Coy, John 1958–
Coy, John 1958–
PERSONAL: Born August 9, 1958, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Richard (a professor) and Luanne (a teacher; maiden name, Kulas) Coy; married Fiona McCrae (a publisher), June 18, 1999; children: Sophie. Education: St. John's University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1980; St. Mary's University, M.A., 1993. Hobbies and other interests: Basketball, yoga, travel, reading.
CAREER: Writer. Visiting author and writing teacher, 1994–, workshop presenter for groups, including Children's Theater Company, Minneapolis, MN, 1999; participant in literature-based theatre productions. Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies resident, 2000, 2002, 2004.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Minnesota Literature, PEN American Center, Children's Literature Network, Kerlan Collection of Children's Literature.
AWARDS, HONORS: Choice selection, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), 1996, Marion Vannett Ridgway Memorial Award for excellence in an author's or illustrator's first picture book, and Horn Book Honor List, 1997, Best Children's Book of the Year, Children's Book Committee of Bank Street College of Education, 1998, and Seal of Quality, Family Channel Entertainment Guide, all for Night Driving; grant from The Loft, 1999; Notable Book designation, American Library Association (ALA), CCBC Choice designation, Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year designation, International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society designation, and Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People designation, all 2000, all for Strong to the Hoop; Children's Literature Choice Book of Excellence designation, Children's Book of the Year designation, and Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education, both 2001, both for Vroomaloom Zoom; Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Honor Book designation, CCBC Choice designation, Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year designation, and Charlotte Zolotow Award honor book designation, all 2003, all for Two Old Potatoes and Me; Chicago Public Library Best of the Best designation, 2005, and ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers, and CBCC Choice designation, all for Crackback.
Night Driving, illustrated by Peter McCarty, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor) A Special Stretch of Sky (anthology of student writing), COMPAS: Community Programs in the Arts (St. Paul, MN), 1997.
Strong to the Hoop, illustrated by Leslie Jean-Bart, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 1999.
Vroomaloom Zoom, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Knopf/Crown (New York, NY), 2000.
Two Old Potatoes and Me, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
Around the World, illustrated by Antonio Reonegro and Tom Lynch, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 2005.
Author's work has been translated into Spanish and Chinese.
Crackback (young-adult novel), Scholastic Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Librettist for All Around Sound, composed by Libby Larsen, 1999; writer and narrator for an orchestral piece based on the work of Aaron Copland, for Minnesota Orchestra, 2000. Contributor to periodicals, including Hungry Mind Review, Riverbank Review, Five Owls Review, Organica, and Five Owls for Parents. Science Museum of Minnesota, collaborator on Web site, Thinking Fountain, 1996–.
SIDELIGHTS: John Coy has been inspired to write several of his books for children by his love of sports. His picture books Strong to the Hoop and the comicbook-styled Around the World both focus on basketball, while his first young-adult novel, Crack-back, takes teen readers onto the football field, where a football-obsessed jock encounters a difficult coach and learns that there is life beyond the game. In addition to writing, Coy teaches writing in schools throughout the country and has also been actively involved in theatre in his native Minneapolis.
As Coy once commented: "Each summer when I was a boy, we took long car trips as a family. Because I was the oldest child, I sat up front with my dad as everybody else fell asleep. He would tell me stories, and we'd watch for animals and have the road to ourselves. These memories formed the basis for my first picture book, Night Driving, which was beautifully illustrated by Peter McCarty." Family is also the focus of several other picture books by Coy. Vroomaloom Zoom, featuring illustrations by Joe Cepeda, follows the automobile adventures of Carmela, a young girl who hopes that a car ride with her dad will help her fall asleep. Praised as a "delightful" story featuring a "rhythmic, repetitive text," according to School Library Journal contributor Sheilah Kosco, the book finds the pair motoring through the city, forest, swamp, and seaside. While the hum of the motor makes Carmela sleepy, Coy's energetic story was dubbed a "a giggly, wiggly winner, but not for bedtime," by Ilene Cooper in Booklist.
Another story featuring a father and daughter, the award-winning picture book Two Old Potatoes and Me is narrated by a young girl who describes how two wrinkled, sprouted potatoes are transformed into a garden of purple flowers and then a bowl of tasty mashed potatoes through the pair's careful gardening. Noting the subtext in the story—the multiracial father and daughter do not always live together due to a divorce—a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Coy's alliterative narrative as "colloquial and casual and just right." In Publishers Weekly a reviewer wrote that the author's "well-realized" tale "brims with affection" and concludes with sixty-seven new potatoes and a recipe.
In Crackback, readers meet Miles Manning, a high school sophomore who lives and breathes football. Pushed by his dad to excel at the sport, he is thwarted in his dreams of a career as a starter when his coach benches him. While tensions at home rise, Miles learns from his fellow second-stringers—as well as from new friend Lucia—that there is more to life than the game, and when steroids begin to circulate among his teammates he realizes that he must make his own decisions in life, despite the outcome. "When I was a teen, I loved football," Coy explained on his home page in discussing the novel. "I loved smashing into people. Football was the one place that hitting somebody was not only okay, it was prized. In Crackback, I wanted to convey that physical love of the game. I wanted to convey how much of Miles's identity comes from football and what happens when that is taken away." Praising the book as a "welcome" addition to the sports fiction genre, a Kirkus Reviews writer noted that Coy's text combines "girlfriends, serious social history and family dynamics seamlessly," while in School Library Journal Julie Webb wrote that "great football action" combines with "well-rounded characters" in Crackback.
On his home page, Coy discussed his reasons for becoming a writer. Noting that he writes the books he wished he could have read when he was a child, he added: "I write picture books because I love the process of trying to tell a story in a concise fashion. Picture books are an opportunity for an adult and child to read out loud the words to a book and examine the pictures together. Providing such an opportunity is an honor and I try to write text that will appeal to both the adult and the child reading the book together."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1996, Bill Ott, review of Night Driving, p. 141; December 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Strong to the Hoop, p. 784; December 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Vroomaloom Zoom, p. 717; September 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Crackback, p. 115.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1996, review of Night Driving, p. 131; October, 2003, Deborah Stevenson, review of Two Old Potatoes and Me, p. 54.
Children's Book Review Service, October, 1996, review of Night Driving, p. 14.
Horn Book, September-October, 1996, Roger Sutton, review of Night Driving, p. 574.
Hungry Mind Review, winter, 1996, review of Night Driving, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1996, review of Night Driving, p. 1320; June 1, 2003, review of Two Old Potatoes and Me, p. 801; November 1, 2005, reviews of Crackback and Around the World, p. 1182.
Kliatt, November, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Crackback, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 8, 1996, review of Night Driving, p. 18.
New York Times, December 9, 1996, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Night Driving, p. B3.
New York Times Book Review, December 22, 1996, Sam Swope, review of Night Driving, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, August 26, 1996, review of Night Driving, p. 97; September 27, 1999, review of Strong to the Hoop, p. 105; November 6, 2000, review of Vroomaloom Zoom, p. 90; May 19, 2003, review of Two Old Potatoes and Me, p. 74.
Resource Links, October, 2003, Linda Berezowski, review of Two Old Potatoes and Me, p. 3.
School Library Journal, October, 1996, Lauralyn Persson, review of Night Driving, p. 91; October, 2000, Sheilah Kosco, review of Strong to the Hoop, p. 119; December, 2005, Julie Webb, review of Crackback, p. 143; January, 2006, Steven Engelfried, review of Around the World, p. 94.
John Coy Home Page, http://www.johncoy.com (June 12, 2006).