Casanova, Mary 1957-

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Casanova, Mary 1957-


Born February 2, 1957, in Duluth, MN; daughter of Eugene (a business manager) and Joyce (a homemaker) Gazelka; married Charles Casanova (an insurance agent), July 1, 1978; children: Katie, Eric. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1981. Religion: "Judeo-Christian/Lutheran." Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, cross-country and downhill skiing, camping, canoeing, hiking, running, horseback riding, and playing the piano.


Home and office—P.O. Box 141, Ranier, MN 56668. Agent—Andrea Cascardi, Transatlantic Literary Agency, Inc., P.O. Box 349, Rockville Centre, NY 11571.


Author and speaker. Presenter at conferences and speaker; visiting author to elementary and middle schools.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Children's Literature Network, Loft Literary Center, International Reading Association.


Emily Johnson Award, Children's Literature Conference, 1990, for "Father's Boots"; Minnesota State Arts Board career development grant, 1992; Arrowhead Regional Arts Council career opportunity grants, 1992-94; Arrowhead Regional Arts Council/McKnight Foundation fellowship in literature, 1995; Flicker Tale Children's Book Award, North Dakota Library Association, 1997, and Iowa Readers' Choice Book Award, and Indian Paintbrush Book Award, both 1998, all for Moose Tracks; Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers citation, American Library Association (ALA), Oklahoma Children's Crown Award list, and Sequoyah Book Award listee, all for Riot; Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Book Award listee, 1999-2000, Indiana Best-Read Alouds listee, 1999-2000, Iowa Children's Choice Award listee, 2000-01, Lamplighter Award listee, 2000-01, and Missouri Mark Twain Book Award listee, all for Wolf Shadows; Top 100 Books for 2000 citation, New York Public Library, Notable Children's Book citation, ALA, Minnesota Book Award, 2001, Gold Award, Parent's Choice, Pick of the List, American Bookseller's Association, Aesop Accolade, American Folktale Society, and Blue Ribbon List, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, all for The Hunter; Minnesota Book Award, 2001, for Curse of a Winter Moon; Iowa Children's Choice Award, 2002-03, for Stealing Thunder; National Parenting Publications Award Honor designation, 2002, for Jess.



The Golden Retriever (nonfiction), Crestwood House/Macmillan (New York, NY), 1990.

Moose Tracks (middle-grade novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.

Riot (middle-grade novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.

Wolf Shadows (middle-grade novel; sequel to Moose Tracks), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1997.

Stealing Thunder (middle-grade novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.

Curse of a Winter Moon (middle-grade novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.

(Reteller) The Hunter: A Chinese Folktale (picture book), illustrated by Ed Young, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

When Eagles Fall (middle-grade novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

Cécile: Gates of Gold ("American Girl" series), illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles, Pleasant Company (Middleton, WI), 2002.

One-Dog Canoe (picture book), illustrated by Ard Hoyt, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

Jess ("American Girl" series), illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles, Pleasant Company (Middleton, WI), 2005.

Some Dog! (picture book), illustrated by Ard Hoyt, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.

Mary Casanova and You (memoir), Libraries Unlimited (Westport, CT), 2007.

The Klipfish Code, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2007.

Utterly Otterly Day (picture book) illustrated by Ard Hoyt, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.


Trouble in Pembrook, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2006.

Dog-napped, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2006.

Danger at Snow Hill, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2006.

To Catch a Burglar, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2007.

Extreme Stunt Dogs, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2007.

The Turtle-hatching Mystery, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2008.


In her award-winning books for middle-grade readers, Mary Casanova blends a love for the outdoors with insightful coming-of-age stories that pull no punches. Her linking novels Moose Tracks and Wolf Shadows focus on wildlife preservation, while Stealing Thunder tells an heroic story about animal cruelty and saving a horse. With historical novels such as Curse of a Winter Moon and The Klipfish Code, Casanova takes readers back to seventeenth-century France and World War II Norway, respectively, and her modern family drama When Eagles Fall is set in the northern Minnesota wilderness near the author's home. In addition to her work for preteen readers, Casanova attracts younger readers in her "Dog Watch" books, which are set in her home state and feature a group of bright, observant canines. Her picture books include The Hunter: A Chinese Folktale, One-Dog Canoe, and Some Dog!

"When I set out to write for children, I had two main goals," Casanova once commented: "To write books that kids couldn't put down and to write books that matter. Coming from a family of ten children—seven boys and three girls—I was always active: riding horses, playing tag off the pontoon boat in the summer and ice-hockey with our own ‘team’ in the winter. I was also a reluctant reader. I loved being outside, and if a book was going to hold my attention it had to be a fast-paced story.

Moose Tracks, Casanova's first novel, is geared for readers like the author was in middle school. In the story, twelve-year-old Seth tries to save a wounded moose calf from poachers. Out hunting with his stepfather's shotgun but without his permission, Seth shoots a rabbit and takes its foot as a good-luck charm. However, the boy is soon tormented by his action, partly because his stepfather is the local game warden, and partly because he feels guilty. When he later observes poachers killing a cow moose, the boy is warned by them not to tell his stepfather. As a way to set things right, Seth is determined to save the injured moose calf the men have orphaned. Joined by his friend Matt, Seth soon finds himself trapped in an abandoned mine by the poachers and forced to draw on his outdoors skills to save the calf and bring the poachers to justice.

A contributor to Kirkus Reviews wrote of Moose Tracks that "the attention-grabbing action and emotional struggles of the hero will hook reluctant readers." In School Library Journal Todd Morning wrote that "Casanova's precise and evocative descriptions" add depth to the story's building suspense. Reviewing the book in Publishers Weekly, a critic noted that Casanova's novel "earnestly conveys the ugliness of killing animals for financial gain."

Wolf Shadows takes place a week after the end of Moose Tracks. Seth's life is still complicated by the impending birth of a first child to his mother and stepfather. Added to this, Matt has decided to fight the efforts of a wolf protection program because it appears wolves have been killing his family's livestock. Further complications come from the orphaned moose calf; Seth knows he should release the animal soon, but he is fearful of doing so as the first day of deer hunting season approaches. That day, Seth's mother goes into labor with the new baby, and Seth joins Matt for the opening of the season. When Matt illegally shoots a wolf, the act causes a rift in the boys' friendship that may not be able to heal. In Booklist Chris Sherman once again had praise for Casanova, noting that in Wolf Shadows she "offers a well reasoned argument for wolf protection in this tense, fast-paced story."

As Casanova admitted, "I love to throw my character in the midst of issues … I can't quite get my arms around. Riot is that kind of story. After living through a two-year labor dispute that erupted into violence in my small northern town in 1989, I knew I'd have to write about it and somehow make sense of it. The result is the fictionalized account of a riot through twelve-year-old Bryan Grant's eyes;" In Casanova's story, Bryan's dad is a worker at a local paper mill, and when work dries up, he joins the protests. Bryan's mom, a union member and teacher, objects to protesting, hoping instead to find a peaceable, constructive outcome to the battle between employer and employee. In Riot, Casanova "create[s] … an exciting, realistic novel," according to School Library Journal contributor Cheryl Cufari. Although Elizabeth Bush complained in her Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books review that the author's "good guy/bad guy treatment of the labor action grossly oversimplifies" the social and economic issues surrounding the protest, Lauren Peterson concluded in Booklist that Riot features a "fast-paced story [that] poses challenging questions that have no easy answers."

In Stealing Thunder a preteen desperately wants to save an Appaloosa horse from danger. Inspired by Casanova's own love of horses, the novel introduces Libby, who has always longed for her own horse. Libby's neighbor, Jolene Porter, has let the girl care for her own horse, Thunder. Although the animal was initially skittish around her new caretaker, girl and horse have become close. However, when Jolene leaves her husband, Libby finds herself cut off from Thunder. Although her family cannot afford to buy the horse from Mr. Porter, when Libby discovers that Thunder is being mistreated, she resolves to save the horse. Libby and her friend Griff, whom she has enlisted into the cause, soon find themselves over their heads in trouble in this "fast-paced adventure," filled with "precise and evocative" descriptions, as Janet Gillen described the novel in School Library Journal. Gillen further commented that Libby and Griff are "personable characters" who enhance Casanova's "compelling story of intrigue and heroism."

In When Eagles Fall thirteen-year-old Alex Castille-Reid has gotten into trouble in San Jose. Now she is sent to the wilderness of northern Minnesota, joining her father, an eagle researcher, while he conducts field work. In an attempt at rebellion, Alex steals off to remove a lure from an eagle's nest and ends up stranded in bad weather with an injured eaglet. "Casanova has written an eco-adventure story that also provides valuable information about eagle research," wrote School Library Journal contributor Doris Losey. Describing When Eagles Fall as "a good choice for reluctant readers," Booklist critic Jean Franklin dubbed the novel "an obviously well-researched survival novel with lots of local color and a teenage heroine who turns out to have plenty of grit."

With Curse of a Winter Moon, Casanova departs from her usual outdoors scenario and transports readers to sixteenth-century France. Because of family hardship, young Marius must postpone his apprenticeship in order to take care of his six-year-old brother, Jean-Pierre. The younger boy's birth on Christmas Eve, which took their mother's life, has given rise to rumors that that Jean-Pierre is a werewolf. Local villagers' misguided belief is fueled by Catholic superstition and the Church's zeal in exposing heretics. Soon Marius finds his world turned upside down when his father is condemned as a heretic and Jean-Pierre is also taken into custody. Barbara Scotto, writing in School Library Journal, called Curse of a Winter Moon a "solid look at a period not often written about in novels for this age group," while Booklist critic Ilene Cooper noted that Marius "comes across as a real boy in extraordinary circumstances."

Moving to another time period, World War II-era Scandinavia, The Klipfish Code focuses on ten-year-old Marit Gundersen, who is sent to her grandfather's home on Godoy Island with her younger brother Lars after the Germans bomb Norway. Missing her parents, who are working for the Resistance, Marit endures another separation when her beloved aunt Ingeborg, a teacher who lives with them, is deported by the Nazis months later. When her grandfather refuses to stand up to the German troops, the girl grows frustrated, and when she discovers a wounded resistance member she willingly takes up his mission. In Kirkus Reviews, a critic called The Klipfish Code "worthwhile book about a rarely documented facet of" World War II, and commended Casanova for captures the essence of island life during wartime "uncommonly well." Dubbing the book "suspenseful," Anne O'Malley added in Booklist that the novel successfully opens a window for young readers onto "the grim reality of war and its effects on ordinary citizens."

Casanova again turns to history in her first contribution to the "American Girls" series. Cécile: Gates of Gold follows the life of twelve-year-old Cécile Revel, a servant at the court of King Louis XIV in 1711, who finds following royal protocol a challenging task. Writing in School Library Journal, reviewer Kristen Oravec wrote that in Cécile the story's "action builds steadily and will sustain readers interest," and Booklist critic Shelle Rosenfeld praised Casanova's heroine as "a likeable character." A second contribution to the series, Jess, returns to the present day and contemporary concerns regarding the environment in its story about a fourth-grade girl who joins her archeologist parents on a dig at Mayan ruins in Belize. Calling the novel's plot "well thought out," Krista Tokarz concluded in School Library Journal that in Jess the author "seamlessly integrate[s]" information about Mayan history and archeology into her story.

Casanova retells a Chinese folktale in The Hunter, in which Hai Li Bu learns to understand the language of animals and becomes a more effective hunter. However, in a time of scarce game, he must sacrifice himself in order to save the lives of his villagers. "The tale of his sacrifice is well told in measured, poetic prose, unified by repeating word patterns," wrote School Library Journal's Margaret A. Chang, who concluded that this is a "handsome addition to any folktale collection." David Russell, writing in Five Owls, commented that the "union of a moving and simply told tale and subtly evocative illustrations make this an especially beautiful picture book—one that deserves to be treasured."

Other picture books by Casanova include One-Dog Canoe, Some Dog!, and Utterly Otterly Day, all of which feature illustrations by Ard Hoyt. In One-Dog Canoe a little girl and her dog take a trip in her canoe, and when other animals gradually climb aboard, the canoe gradually becomes unstable until all the passengers end up in the water. Some Dog! finds George the Basset hound frustrated when a bouncy stray turns up, is adopted by George's human family, and turns the sedate, older dog's quiet life upside down. Utterly Otterly Day focuses on a young otter that learns, during a day's worth of adventures, that family is important even when one is all grown up. One-Dog Canoe is enriched by Casanova's "lively rhyming text and … wry sense of humor," according to School Library Journal contributor Jane Marino, the critic adding that Hoyt's "watercolor illustrations give the animals lots of personality." Readers of Some Dog! "will … embrace this story of each individual's importance and place in a family," wrote School Library Journal contributor Genevieve Gallagher, and in Kirkus Reviews a critic praised the picture book as "well-written" and with a "wonderfully dramatic climax."

"If it's true that writers should ‘write to express, not to impress,’ then nowhere is this more important than in writing for children," Casanova noted on her home page. "They are the toughest critics, demanding first and foremost a good story. It's the writer's responsibility to write honestly, from the heart, and to give something of lasting value to the reader. Every writer offers a unique gift; if expressed clearly enough, true enough, it is a gift of story that a young reader will remember for a long time."



Casanova, Mary, Mary Casanova and You (memoir), Libraries Unlimited (Westport, CT), 2007.


Booklist, July, 1995, Chris Sherman, review of Moose Tracks, p. 1878; November 1, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Riot, p. 497; October 1, 1997, Chris Sherman, review of Wolf Shadows, p. 328; October 15, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Curse of a Winter Moon, p. 437; June 1, 2002, Jean Franklin, review of When Eagles Fall, p. 1704; October 15, 2002, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Cécile: Gates of Gold, p. 404; February 15, 2003, Diane Foote, review of One-Dog Canoe, p. 1072; May 1, 2007, Julie Cummins, review of Some Dog!, p. 96; October 15, 2007, Anne O'Malley, review of The Klipfish Code, p. 48.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1997, Elizabeth Bush, review of Riot, p. 165.

Five Owls, March-April, 2001, David Russell, review of The Hunter, p. 90.

Horn Book, March-April, 2007, Robin Smith, review of Some Dog!, p. 178.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1995, review of Moose Tracks, p. 708; December 15, 2002, review of One-Dog Canoe, p. 1846; February 15, 2007, review of Some Dog!; August 1, 2007, review of The Klipfish Code.

Publishers Weekly, June 19, 1995, review of Moose Tracks, p. 60; August 21, 2000, review of Curse of a Winter Moon, p. 74; December 9, 2002, review of One-Dog Canoe, p. 81.

Saint Paul Pioneer Press, January 3, 2006, Maja Backstrom, "Real-life Experience Shapes New ‘American Girl’ Tale."

School Library Journal, June, 1995, Todd Morning, review of Moose Tracks, p. 108; October, 1996, Cheryl Cufari, review of Riot, p. 120; October, 1997, Claudia Morrow, review of Wolf Shadows, p. 131; October, 1999, Janet Gillen, review of Stealing Thunder, p. 148; August, 2000, Margaret A. Chang, review of The Hunter, p. 168; October, 2000, Barbara Scotto, review of Curse of a Winter Moon, p. 156; July, 2002, Doris Losey, review of When Eagles Fall, p. 114; September, 2002, Kristen Oravec, review of Cécile, p. 220; March, 2003, Jane Marino, review of One-Dog Canoe, p. 178; September, 2006, Krista Tokarz, review of Jess, p. 161; March, 2007, Genevieve Gallagher, review of Some Dog!, p. 96.


Mary Casanova Home Page, (January 15, 2008).

Meet Authors and Illustrators Web site, (April 9, 2002), "Mary Casanova."