The Sunday Magazine

Tragedy built a new family for children's author Jean Little and sister Pat de Vries

Jean Little, 88, one of Canada's best-loved and most-celebrated children's authors, passed away on April 6, 2020. In 2014, when Little was 82, The Sunday Edition featured a documentary about her called Ours For Keeps produced by Cate Cochran. We bring you that documentary in memory of Little.
The late Jean Little, right, with sister Pat de Vries (Photo by Rhondda Lymburner)

Originally published on December 7, 2014.

Jean Little was one of Canada's best-loved and most celebrated children's authors. She wrote 60 books, and was recently writing poetry and working on Sing Your Way Home, the third volume of her autobiography.

On April 6, 2020, Little died peacefully in hospice in Guelph, Ontario. She was 88 years old.

In 2014, when Little was 82, The Sunday Edition featured a documentary about her called Ours For Keeps produced by Cate Cochran. We bring you that documentary in memory of Little.

Original story runs below.


The arrival of a guest at Jean Little's home causes all sorts of uproar and commotion. Three dogs — one of them seeing-eye — tend to bring that on. But then Jean is used to welcoming a bit of commotion.

Jean Little is one of Canada's best-loved and most-celebrated children's authors. 

She has written numerous books, including the classics Mine for Keeps and From Anna. Jean is 82-years-old. She's completely blind and, with the help of a computer, still writes every day. 

But one of the biggest stories of her life — unpublished and little-known — has taken place in the modest house she shares with her sister, Pat de Vries, in Guelph, Ontario.

When she was in her mid-'60s, Little took on the task, with de Vries, of raising two small children — her great niece and nephew, Jeannie and Ben.

Ben and Jeannie are the children of Sarah de Vries, de Vries' adopted daughter, who disappeared from Vancouver's skid row in the spring of 1998. Sarah's DNA was later found on the pig farm of serial killer Robert Picton.

Jeannie is 23 now and Ben has just graduated from high school. They are launched, more or less, two young people trying to make their way in the world. The sisters who raised them can stop running, sit back and think about a remarkable living arrangement that began with a phone call.

Click 'listen' above to hear the documentary.

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