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Elizabeth Janet Gray was born Elizabeth Gray Vining, on October 6, 1902, in Philadelphia. Her writing career began at age 17, when she sold a story to Young Churchman magazine. She studied at Bryn Mawr and Drexel University. After graduation, to supporther writing, she taught, and became a librarian.

In 1926 she joined the library staff of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and in 1929 she married Morgan Fisher Vining, a university administrator. It was a happy marriage, and Elizabeth was devastated when it ended in 1933 with Morgan's death in a car accident, in which she was also severely injured. She returned to Pennsylvania to heal, and it was during this difficult time that she was drawn to Quakerism, with which she was already familiar. "My search for meaning had taken me that winter into many lanes and some blind alleys; in the end I returned to the Quaker meeting of my childhood and of my New Jersey ancestors. It was the silence that drew me, that deep healing silence of the meeting at its best, when the search of each is intensified by the search of all."

After writing eleven books, all under the name Elizabeth Janet Gray, she won the Newbery in 1943.

Through her involvement with the Quaker church, Vining was chosen to tutor Crown Prince Akihito of Japan from 1946 to 1950. When Vining first encountered the Emperor during a first-year class, she addressed him as "Jimmy."

"No," he replied, "I am the prince."

Vining explained that though he was the prince, all students in the class had been given English names to show her resolve that no exceptions would be made. He dealt with it pretty well.

Before she left Japan, the Japanese government presented Vining with a medal, the Order of the Sacred Crown, an award given only to women with eight degrees of merit. It was explained that the first and second degrees were reserved for princesses. Would Mrs Vining be content with the third?   "Mottai nai," ("It’s too good") she said in her best Japanese.

She was the only foreign guest to attend the Emperor's wedding ceremony in 1959. He sent her a concerned letter after hearing that she had been involved in another car accident in 1990. He regularly sent her flowers on her birthday, delivered to her apartment in a limousine by the Japanese embassy.

Her experiences in Japan led her to write two books, Windows for the Crown Prince and Return to Japan. Over her long career, Vining wrote over sixty books for children and adults, including biographies, contemporary fiction, and historical novels.

Vining died on November 27, 1999.


Adam of the Road   (1943 Newbery Award)

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