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Borden, Louise (Walker) 1949-

BORDEN, Louise (Walker) 1949-

PERSONAL: Born October 30, 1949, in Cincinnati, OH; daughter of William Lee (president of a sales distributorship) and Louise (Crutcher) Walker; married Peter A. Borden (president of a sales distributorship), September 4, 1971; children: Catherine, Ayars (daughter), Ted. Education: Denison University, B.A., 1971. Politics: Independent. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: "Spending time with my family and friends, writing, reading, gardening, tennis, skiing, travel, summers in Leland, Michigan, and the Cincinnati Reds."

ADDRESSES: Home—628 Myrtle Ave., Terrace Park, OH 45174.

CAREER: Meadowbrook School, Weston, MA, teaching assistant, 1971-73; Cincinnati Country Day School, Cincinnati, OH, pre-primary teacher, 1973-74; The Bookshelf (bookstore), Cincinnati, OH, co-owner, 1988-91; writer and speaker. Served on the boards of Redeemer Nursery School, Cincinnati Children's Theater, and Hillsdale Alumni Association.

MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors' Guild, Ohio Council of Teachers of Language Arts.

WRITINGS:

Caps, Hats, Socks, and Mittens: A Book about the Four Seasons, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

The Neighborhood Trucker, illustrated by Sandra Speidel, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

The Watching Game, illustrated by Teri Weidner, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

Albie the Lifeguard, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

Just in Time for Christmas, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Mary Kay Kroeger) Paperboy, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Clarion (New York, NY), 1996.

Thanksgiving Is . . ., illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II, illustrated by Michael Foreman, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 1997.

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

Goodbye, Charles Lindbergh: Based on a True Story, illustrated by Thomas B. Allen, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 1998.

Good Luck, Mrs. K.!, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 1999.

A. Lincoln and Me, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Sleds on Boston Common: A Story from the American Revolution, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 2000.

The Day Eddie Met the Author, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Mary Kay Kroeger) Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman, illustrated by Teresa Flavin, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 2001.

America Is . . ., illustrated by Stacey Schuett, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Trish Marx) Touching the Sky: Flying Adventures of Wilbur and Orville Wright, illustrated by Peter Fiore, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 2003.

Sea Clocks: The Story of Longitude, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Margaret McElderry (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of poetry to Christmas in the Stable, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1990.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Greatest Skating Race, The A+ Custodian, The True Escape of Curious George, and Across the Blue Pacific.

SIDELIGHTS: A former school teacher, Louise Borden has written several books for young readers that take a gentle approach to childhood. A young boy realizes his dream of riding in his favorite truck in The Neighborhood Trucker, while in The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II, a fisherman's daughter comes to the aid of Allied soldiers trapped on the beach at Dunkirk. Family traditions are the focus of Just in Time for Christmas, which a Publishers Weekly contributor described as "a poignant story, sparely and smoothly told." And a young boy has a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with an American hero in Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh, a picture book based on the real-life recollections of Harold Gilpin, who met the famed aviator when Lindbergh landed his plane in a field near Gilpin's Mississippi home. "More than just a retelling," asserted Booklist reviewer Shelle Rosenfeld, "the book explores the complex issues of age versus youth, modern technology versus the Old World, innocence versus experience." Rosenfeld added that Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh is "both an interesting glimpse back in time and a moving story of how the ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary."

Borden was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1949. "Growing up, I had a grandmother who loved history," she recalled in an interview for Simon & Schuster. "In grade school, I enjoyed maps, geography, and fiction and nonfiction relating to history. I was fortunate enough to have several wonderful history teachers during my elementary and secondary school years who nourished that interest. Later, in college, I majored in history. The idea of ordinary people against the backdrop of historical events has always interested me much more than specific dates, facts, and issues." After graduating from college, Borden worked at teaching positions in Weston, Massachusetts, and in her hometown of Cincinnati, before indulging in a lifelong love of books and becoming co-owner of a bookstore, The Bookshelf, in 1988. Borden's first book, Caps, Hats, Socks, and Mittens, was published by Scholastic the following year. "The sound of language and the poet's voice have always fascinated me," she once explained, "and so I think that writing picture books was a natural step for me. The sound and rhythm that are inherent in good picture books are a continuing challenge—to craft a text that has its own natural voice, as well as a good story line."

Borden started work on Caps, Hats, Socks, and Mittens: A Book about the Four Seasons after her second child began primary school. Her work as an assistant first-grade teacher gave her a good sense of how to write a beginning reader in a way that would help students sound out new words. She sent the book to Scholastic and was pleasantly surprised when they sent back a contract for its publication. Borden was even more pleased when her editor at Scholastic chose artist Lillian Hoban to create the pictures. "Everyone always asks if authors are pleased with the illustration for their books. I cannot now think of my words as separate from Lillian Hoban's wonderful pictures," Borden explained.

The author's second book, The Neighborhood Trucker, is the story of Elliot Long, a little boy who loves to watch the trucks roll by his home. His favorite is a cement truck from Sardinia Concrete with the number forty-four painted on its side; it is driven by a truck driver named Slim. "The working title for the book was 'More Trucks Please,'" Borden noted. "I had never looked twice at trucks until our son Ted pulled me into their loud, noisy, exciting world. From an early age, Ted has had a passion for trucks—especially cement mixers. There really is a Sardinia Concrete several miles from our village, and there really is a Slim—a tall, thoughtful driver who shares a special friendship with Ted. The rest is fiction. And, as I tell children, Ted is not the main character in this book. I am. I am Elliot Long. That's what writers do. We pretend a lot. And we become other people." In a review of The Neighborhood Trucker for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Roger Sutton called the story "a poetic . . . portrait of vocational obsession" and a "good bedtime choice for revved-up trucksters."

The Watching Game, Borden's next effort, describes a game played by four cousins when they visit their grandmother in the country. Each child tries to be the first to spot the fox in the woods and to put out their grandfather's hat so the fox will know it has been seen. School Library Journal contributor Patricia Pearl offered a favorable assessment of the book, noting that the story "emphasizes the significant themes of family love and respect for nature." The Watching Game actually began as a poem called "Granny's Fox." Borden explained, "There was no watching at all—just a boy who spotted a fox." The story took shape with the advice of Borden's editor. "In the first working drafts of the book I did not name the cousins or give them any characteristics. But names are very important to me. I choose them with care. I want children to remember my characters, to know that they are distinctive and have their own identities."

Borden creates another distinctive character in Albie the Lifeguard. In this story, a young boy realizes that his lack of skill as a swimmer will keep him off the local swim team. He decides instead to work lifeguard duty at his backyard swimming pool. By the end of the summer, he has gained the confidence to join his friends in swimming the entire lap-length of his town pool, in a story that "pays tribute to the natural ability of a child to recognize and respect his own timetable and abilities," according to School Library Journal contributor Liza Bliss. Also enthusiastic about the story, a Publishers Weekly reviewer found Albie the Lifeguard "a winning tale that indirectly and elegantly demonstrates the psyche's inventiveness."

The Little Ships is a fictionalized re-creation of an important historical event: the 1940 rescue of 300,000 Allied soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk, France, and to safety in Dover, England, by hundreds of small boats captained by naval officers and brave English fishermen. The story is told from the point of view of an English girl who, dressed as a boy, joins her fisherman father in helping to transport the soldiers. Jon Scieszka, writing in the New York Times Book Review, maintained that The Little Ships "gives a personal, memorable character to what might otherwise be an abstract chapter of history." Scieszka also praised Borden for the tone of her storytelling, noting that her young heroine "describes her exhaustion, and the spectacle of more than 300,000 Allied troops fleeing from the beach to boats and back to England, in a spare and dramatic child's voice, wonderfully free of patriotic preaching or moralizing."

"Today many teachers are integrating various subjects of the curriculum in wonderful ways," Borden explained in discussing the use of historical fiction in the classroom in the Simon and Schuster publicity release. "For example, skills in social studies, reading, and language arts can all be taught in a holistic way through the use of good literature. Historical fiction—whether picture books or novels—is widely used to introduce topics in social studies and broaden students' knowledge of social and political history. I think if history is made accessible to young readers in interesting ways, they will discover just how rich it is, rather than viewing history as boring and dry."

Borden's Good-bye, Charles Lindbergh is another fictional recreation of an actual event. "I saw a 'Dear Abby' letter in my local paper with the name Lindbergh in the title," the author recalled in her interview. "[This] caught my eye because I admired Anne Morrow Lindbergh's writing. I read the letter from Harold Gilpin of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, that told of his meeting Charles Lindbergh near the Mississippi farm that Gilpin grew up on. I immediately pictured an image of a boy on his horse looking up into the sky to see a biplane. I thought that contrast was remarkable: the ordinary meeting the extraordinary. I filed the newspaper clipping but carried the image inside, hoping to someday find a way to write a book about a Mississippi boy meeting the nation's hero.

"A few years later, when I decided to write the book, I actually tracked down Harold Gilpin. We corresponded via phone and mail for several months, and in January 1995, I flew to Arkansas to meet the Gilpins in person. . . . I then drove 175 miles to Canton, Mississippi, so that I could get a feel for the setting of the book. I returned to Cincinnati, contacted the National Air and Space Museum, researched biplanes, read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's journals, listened to the taped interview of Harold Gilpin that I had made in Pine Bluff, and then began writing the story."

Borden later returned to the subject of flight in Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman. This was her second collaboration with coauthor Mary Kay Kroeger. Coleman, who grew up picking cotton in Texas, later became the first African-American to earn a pilot's license. "The authors' flair for imparting history soars" in this book, Gay Lynn Van Vleck commented in a review for School Library Journal.

The picture book Good Luck, Mrs. K! is also based on a real-life experience. Told in the words of a nine-year-old narrator, the story centers on a favorite teacher who is hospitalized with cancer. "It is about an exceptional third-grade teacher and her class," the author noted. "Mrs. K. is a composite of the many wonderful teachers whom I have met during my school visits—this is my way to honor them. The story is also based on a teacher I knew, a great friend, who had cancer. Essentially, it's a book about the joy of teaching and learning."

In The Day Eddie Met the Author Borden drew on her experiences as a visiting author to write about a little boy who thinks very hard about what question to ask when a real live author comes to visit his school. He is crushed when he does not get a chance to ask his question during the assembly, but luckily he bumps into the author later and gets his answer. Lee Bock, who reviewed the book for School Library Journal, noted that not only is The Day Eddie Met the Author "enjoyable to read," but it is also "gently instructive" in helping to prepare children for author visits at their own schools.

"I think that I learned the craft of writing through osmosis, because long before I was a writer of books for children, I was a reader," Borden once explained. "And because reading has brought me so much pleasure—has given me most of what I have inside my head and inside my heart—it is a real thrill today to realize that maybe one of my books will hook a child into the same wonderfully rich world that I was drawn to at an early age."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 1994, p. 22; March 1, 1997, p. 1162; February 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Thanksgiving Is . . ., pp. 925-926; March 1, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh: Based on a True Story; March, 1998, Shelle Rosenfield, review of Good-bye, Charles Lindbergh, p. 1129; July, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Good Luck, Mrs. K!, p. 1942; November 15, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of A. Lincoln and Me, p. 622; July, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of Sleds on Boston Common, p. 2028; February 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman, p. 1152; March 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of The Day Eddie Met the Author, p. 1275.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1990, Roger Sutton, review of The Neighborhood Trucker, p. 79; April, 1997, p. 276.

Horn Book, May-June, 1997, p. 302; November, 2000, Mary M. Burns, review of Sleds on Boston Common, p. 743.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1997, p. 549; October 1, 1999, review of A. Lincoln and Me, pp. 1574-1575.

New York Times Book Review, May 18, 1997, John Scieszka, "War Is Heck," p. 25; October 17, 1999, Perry Nodelman, review of Good Luck, Mrs. K!, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1993, review of Albie the Lifeguard, p. 87; September 19, 1994, review of Just in Time for Christmas, p. 30; April 9, 1998, review of Good-bye, Charles Lindbergh, p. 78; May 17, 1999, review of Good Luck, Mrs. K!, p. 79; November 1, 1999, review of A. Lincoln and Me, p. 83; August 14, 2000, review of Sleds on Boston Common, p. 355; December 4, 2000, review of Fly High!, p. 73.

School Library Journal, October, 1990, p. 86; August, 1991, Patricia Pearl, review of The Watching Game, p. 142; June, 1993, Liza Bliss, review of Albie the Lifeguard, p. 70; March, 1998, Patricia Dole, review of Good-bye, Charles Lindbergh, p. 166; March, 1998, Gale W. Sherman, review of Thanksgiving Is . . ., p. 192; May, 1999, Jackie Hechtkopf, review of Good Luck, Mrs. K!, p. 86; October, 1999, Linda Greengrass, review of A. Lincoln and Me, p. 1942; December, 2000, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, review of Sleds on Boston Common, p. 97; January, 2001, Gay Lynne Van Vleck, review of Fly High!, p. 114; May, 2001, Lee Bock, review of The Day Eddie Met the Author, p. 110.

ONLINE

A Conversation with Louise Borden, Author of Goodbye, Charles Lindbergh (publicity release), Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Louise Borden,http://www.louiseborden.com/ (October 19, 2001).

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