Born May 15, 1938, in Boston, MA; daughter of Peter (an executive and fund raiser) and Elisabeth (a psychologist and social worker; maiden name, Yens) Garden. Education: Columbia University, B.F.A. from School of Dramatic Arts, 1961, M.A. from Teachers' College, 1962. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, First Amendment issues, gardening, weaving, hiking, running, traveling.
Scholastic Magazines, New York, NY, began as assistant editor, became associate editor, 1966-70; Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, editor, 1971-76; writing teacher, author, and book reviewer, 1976—. Has also worked in theater as an actress and lighting designer, taught at various levels, and done freelance editorial work for various publishers. Gives talks at schools and libraries to children on writing and speaks at writers', librarians', and teachers' conferences for adults.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Editor's Choice, Booklist, 1982, Best Books, American Library Association (ALA), 1982, Best of the Best 1970-1983, ALA, Best Books for Young Adults 1969-1994, ALA, "Best of the Best Books for Young Adults" citation, ALA, 1999, and "Books That Shaped the Century" citation, School Library Journal, 2000, all for Annie on My Mind; Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library, 1995, for Dove and Sword; Lambda Book Award, 1996, Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies and Children's Book Council, and Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library, both 1997, all for Good Moon Rising; Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, 2001; Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement, 2003.
What Happened in Marston, illustrated by Richard Cuffari, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1971.
The Loners, Viking (New York, NY), 1972.
Maria's Mountain, illustrated by Barbara Brascove, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1981.
Annie on My Mind, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1982.
(Adaptor) Favorite Tales from Grimm, illustrated by Mercer Mayer, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1982.
Prisoner of Vampires, illustrated by Michele Chessare, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1984.
Peace, O River, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1986.
Lark in the Morning, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1991.
My Sister, the Vampire, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
Prisoner of Vampires, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1993.
My Brother, the Werewolf, Bullseye Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Dove and Sword, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.
Good Moon Rising, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.
The Year They Burned the Books, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY) 1999.
Holly's Secret, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.
Molly's Family, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.
Case of the Stolen Scarab: A Candlestone Inn Mystery, Two Live Publishers (Ridley Park, PA), 2002.
Meeting Melanie, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.
"FOURS CROSSING" SEQUENCE
Fours Crossing, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1981.
Watersmeet, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1983.
The Door Between, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1987.
"MONSTER HUNTERS" SERIES
Mystery of the Night Raiders, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1987.
Mystery of the Midnight Menace, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1988.
Mystery of the Secret Marks, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1989.
Mystery of the Kidnapped Kidnapper, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1994.
Mystery of the Watchful Witches, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1994.
Berlin: City Split in Two, G. P. Putnam (New York, NY), 1971.
Vampires, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1973.
Werewolves, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1973.
Witches, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1975.
Devils and Demons, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1976.
Fun with Forecasting Weather, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1977.
The Kids' Code and Cipher Book, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1981.
Also author of a serial novel, The Secret of Smith's Hill, syndicated by Breakfast Serials, published in newspapers across the nation, 1999-2000.
What Happened in Marston was adapted for television and broadcast by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as an "ABC After School Special" under the title The Color of Friendship; Annie on My Mind was adapted for radio and first broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1992, and was adapted for the stage and performed in 1994.
Nancy Garden, winner of the 2003 Margaret A. Edwards Award, is chiefly known for her candid fiction on gay and lesbian issues. Garden was among the first authors for young adults to write of lesbian romance from a positive, affirming perspective in Annie on My Mind, Good Moon Rising, and Holly's Secret. She has also had to defend several of her titles from efforts to remove them from certain local libraries. In addition to being cited for her work on First Amendment rights, Garden is also recognized as a writer who seeks to reassure and validate the experiences of young people who feel that they might be different from the majority. In an interview with School Library Journal she said that she hopes her readers learn from her books that "it's OK to be who they are, and a feeling that they are and can be good people and can find another person to love. A feeling, too, that teens can make a difference in the world while they're still teens."
Although realistic young adult fiction is Garden's trademark, she has also written numerous fantasy, mystery, and horror titles. Her "Fours Crossing" sequence is a several-part fantasy based on old Celtic myth and religious lore. Other volumes, including the "Monster Hunters" series, look at supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and witches. "I write for young people because I like them," Garden once told SATA, "and because I think they are important. Children's books can be mind-stretchers and imagination-ticklers and builders of good taste in a way that adult books cannot, because young people usually come to books with more open minds. It's exciting to be able to contribute to that in a small way."
An only child who moved frequently while she was young, Garden grew up with a love of books and drama. Although her schoolteachers encouraged her to write, she gravitated to the stage, studied theater in college, and worked for several years as an actress and director. When it became evident that she needed more stable employment, she went back to school for a teaching degree. Eventually, however, she found herself working for publishing houses as an editor—a good apprenticeship for a would-be author.
The Fantasy Series "Fours Crossing"
During this part of her life Garden took an extended trip to Europe with a friend, Renee Cafiero. Traveling through Wales and Scotland introduced her to Celtic traditions, and her imagination began to create a New England village steeped in Celtic lore and legend. The village, Fours Crossing, New Hampshire, became the setting for the "Fours Crossing" sequence of three full-length novels. Fours Crossing, according to Horn Book reviewer Paul Heins, concerns the "strange happenings caused by a religious rift in the community at the time of its settlement in the seventeenth century." The protagonist, Melissa Dunn, travels to Fours Crossing to live with her grandmother after the death of her mother. The townspeople preserve many of the traditional Celtic customs of their ancestors, including welcoming the spring season by carrying an evergreen tree around the village. The year that Melissa arrives, however, winter lingers on and spring refuses to come. In company with her friend Jed, Melissa discovers that an old hermit is preventing the onset of springtime through magic spells. The hermit captures Jed and Melissa and holds them prisoner in his root cellar. Finally Melissa manages to break the hermit's hold on the seasons and releases spring to the town.
The sequel to Fours Crossing, Watersmeet, continues Melissa's adventures. Although the hermit's power has been broken, the release of spring has caused the flooding of the village. A newcomer, named Rhiannon, also brings dissent to the community. Many of the villagers—including, for a time, Jed—believe that she is allied with the hermit. Melissa is one of the few that believe in Rhiannon's innate goodness and the positive effects of her power. "A succession of events," noted Horn Book reviewer Mary M. Burns, "provides a battleground for conflict between the old ways and the new as the hermit manipulates ancient rituals and contemporary fears into an attack on stable community institutions."
Garden continues the story of Fours Crossing in The Door Between. Melissa has discovered that she is the descendant of the true Keepers of the Old Ways—the job that the mad hermit has hitherto claimed. With the aid of Jed, his dog Ulfin, and her sparrowhawk Llyr, Melissa travels to the world of the dead to defeat the hermit and merge the Old Ways with the new. "Melissa wins the hermit over with a new-found compassion and maturity," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Despite some reservations—reviewers noted that it was difficult for readers unfamiliar with the earlier volumes to follow the story line—critics generally praised the "Fours Crossing" sequence. "Melissa is a resourceful character," maintained a Booklist writer, "and readers of the first two books won't want to miss the third saga."
"Monster Hunters" and the Undead
After the "Fours Crossing" novels, Garden launched the "Monster Hunters" series. Like Melissa's adventures, the stories of the "Monster Hunters" tell about preteens—Brian, Numbles, and Darcy—who vow to rid the world of monsters. In the first volume, Mystery of the Night Raiders, Brian launches an investigation of a series of mysterious cattle deaths on his grandparents' Vermont farm. Brian, a mystery fan, Numbles, a budding scientist, and Darcy, an athlete, are unprepared for a supernatural explanation for the cows' deaths, noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "until it looks as if Brian has become the next dish on a vampire's menu." The second volume in the series, Mystery of the Midnight Menace, looks at the possibility that one of Brian's classmates is in fact the werewolf that has been terrifying Central Park. "This is a creepy, moody piece for lovers of the genre," noted JoEllen Broome in Voice of Youth Advocates, "and big chuckles for the more skeptical among us."
Garden has also explored the problem of the un-dead in several non-series titles, including Prisoner of Vampires and My Sister, the Vampire. In Prisoner of Vampires, preteen Alexander Darlington has an enthusiasm for vampires—until he actually meets one in the person of Radu. Radu, "a red-lipped specter of a man who has a taste for rare roast-beef sandwiches," according to a Booklist contributor, haunts the basement of a small library where Alexander is doing research for his project on the undead. Radu gains power over Alexander and uses him to victimize Alexander's older sister Peggy. "Thanks to Alexander's brave friend Mike and a wise old neighbor, Mrs. Potter," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, "the villain is done in and the prisoners are saved." Trev Jones in School Library Journal found the book "a chilling, gorey and absurdly funny story with perfectly suited black-and-white illustrations. Horror fans will love it."
My Sister, the Vampire tells the story of three siblings—Tim, Sarah, and Jenny—who are left alone at their family's summer home in Maine. Strange events haunt their time, dampening their pleasure at being on their own. "Hundreds of bats invade the house," explained Lyle Blake Smythers in School Library Journal; "the girl in the neighboring cabin is wasting away, haunted by disturbing dreams; and Sarah seems to be developing the same symptoms." Eventually the children, together with the neighbor girl's brother John, confront the mysterious new owners of nearby Spool Island and bring the matter to a close. "Sure to be popular with those who like to be scared but not terrified," concluded Sally Estes in Booklist.
Annie on My Mind and Censorship
Garden's Annie on My Mind has been hailed by the American Library Association and School Library Journal as one of the best books for young adults written in the twentieth century. The novel chronicles the meeting, friendship, and romance of Annie and Liza, two young women who learn to be comfortable with their feelings for one another and what those feelings imply for their lives and futures. The central premise of Annie on My Mind, that lesbians can be happy, seems self-evident to a twenty-first-century reader, but the novel's positive ending and affirming treatment of adolescent homosexuality were almost unprecedented at the time of its first publication. Garden's book found an audience not only among younger readers, but also among adult women who, like the author herself, had always longed for a story with which they could identify.
Because of its subject matter, Annie on My Mind became the subject of a federal court case in 1995. In 1993, a gay group called Project 21, whose purpose is to encourage schools to include accurate materials about homosexuality in their libraries and curricula, donated copies of Annie on My Mind and of Frank Mosca's All American Boys to forty-two schools in and around Kansas City. A fundamentalist minister burned a copy of Annie outside the building housing the Kansas City School Board, and several school boards voted to remove the book after they discovered it was on their district's library shelves.
The school board of the Olathe, Kansas, district was among those that voted to ban Annie on My Mind—even though no students or parents had complained about the book during the decade it had been in the school library. The controversy came to a head in Olathe, whose school board, dominated by members who believed that homosexuality is wrong, directed the library to remove the book from circulation, despite the protests of both librarians and students. In response, some students, their parents, and a science teacher who was also a parent, filed suit in federal district court, claiming that the school board had violated their constitutional rights of free speech and due process. The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association supported the suit. According to a Kansas City Star reporter, "School officials replied that they were exercising their right to choose material for students and their right not to succumb to the agenda of a special interest group."
Garden testified at the trial, as did Olathe media specialists and members of the Olathe school board. In November, 1995, United States District Court Judge Thomas Van Bebber ruled that "the book was unconstitutionally removed from the shelves," and the Olathe school board decided not to appeal the decision, though they did announce plans to revise their book selection process. In a Voice of Youth Advocates article titled "Annie on Trial: How It Feels To Be the Author of a Challenged Book," Garden stated: "I believe any challenge to any book endangers the First Amendment.…We must stand firmly together in our resolve to protect the amendment that protects us and that allows people in this country free access to all ideas. Annie won, but there are other battles still to fight."
"Garden's Annie on My Mind, "observed Roger D. Suttoninthe Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, "was a groundbreaker in its romantic treatment of a gay theme. Lark in the Morning is notable in that it presents a gay relationship as just one (and a subordinate one, at that) story element." Lark in the Morning tells of Gillian Harrison, seventeen years old and in a committed relationship with her best friend, Suzanne. Gillian arrives at her parents' summer home in Pookatasset, Rhode Island only to find that the place has been burglarized and a number of items—including her diary, which spells out the details of her relationship with Suzanne—have been taken. Gillian sets out to recover her lost property and soon uncovers the culprits: two young runaways from an abusive home, Jackie and Lark, who are hiding in an old hut nearby. Gillian coaxes Lark out of her suicidal depression, and supports Lark's plan to take Jackie to their aunt's home in New Hampshire—even though, to do that, Gillian has to lie to her family, her friend Brad, and the authorities. "By interweaving the issues of child abuse, suicide, runaways, and homosexuality with ethical questions regarding helping 'outlaws' and lying … in order to protect others," asserted School Library Journal contributor Dona Weisman, "Garden offers readers much food for thought." Voice of Youth Advocates correspondent Rebecca Sue Taylor deemed Lark in the Morning "an honest and realistic look at love, truth, and responsibility."
Peace, O River echoes the themes that Garden examines in What Happened in Marston. In it, stated New York Times Book Review contributor Merri Rosenberg, the author "uses the contemporary issue of nuclear waste to propel what is essentially a thinly veiled tale about class and social status." The novel tells the story of sixteen-year-old Kate Kincaid, who has returned to her childhood home of River View, Massachusetts, after her father's heart attack. River View, which is an affluent neighborhood, has a longstanding feud with its companion town of Hastings Bay, a blue-collar area. Recently the rumor of a nuclear waste dump to be located in the area has made the feud worse. Kate and her new friend from Hastings Bay, Pippa Brown, try to end the bad feelings. However, the anger spills over into the local high school. Kate's brother is attacked and beaten, Pippa is nearly raped, and Kate's old friend Jon drowns in the river. Jon's death finally ends the feud. A Booklist reviewer suggested that the novel's theme "lies in the conflicts about ideas … does pacifism always make sense, locally and globally?" A Horn Book critic called the work "a valiant attempt to help teenagers understand the tremendous difficulties faced by those who would seek to solve difficult problems through direct nonviolent intervention."
In Dove and Sword, a historical novel set in fifteenth-century France, Garden looks at the pros and cons of war. The book tells the story of Joan of Arc through the eyes of a fictional friend, Gabrielle, who is taken with Joan's inspirational voices and violent death. Gabrielle provides a modern perspective on the events leading up to Joan's martyrdom. "This is a fascinating and well-written historical novel," enthused Ann W. Moore in School Library Journal, "filled with rich details, evocative descriptions, and interesting characters." Garden's "strategically plotted novel," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, "achieves the highest goals of historical fiction—it vivifies the past, robustly and respectfully, then uses its example to steer the audience toward a more courageous future."
Garden's experiences with the Annie trial and her ongoing concern about censorship issues prompted her to write The Year They Burned the Books. In this story, a high school senior named Jamie Crawford learns hard lessons about politics and pressure when she leads a drive to have condom distribution in her school. Lambda Book Report contributor Deborah Peifer felt that the book should be "required reading at every school." The critic added that Garden "once again proves the power of words to change attitudes and lives." In Booklist, Michael Cart concluded: "Garden's treatment of her themes is courageous, believable, and fair-minded.… This is an important book that deserves a wide readership." Pat Scales in School Library Journal maintained that readers of The Year They Burned the Books "will come away from it with enough insight to at least think before they make judgments about people, their lifestyles, and their first-amendment rights."
Holly's Secret offers another perspective on gay lifestyles. When Holly Lawrence-Jones moves with her gay adopted parents to a small town in Massachusetts, she decides to invent a whole new identity for herself. This new identity does not include her lesbian mothers. Holly tells people that her mothers are actually sisters, causing pain within the family circle and embarrassment for Holly when the ruse is exposed. Lauralyn Persson in School Library Journal called the book "a smoothly written story" in which "…the message seems to be the main point." Hazel Rochman in Booklist felt that readers would appreciate the honesty in the story, "and the message against bigotry and lies is loud and clear."
If you enjoy the works of Nancy Garden, you might want to check out the following books:
Sandra Scoppetone, Happy Endings Are All Alike, 1978.
Rik Isensee, We're Not Alone, 2000.
M. E. Kerr, Deliver Us from Evie, 1994.
Garden takes up the issues of class differences and parental fallibility in Meeting Melanie. Allie comes from a working-class family on Seal Island in Maine. She is instantly drawn into a close friendship with Melanie Rochambeau, a wealthy summer visitor to the island. Melanie's mother wants her daughter to have nothing to do with the "natives," but the girls manage to find ways to be together anyway. Matters come to a head when Melanie's sister reveals her secret pregnancy and her plans to reunite with the baby's father on the mainland. Several reviewers commended Meeting Melanie for its detailed observations of life on a Maine island where fishing and lobstering provide the best jobs. Hazel Rochman in Booklist also liked the "realistic, upbeat view of the close bond between two girls," and School Library Journal correspondent Betty S. Evans praised the "light drama with good characterizations." In her interview with School Library Journal, Garden said that adults naturally want to shield teens from difficult subjects, but that it is important "to prepare teens for the world they'll meet as adults, and to help them understand it and form their own reactions to it." She supports a "climate of open discussion" for families, schools, and communities, in which teens feel free to express their opinions and to see them taken seriously. "As long as there's true dialogue," she said, "it seems to me there will be growth toward intelligent, independent adulthood."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Gallo, Donald R., editor, Speaking for Ourselves, Too, National Council of Teachers of English, 1993.
Something about the Author, Volume 147, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2004.
Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994, pp. 233-234.
Booklist, April 1, 1985, review of Prisoner of Vampires, p. 1119; March 1, 1986, review of Peace, O River, p. 973; November 1, 1987, review of The Door Between, p. 476; July, 1992, Sally Estes, review of My Sister, the Vampire, p. 1931; August, 1999, Michael Cart, review of The Year They Burned the Books.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1991, Roger D. Sutton, review of Lark in the Morning, p. 236.
Horn Book, August, 1981, Paul Heins, review of Fours Crossing, pp. 431-432; October, 1983, Mary M. Burns, review of Watersmeet, pp. 580-581; January-February, 1986, review of Peace, O River, pp. 91-92.
Kansas City Star, October 5, 1995, "Board Tells Reason for Banning Book," p. C4.
New York Times Book Review, March 2, 1986, Merri Rosenberg, review of Peace, O River, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, January 25, 1985, review of Prisoner of Vampires, p. 94; July 24, 1987, review of The Door Between, p. 187; November 13, 1987, review of Mystery of the Night Raiders, p. 71; October 16, 1995, review of Dove and Sword, p. 62.
School Library Journal, August, 1982, Roger D. Sutton, review of Annie on My Mind, p. 125; February, 1985, Trev Jones, review of Prisoner of Vampires, pp. 73-74; December, 1987, Virginia Golodetz, review of The Door Between, pp. 99-100; June, 1991, Dona Weisman, review of Lark in the Morning, pp. 124-125; September, 1992, Lyle Blake Smythers, review of My Sister, the Vampire, p. 252; November, 1995, Ann W. Moore, review of Dove and Sword, p. 119; August 16, 1999, Pat Scales, review of The Year They Burned the Books.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1989, JoEllen Broome, review of Mystery of the Midnight Menace, p. 284; June, 1996, Nancy Garden, "Annie on Trial: How It Feels To Be the Author of a Challenged Book."
Cynthia Leitich Smith,http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/jingledancer.htm/ Cynthia Leitich Smith, "Interview with Children's and YA Book Author Nancy Garden."
Nancy Garden,http://www.members.aol.com/nancygarden/ (November 17, 2003), author's Web site.*