Chaconas, Dori 1938–
Chaconas, Dori 1938–
(D.J. Chaconas, Doris J. Chaconas)
PERSONAL: Born March 11, 1938, in Milwaukee, WI; daughter of Paul (a factory worker) and Kathryn (a homemaker) Kozak; married Nick Chaconas (in sales), October 12, 1957; children: Stacy DeKeyser, Stephanie Mielke, Michaela, Nicki. Ethnicity: "Slovenian." Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Needlework.
ADDRESSES: Home—Germantown, WI. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Children's book author. Formerly worked as a needlework designer.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Council for Wisconsin Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Archer/Eckblad Children's Picture Book Award, Council for Wisconsin Writers (CWW), 2000, for On a Wintry Morning; Betty Ren Wright Picture Book Award CWW, 2002, for One Little Mouse; Chicago Public Library Best of the Best designation, 2005, for Cork and Fuzz; Texas 2×2 Reading List inclusion, 2007, for Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall; Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, 2007, for Dancing with Katya.
(Under name D.J. Chaconas) A Hat for Lily, illustrated by Betsy Warren, Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 1967.
(Under name D.J. Chaconas) In a Window on Greenwater Street, illustrated by Carroll Dolezal, Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 1970.
(Under name Doris J. Chaconas) The Way the Tiger Walked, illustrated by Frank Bozzo, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1970.
Danger in the Swamp (originally published in Jack and Jill magazine), illustrated by Haris Petie, Lantern Press (Mount Vernon, NY), 1971.
On a Wintry Morning, illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.
One Little Mouse, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.
Goodnight, Dewberry Bear, illustrated by Florence S. Davis, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN), 2003.
Momma, Will You?, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
That Blessed Christmas Night, illustrated by Deborah Perez-Stable, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN), 2004.
When Cows Come Home for Christmas, illustrated by Lynne Chapman, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2005.
Christmas Mouseling, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.
Dancing with Katya, illustrated by Constance Bergum, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2006.
Coriander the Contrary Hen, illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Jack and Jill and Highlights for Children.
"CORK AND FUZZ" EASY-READER SERIES
Cork and Fuzz, illustrated by Lisa McCue, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.
Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall, illustrated by Lisa McCue, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.
Cork and Fuzz: Good Sports, illustrated by Lisa McCue, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: In the 1960s, Dori Chaconas published several children's books as well as numerous short stories for children that appeared in magazines, all under the pen name D.J. Chaconas. Then, drawing on her talent for needlework design, she left writing for thirty years to explore another career and raise her family. Chaconas rediscovered her desire to write in the late 1990s, inspired by questions from one of her adult daughters, who had become interested in writing for children. Joining a writers' support group on the Internet, she revived her former career and in the years since has produced such children's books as When Cows Come Home for Christmas, One Little Mouse, and Dancing with Katya, as well as books in the popular "Cork and Fuzz" easy-reader series.
Written years earlier, One Little Mouse was the story that rekindled Chaconas's writing career after her foray into needlework design. After retrieving the manuscript from an old file, she fixed it up a bit and managed to sell it to a publisher within a month. An upbeat tale, One Little Mouse is both a counting book and a story told in rhyme that follows a little mouse that goes out in search of a roomier place to live. In the meadow, the creature encounters two moles, then three frogs, and so on, up to a crowd of ten critters. Ultimately, Mouse realizes that it is not comfortable in the homes of these other creatures, and on its way home it passes the homes of its new animal friends, counting down from ten to one on its way. One Little Mouse was praised as "a charming counting book that will appeal especially to the read-aloud set" by Cathie E. Bashaw in a review for School Library Journal.
The first original story Chaconas wrote after her return to picture-book author, On a Wintry Morning is characteristic of much of the author's work: it is a simple story told in a rhyming text. On a Wintry Morning describes a young girl and her father as the duo spend a brisk winter morning together. Father and daughter bundle up, then go out into the snow where they sled, hunt for animal tracks, go for a sleigh ride, and buy a puppy at a nearby market. Later the pair return home to dry off and warm up, the tired girl soon falling asleep to the sound of her father's soothing voice. Chaconas's story, described as "by turns exuberant and soothing" by School Library Journal critic Jane Marino, serves as a "celebrat[ion of] … the small moments that a father and toddler share," according to the critic. Likewise, a contributor to Publishers Weekly noted the quiet, nostalgic tone of the tale, which bypasses a dramatic plot in favor of "a cornucopia of child-pleasing images." The Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded by calling On a Wintry Morning "as nourishing as hearty winter soup."
In Dancing with Katya country-dwelling sisters Anna and Katya love to pretend that they are prima ballerinas, and often dance around the house together. However, when polio cripples five-year-old Katya and condemns her to walking only with heavy metal leg braces, older sister Anna finds a way that the two can continue to dance together: she creates a pair of ballerina gloves. These white gloves, which are beautifully embellished with long, loosely flowing pink ribbons, allow the disabled girl to dance with her hands rather than her feet. Noting that Chaconas's picture book was inspired by a family member who contracted the once-debilitating and all-too-common childhood disease years ago, School Library Journal critic Debbie Stewart Hopkins dubbed Dancing with Katya "a sincere, nostalgic effort," and a Kirkus Reviews writer described it as "a warm and inspiring tribute to one sister's love and the other's courage." In Booklist, Carolyn Phelan praised the picture book as a "complex, emotionally resonant story."
Popular with beginning readers and featuring detailed illustrations by Lisa McCue, Chaconas's "Cork and Fuzz" books introduce Cork the muskrat and Fuzz the possum, best friends despite the fact that they look very different. Those differences are the focus of Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall, as stubborn and single-minded Fuzz attempts to make Cork more possum-like. Citing the friends' "comical attempts to make Fuzz shorter, then Cork, taller," a Kirkus Reviews writer added that Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall contains a kid-pleasing combination of "earnest endeavor and endearingly silly misapprehension." "Preschoolers will especially relate to the small critter who wants to take charge," predicted Hazel Rochman in her Booklist review, while in School Library Journal Laura Scott wrote that the book's young readers "will find comfort and delight in … dialogue that reflect[s] their own relationships." Praising the series as a whole, Betty Carter cited Chaconas's use of short sentences and "easily decodable" vocabulary, concluding that the "Cork and Fuzz" books "will fit beginning readers well as they try out their newfound skills."
Chaconas's talent for spinning a rhyming tale continues to make her books popular with storytellers and young listeners. As she explained to Julia Durango in an online interview for By the Book, "I think I was born with a small clock ticking in my brain. I've always liked rhythms of any kind … music … poetry … sleet clicking on the window, or whatever. I think I remember every nursery rhyme and song I ever learned as a child, because I loved them so much. I'm lucky to have an ear for rhythms."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2000, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of On a Wintry Morning, p. 247; September 1, 2002, Kathy Broderick, review of One Little Mouse, p. 136; January 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall, p. 109; September 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of Dancing with Katya, p. 134.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 2005, Timnah Card, review of Cork and Fuzz, p. 331.
Horn Book, May-June, 2006, Betty Carter, review of Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall, p. 311.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, review of Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall, p. 179; August 1, 2006, review of Dancing with Katya, p. 783.
Publishers Weekly, October 23, 2000, review of On a Wintry Morning, p. 74.
School Library Journal, November, 2000, Jane Marino, review of On a Wintry Morning, p. 112; August, 2002, Cathie E. Bashaw, review of One Little Mouse, p. 148; April, 2006, Laura Scott, review of Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall, p. 98; September, 2006, Debbie Stewart Hoskins, review of Dancing with Katya, p. 161.
By the Book Web sitehttp://www.geocities.com/juliadurango/ (February 13, 2001), Julia Durango, "Dori Chaconas Warms up Winter."
Cynsations, http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (June 12, 2003), "The Story behind the Story: Dori Chaconas on One Little Mouse" and "The Story behind the Story: Dori Chaconas on On a Wintry Morning."
Dori Chaconas Home Page, http://www.dorichaconas.com (December, 18, 2006).
Kezi Matthews Late Bloomers Page, http://kezimatthews.com/ (June 12, 2003), "Dori Chaconas."