Blos, Joan W. 1928–
Blos, Joan W. 1928–
(Joan Winsor Blos)
Surname rhymes with "close"; born December 9, 1928, in New York, NY; daughter of Max (a psychiatrist) and Charlotte (a teacher) Winsor; married Peter Blos, Jr. (a psychoanalyst), June 7, 1953; children: Stephen (deceased), Sarah. Education: Vassar College, B.A., 1949; City College (now the City University of New York), M.A., 1956. Hobbies and other interests: Camping, knitting, making soup, talking with people, taking long walks with her husband, and watching a good play.
Writer. Bank Street College of Education, New York, NY, associate in publications division and member of faculty, 1958-70; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, lecturer in juvenile literature at School of Education, 1972-80. Volunteer reviewer of children's books for Connecticut Association of Mental Health, 1954-56.
John Newbery Medal from American Library Association, American Book Award, both 1980, and Best Books of the Year designation, School Library Journal, and English-Speaking Union Ambassador Book designation, all for A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32.
In the City, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1964.
(With Betty Miles) People Read, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1964.
(With Betty Miles) Joe Finds a Way, L.W. Singer (Syracuse, NY), 1967.
"It's Spring" She Said, Knopf (New York, NY), 1968.
(With Betty Miles) Just Think!, Knopf (New York, NY), 1971.
A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 (historical fiction), Scribner (New York, NY), 1979.
Martin's Hats, illustrated by Marc Simont, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
Brothers of the Heart: A Story of the Old Northwest, 1837-1838 (historical fiction), Scribner (New York, NY), 1985.
Old Henry (picture book), Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.
The Grandpa Days, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1989.
One Very Best Valentine's Day, illustrated by Emanuel Schongut, Little Simon (New York, NY), 1989.
Lottie's Circus, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
The Heroine of the Titanic: A Tale Both True and Otherwise of the Life of Molly Brown, illustrated by Tennessee Dixon, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
A Seed, a Flower, a Minute, an Hour, illustrated by Hans Poppel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Brooklyn Doesn't Rhyme, Scribner (New York, NY), 1994.
The Hungry Little Boy, illustrated by Dena Schutzer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Nellie Bly's Monkey: His Remarkable Story in His Own Words, illustrated by Catherine Stock, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Bedtime!, illustrated by Stephen Lambert, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Hello, Shoes!, illustrated by Ann Boyajian, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Letters from the Corrugated Castle: A Novel of Gold Rush California, 1850-1852 (historical fiction), Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2007.
(Adaptor) Margaret Wise Brown, The Days before Now: An Autobiographical Note, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including School Library Journal, New Outlook, and Merrill-Palmer Quarterly. U.S. editor of Children's Literature in Education, 1976-81.
Joan W. Blos is a writer of children's literature who is best known for her novel A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32, which in 1980 won the American Library Association's Newbery Medal for the year's most distinguished contribution to American children's literature. Set in the early nineteenth century, A Gathering of Days is presented as a young girl's chronicle of her life on a New England farm. The book took Blos twelve years to complete. Fascinated by her family's summer home in New England, the midwestern author researched its past owners and based her novel on her findings. Kirkus Reviews called the book "carefully researched and convincingly delivered." A reviewer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that the "careful tuning of psychological nuances to historic elements … gives the story its powerful immediacy. A Gathering of Days not only gives the reader a close look at the early 1800s, it offers … a deeply moving human experience." Noting that the novel's heroine "meets both the cruel, long and dark winter days and the all-too-short sunny summer days with sturdy endurance and quiet joy," Lavinia Russ commented in the Washington Post Book World that "Blos offers a valuable supplement to students of early American history."
Blos's novel Brothers of the Heart: A Story of the Old Northwest, 1837-1838 was praised by Tim Wynne-Jones in the Toronto Globe and Mail as "more powerful and more stirring than its award-winning predecessor." Commenting to CA about the book, Blos once stated that Brothers of the Heart "began with an interest in a region and an exploration of its past: what was it like back then? This time I tell the story of a boy, Shem, the fiddler's crippled son, and the story's several settings include a newly established town, the commercial center of Detroit, and the Michigan wilderness. Among its varied characters, an elderly Ottawan woman is outstanding and her presence contributes another culture's strengths to the ongoing thread of the story." A writer for the St. James Guide to Children's Writers commented that Blos's "language, with its rhythms and lilt of earlier times, is remarkably spare, not replete with full-blown descriptions, yet giving the reader a strong sense of place and characterization. Blos has accomplished the fine feat of balancing history with universal human experience, uniting the book's past with the reader's present."
Blos has also written picture books for younger readers, among them Hello, Shoes! and Bedtime! In Hello, Shoes! a boy and his grandfather search for the boy's shoes amid the clutter in his room. Once they are found, the boy buckles them himself for the first time ever, and then he and his grandparent head off for a fun time at the park. "This sweet slip of a story should strike a chord with very small children, who will understand the seriousness of the boy's quest and appreciate the grandfather's respect for it," noted a writer for Publishers Weekly. Bedtime! is a "charming, quiet" story about unwilling children being sent to bed, reported Stephanie Zvirin in Booklist. Childish reluctance about going to bed is perfectly captured, as is an experienced adult's manner of coping with it. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented on the "spare, soothing tones" of Blos's narrative voice, which is "spiced with a sly sense of humor."
Blos' next novel, Letters from the Corrugated Castle: A Novel of Gold Rush California, 1850-1852, published eight years after Hello, Shoes! in 2007, follows the life of thirteen-year-old Eldora, who, along with her adoptive aunt and uncle, moves from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to California during the Gold Rush. Not long after the move, Eldora discovers that she is not an orphan after all, and that her mother, now a wealthy landowner, resides in a nearby town. Eldora had been brought to the couple from South America after her mother was infected with cholera on a sea voyage and was forced to send her daughter on without her. In her new hometown, Eldora makes friends with many of the Mexican families there, as well as a boy named Luke, who moved to the area with his journalist father. After her newly-found mother suggests that she come live with her, Eldora leaves her aunt and uncle to move to San Pedro where her mother runs an inn. Eldora soon learns that life with her mother is not the fairy tale she imagined.
The story is told through a series of letters from Eldora to her cousin Sallie in New Bedford, and newspaper articles from Luke's father. "By incorporating a wide range of historical facts through letters and through the articles … the author has created a stately, sweeping epic novel," commended Kathryn Kosiorek in her review of the book for School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that "this quiet, reflective tale" is "suffused with a wealth of period details and language." "As in Blos' earlier historical novels … the sense of time and place are beautifully realized," praised Horn Book's Margaret A. Bush.
Blos once told CA: "Truth is something that interests me a lot…. When you write a story, you find that you have to deal with three kinds of truthfulness. There is the psychological truthfulness of your characters, the social truthfulness of their situation, and the literary truthfulness of the manner of telling. The story is what results."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 18, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
ALAN Review, fall, 1998, Joanne Brown, "Historical Fiction or Fictionalized History?"
Booklist, February 15, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Nellie Bly's Monkey: His Remarkable Story in His Own Words, p. 1024; May 15, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Bedtime!, p. 1629; October 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Hello, Shoes!, p. 450.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 8, 1986, Tim Wynne-Jones, review of Brothers of the Heart: A Story of the Old Northwest, 1837-1838.
Horn Book, May 1, 2007, Margaret A. Bush, review of Letters from the Corrugated Castle: A Novel of Gold Rush California, 1850-1852.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1980; review of A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32.
Kliatt, May 1, 2007, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Letters from the Corrugated Castle.
Publishers Weekly, May 11, 1998, review of Bedtime!, p. 66; May 31, 1999, review of Hello, Shoes!, p. 91; May 28, 2007, review of Letters from the Corrugated Castle, p. 63.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 27, 1980, review of A Gathering of Days.
School Library Journal, April, 1996, Starr LaTronica, review of Nellie Bly's Monkey, p. 99; July, 1998, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Bedtime!, p. 64; July, 1999, Susan M. Moore, review of Hello, Shoes!, p. 61; June 1, 2007, Kathryn Kosiorek, review of Letters from the Corrugated Castle, p. 140.
Washington Post Book World, March 9, 1980, Lavinia Russ, review of A Gathering of Days.