Image of Jim Kjelgaard


Lifetime: 1910 - 1959 Passed: ≈ 64 years ago




United States

Jim Kjelgaard

James Arthur Kjelgaard  was an American author of young adult literature.

Kjelgaard was born in New York City, New York on December 10, 1910. Jim's father, Carroll W. Kjelgaard, was a physician, happily married with five sons and one daughter. Kjelgaard was the fourth oldest. Kjelgaard and his siblings lived on a seven hundred and fifty acre farm in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania during his childhood. It was the outdoors which provided a playground for all the children. Dave Drakula, writing in Jim Kjelgaard – From the Bigwoods to Hollywood, recounted a time when Kjelgaard and his brother Henry were outside playing when Kjelgaard spotted a bear. Kjelgaard and Henry climbed up the apple tree to escape the bear. Once the bear was gone Kjelgaard got down from the tree screaming and yelling as he ran into the house. In the meantime, Henry was too small to get out of the tree himself and was stuck there. The bear came back again and stared Henry down with Kjelgaard laughing in the distance. This is where Kjelgaard's first love of bears comes from and later appeared in his books such as Buckskin Brigade (1947).

As a child, Kjelgaard liked to read. Although his family was often low on money, Kjelgaard's parents always tried to support Kjelgaard and provide as many books for him as they could. The family's farming venture failed and Jim and his family moved to Galeton, Pennsylvania. It was at that point that Kjelgaard began to show interest in writing. Kjelgaard made a desk out of a box so that he could start writing poems and stories on a typewriter. In addition, Kjelgaard was becoming an avid hunter, trapper, and fisherman, and his love for dogs was unlimited. Unfortunately, during this time Kjelgaard began to have symptoms of epilepsy. He was brought to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where his problem was diagnosed as a tumor but he did not have to have surgery at the time. Kjelgaard was still able to continue on with his life and adventures and show his love for the outdoors.

Kjelgaard wrote more than 40 novels, the most famous of which is 1945's Big Red. It sold 225,000 copies by 1956 and was made into a 1962 Walt Disney film of the same name.

His books were primarily about dogs and wild animals, often with animal protagonists and told from the animal's point of view. Kjelgaard also wrote short fiction for several magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, and Adventure.

Books by Jim Kjelgaard

The Black Fawn Cover image

The Black Fawn

Animal Children Nature

Bud Sloan was an orphan who had been 'sold out' of the orphanage to work on a farm once he'd been old enough to labor. The farm where he was to work was owned by an aging farmer and his wife who had raised a large family and were now left alone. One...

Swamp Cat Cover image

Swamp Cat

Animal War Young Death Nature Action

This adventure in the great outdoors follows the cat Frosty and a young man named Andy as they make a life for themselves in a swamp. They work together to fend off dangers and unwanted poachers in yet another charming story by Jim Kjelgaard.

Story of Geronimo Cover image

Story of Geronimo

Geronimo (1829 – 1909) was a prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache who fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. "Geronimo" was the name given to him during...

Trading Jeff and His Dog Cover image

Trading Jeff and His Dog

A fight in the Midwest leaves the dog's owner dead. He searches for a new friend and encounters Trading Jeff. Jeff is a traveling peddler. Beware, though, because life as a peddler isn't easy (and it's definitely not safe!) Join us for the adventures...

Rescue Dog of the High Pass Cover image

Rescue Dog of the High Pass

Jim Kjelgaard has long wanted to tell the story of the gallant dogs who have gone out with the monks of St. Bernard Hospice to rescue travelers lost in the deep snows of the Swiss mountain passes. Unable to find the facts, he decided to reconstruct t...

Duck-Footed Hound Cover image

Duck-Footed Hound

Old Joe was the biggest, fightingest, craftiest coon in the Creeping Hills. No one had ever been able to catch him; not even Precious Sue, a bluetick hound peerless in tracking down coons. But Harky felt that this autumn the hunting would be differ...

Double Challenge Cover image

Double Challenge

Jim Kjelgaard brings to life another wild adventure when Ted Harkness and his father attempt to open a hunting lodge. Everything changes when Ted's father is accused of attempted murder and begins his hideout in the woods. Ted works in this exciting...