion, Iowa’s Wright Medical Center, where she had resided since 1995.