How I Got Here: Marc Brown

Author of the Arthur books.

My wonderful wife Laurie came here before I did. She was working at Harvard. She was the only person I ever met who cared about how the illustrations in a picture book affected children, and she was doing studies about that at Harvard at Project Zero with Howard Gardner. She asked to do a study with a book that I had illustrated called Why the Tides Ebb and Flow, which was [from] African folklore. I was having a great time. We went into schools and worked with kids and we asked them all sorts of good questions and had them make drawings. And she had invited me to come down to the Vineyard.

She had rented a house out in Gay Head at the time. Her assistant and I came down to work for a day. And then her assistant, who I think was secretly trying to get us together, had to leave for some mysterious reason, which I couldn’t figure out. We had a wonderful time and she invited me back. Then we came to the Island together, and we found a little house not far from where we stayed in the house that she had rented. It was a beautiful little 1840 farmhouse in Gay Head that had been owned by Aida Mannings for many, many years.

I remember our first night there. My two sons were with us and they stayed in the bedroom downstairs – that was their room. And they opened their closet and they walked inside and the floor was so rotten that they fell through the floor. It was bad. And Laurie and I were sleeping upstairs and we had to keep moving our bed because the rain was coming through the roof. It was a disaster. But we had a wonderful time restoring the house.

Then, after several years, I saw an ad in the paper for this house in Tisbury. It had been in the paper for two or three years. I kept seeing the pictures. So finally I went and looked at it and then I persuaded Laurie to come here. It needed so much work and the house was more house than we wanted, but the spot was  so pretty. But Laurie kept saying,  “I don’t know, I think it’s too much for us. It’s so nice up in Gay Head.” So I brought her here five times before she decided that it might be
a good idea.

I think what’s so wonderful about the Vineyard is the diversity that’s here. And the different towns, each of them having their special character and flavor. Our friend Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children’s Television, who lives in Chilmark and Cambridge, said to us once, “The Vineyard is cold hors d’oeuvres and Nantucket is hot hors d’oeuvres,” and I thought that summed it up very well. It feels  very comfortable here. There’s not  a whole lot of fuss going on.

For me as a visual person, I get excited about driving around this Island. All of these secrets are down these wonderful winding dirt roads and your imagination can go wild. And for such a small island, every year that I’m here, I discover something new. It’s full of revelations. It’s an amazing Island.

We’re going to be here a lot now, because our kids are all grown and off to college. We’re just selling our house in Hingham, where we used to live during the winter months when school was going on. But we’re going to be down here for at least half the year now. And we’re looking for a little place in New York City, so we’ll go back and forth.

But I think it’s going to be a place where we’ll spend a good amount of time, because we like to
get down here and get our plants in and take care of our fruit trees and our berries, and now we’ll be able to harvest things and spend time doing things with all of those wonderful goodies at the end of
the year.